2003: Academics dissect (and then some) James Bond

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

We were reminded of an event that took on a life of its own: a 2003 academic conference about Ian Fleming and James Bond.

It was held at the main Indiana University campus in Bloomington, where many Fleming manuscripts and letters are kept. On May 29-June 1 of that year, various academics descended on Bloomington to examine 007 from every conceivable angle.

Some of the essays were collected in a 2005 book, Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007. It’s a bit pricey even today, with a paperback costing $26.

However, the book’s introduction can be viewed on a Google preview of the book. It gives you a flavor of some of the subjects discussed.

For example, “Fleming’s Company Man: James Bond and the Management of Modernism” argued that 007 was “less a champion of consumer culture than a hero of the corporation,” according to introduction.

“‘Alimentary, Dr. Leiter’: Anal Anxiety in Diamonds Are Forever” is an essay that “explores Bond’s sexuality, but as it is represented in the films of the seventies.”

Another entry is “Lesbian Bondage,” which “traces Bond’s transformation from excessively masculine hero to stylishly accessorized dandy.” The latter version “is less appealing to feminists and lesbians,” according to the introduction’s summary of the essay.

Other essays presented at the conference sought to put Bond in a historical context, including how the novels were first published as the British Empire was dissipating. “The Bond novels represent a response to the dilemmas and give voice to the hopes and fears of Cold War England,” the introduction says.

What’s more, the introduction says there were disagreements arose during conference planning. It says there were “disparate goals” between Ian Fleming Publications and the Ian Fleming Foundation.

The latter preserves Bond-related artifacts, including vehicles and miniatures that appeared in the films. Ian Fleming Publications hires authors to write 007 continuation novels. IFP, according to the introduction, urged conference organizers “to use only Fleming’s name — not Bond’s — on our promotional material and to avoid any kitschy display of fan-based adoration.”

This month’s ‘other’ Ian Fleming anniversary

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Earlier this month, Oct. 5, was Global James Bond Day, celebrating the 54th anniversary of the original U.K. premiere of Dr. No.

Today, Oct. 29, is the 54th anniversary of another Ian Fleming-related annivesary: When the James Bond author first met television producer Norman Felton in New York.

The results, eventually, would be The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series. However, those meetings, which lasted into Oct. 31, 1962, according to Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. Timeline website, don’t get much attention.

Ian Fleming Publications, for example, doesn’t mention the meetings in its detailed ONLINE TIMELIME OF FLEMING’S LIFE. Ironically, IFP’s 2013 007 continuation novel by William Boyd was titled Solo, the original title for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fleming was bullied by James Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman from exiting the project. You can read some of the correspondence involved by CLICKING HERE. Fleming sold his interest in U.N.C.L.E. for the princely sum of 1 British pound.

Meanwhile, U.N.C.L.E. fans downplay Fleming’s involvement. Yes, some say, he named Napoleon Solo, but so what? And, to be fair, others did the heavy lifting on U.N.C.L.E.

On the other hand, Fleming’s involvement, however limited, had attracted NBC’s interest.

Had Fleming remained on the show, the network was willing to commit to a series without a pilot. After Fleming’s departure, a pilot would be necessary. Still, by that time a lot of energy and time had been invested. It wasn’t just dropped after Fleming’s exit.

Title page to pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when the title was still Solo.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. originally was to have been billed Ian Fleming’s Solo.

Thus, ironically, Fleming’s U.N.C.L.E. involvement isn’t celebrated by either the Bond and U.N.C.L.E. sides. On the U.N.C.L.E. side, the narrative (understandably) plays up the contributions of Felton and Sam Rolfe, the writer of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot who produced the first season of the show.

It didn’t help that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (where U.N.C.L.E. was produced) put out a press release denying had been involved (even though he was). No doubt that was the result of threatened legal action from Eon Productions. Lawyers for Eon had sent a cease and desist letter in early 1964 claiming the character Napoleon Solo infringed on the production company’s rights to Goldfinger, which included a gangster named Solo.

Also, Felton, on advice of his attorneys, declined to write up notes about his meetings with the 007 author for Fleming biographer John Pearson concerning U.N.C.L.E. (Read Text of Letters About Ian Fleming’s U.N.C.L.E. Involvement for more details.)

Still, an anniversary is an anniversary. In this case, it’s an anniversary of an event (the Fleming-Felton meetings) that helped lead to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Meanwhile, here’s a shameless plug. If you want to read more about the subject, this blog’s editor has an article in MI6 Confidential No. 37. For more information about the issue (which includes an article about 007 film production designer Peter Lamont), CLICK HERE. 

More Fleming ties to the Fleming Timeless episode

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

The Timeless episode with a story featuring a fictionalized Ian Fleming has some additional Fleming connections.

–The cast includes Goran Visnjic, a Croatian actor who was screen tested for the James Bond role in 2005, when Daniel Craig ended up being cast for Casino Royale.

–One of the executive producers of the series is John Davis, who was also one of the producers of the 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That movie featured a hero named Napoleon Solo, who was given that name by Ian Fleming.

