1982: Kingsley Amis rags on Gardner, 007 films

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis, a novelist who enjoyed more prestige than Ian Fleming, was a fan of the latter’s James Bond novels.

Amis (1922-1995) wrote  The James Bond Dossier , a 1965 book that seriously analyzed Fleming’s 007 works. Of course, Amis wrote the first James Bond continuation novel, 1968’s Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham.

The Times Literary Supplement unearthed  and posted Amis’s 1982 review of John Gardner‘s For Special Services. It was Gardner’s second 007 continuation novel in which Gardner brings SPECTRE back into the picture.

In taking a look at that review, Amis comes across as crabby not only with his Bond continuation novel successor but with the world of 007 in general.

First, an except about For Special Services:

(T)he present offering is an unrelieved disaster all the way from its aptly forgettable title to the photograph of the author – surely an unflattering likeness – on the back of the jacket.

Meow! Still, Amis is just getting warmed up.

Here, Amis unloads on the James Bond films:

Over the last dozen years the Bond of the books must have been largely overlaid in the popular mind by the Bond of the films, a comic character with a lot of gadgets and witty remarks at his disposal.

Still, Amis mostly writes about For Special Services. Here, Amis is a golfer and For Special Services is the golf ball. Here he describes Gardner’s women characters:

The first is there just for local colour, around at the start, to be dropped as soon as the wheels start turning. She is called Q’ute because she comes from Q Branch. (Q himself is never mentioned, lives only in the films, belongs body and soul to Cubby Broccoli, the producer.)

Nor is Amis impressed with the novel’s main female character.

Bond scores all right with the third of the present trio, Nena Bismaquer, née Blofeld and the revengeful daughter of his old enemy, a detail meant to be a stunning revelation near the end but you guess it instantly.

In this regard, Amis was rather prescient. In 2015’s SPECTRE, it was supposed to be a “big reveal” that the head of SPECTRE would be revealed to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a “reveal” that surprised nobody. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that.

Before he ends the review, Amis really, really makes it clear he’s not a fan of the films.

Amis writes the 007 movies “cover up any old implausibility or inconsistency by piling one outrage on another. You start to say to yourself ‘But he wouldn’t –’ or’“But they couldn’t –’ and before you can finish Bond is crossing the sunward side of the planet Mercury in a tropical suit or sinking a Soviet aircraft-carrier with his teeth.”

Amusingly, years after his death, a portion of Amis’s Colonel Sun novel was used in 2015’s SPECTRE — specifically the torture scene. Amis got a backhanded credit, deep in the end titles, where “The Estate of Kingsley Amis” got a “special thanks” credit.

It was the first time Eon Productions utilized the continuation novels in any way, shape for form. Previously, Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has criticized certain continuation novels (Gardner’s in particular).

As for Amis’s 1982 article, you can judge for yourself by CLICKING HERE and reading it for yourself..

Whither the literary 007?

Today’s Guardian carries a rather snidely-worded essay about the “surprisingly long list of authors who have written official 007 sequels.”

While taking time out to individually slag Kingsley Amis, John Gardner*, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, and Jeffrey Deaver, the article does hint at some corporate-level kibitzing — with the James Bond character and the individual continuation novels — by the Fleming family and the UK and US publishers. (This is something we’ve heard about [albeit secondhand] from John Gardner, and [directly] from Raymond Benson. Much like the Eon films, it would appear that the literary James Bond is also a factory-built product.)

You can read the post by James Harker, (the Guardian Student Writer of the Year 2010, whatever that means), JAMES BOND’S CHANGING INCARNATIONS , at the Guardian website. There is a “comments” section available for readers to chime in with their own opinion on the matter.

* To give the devil his due, the piece says Gardner’s 007 novels are “readable.”