Meanwhile, as depicted in the episode, titled Party at Castle Varlar, Fleming (Sean Maguire) is depicted as a field agent for MI6. Fleming was more of an office man during the war, according to his biography at the website of Ian Fleming publications.

Amusingly, the episode makes a reference to 2012’s Skyfall and 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

UPDATE (10:55 p.m. ET): History, however, has been altered from what it’s supposed to be, concerning a certain 1964 007 movie with Sean Connery.

Here’s a tweet that Maguire posted on Oct. 18.

IFP adjusts strategy with 2nd Horowitz 007 novel

The Ian Fleming Publications 007 logo

The Ian Fleming Publications 007 logo

Ian Fleming Publications has tweaked its strategy for James Bond continuation novels after it was announced today a second Anthony Horowitz 007 story will be published in 2018.

Horowitz penned Trigger Mortis, published last year. With the new, as yet untitled story, Horowitz becomes the first Bond continuation novel to have more than one Bond tale published since Raymond Benson wound up his 1997-2002 run.

Benson wrote six novels and three 007 movie novelizations. The author exited after new Ian Fleming family management took command of IFP. Following Benson’s final original novel, The Man With the Red Tatoo, and his final novelization, Die Another Day, the “adult” literary 007 took a hiatus. IFP developed a series of Young Bond novels and other projects, such as The Moneypenny Diaries series.

Since 2008, the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth, IFP has published Bond novels as “events,” penned by a name author. Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd all took turns, each doing a one-off and each taking place in different time periods.

Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis initially appeared to follow that pattern. Trigger Mortis had something the others didn’t — some Ian Fleming material developed for a never-made 007 television series. It also tied into Fleming’s Goldfinger novel.

However, Horowitz was asked back. His new effort “will again feature previously unpublished material by Fleming,” according to the announcement.

“I was thrilled when the Ian Fleming estate asked me to come back,” Horowitz said in a statement that was part of the announcement. “How could I refuse? I can’t wait to return to the world of James Bond.”

The most prolific 007 continuation novel author was John Gardner, who wrote 14 original novels and two movie novelizations published from 1981 to 1995. The first non-Fleming Bond novel was 1968’s Colonel Sun, written by Kingsley Amis under the pen name Robert Markham.

Trigger Mortis U.S. paperback cover unveiled

Ian Fleming Publications took to Twitter to show off the U.S. paperback cover art for Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz.

The paperback edition is due out Sept. 6, according to the post on Twitter. The James Bond Dossier described it as “pulp-inspired.” Others have called it retro. You could make the case it’s in the style of the 1960s 007 comic strips. Anyway, here’s what it looks like:

Thrilling Cities, the series?

Ian Fleming's Thrilling Cities book

Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book

Actor Michael Weatherly’s production company is trying to turn Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into a television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is mostly about Weatherly’s impending departure from the popular NCIS television series and Thrilling Cities only gets a passing reference.

“In the meantime, however, Weatherly said he’s busier than ever with his production company, Solar Drive Productions, which is working on turning the book Thrilling Cities, from James Bond author Ian Fleming, into a possible series,” the story by THR’s Kate Stanhope reads.

Thrilling Cities was a non-fiction book by Fleming. It was based on a series of stories he did for The Sunday Times about important cities around the world.

“Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas,” according to a summary on the Ian Fleming Publications website.

Fleming’s short story 007 in New York was included in the U.S. edition of Thrilling Cities. The author had a harsh opinion about New York City and the short story was a bonus for American readers.

In 1962, there was an attempt to turn Thrilling Cities into a television series. The result, ended up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

Craig Henderson’s 1962 page for his U.N.C.L.E. Timeline website notes that producer Norman Felton was asked to read galleys of the upcoming Fleming book concerning whether it could be made into a TV show.

At a meeting, “Felton rejects the possibility of developing a TV series from Thrilling Cities — but he’s inspired to ad lib an idea about a mysterious man who travels the world on sensitive secret missions,” according to Henderson’s website.

That was the genesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fleming himself was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until mid-1963 before withdrawing under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Also of note, one of Weatherly’s co-stars on NCIS is David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin on U.N.C.L.E. Irony abounds.

 

Dynamite to reprint one 007 story, start another

Cover of Issue 7 of Dynamite's James Bond comic book

Cover of Issue 7 of Dynamite’s James Bond comic book

Dynamite Entertainment plans a hardcover reprint of the first six issues of its James Bond comic book while issue seven starts a new story line called Eidolon. The two story arcs are by writer Warren Ellis and artist Jason Masters.

Both the hardback reprint and issue seven are scheduled to go on sale in June, according to Dynamite’s website.

The first six issues featured a story called Vargr in which Bond following “a mission of vengeance in Helsinki” takes up “the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent,” according to a plot summary. “Bond has no idea of the forces gathered in secret against him.”

The hardcover reprint is priced at $19.95.

Here’s the plot description for the new Eidolon story:

After World War Two, army intelligence groups created ghost cells called “stay-behinds” across Europe in the event of a Warsaw Pact surge. “EIDOLON” is the story of a SPECTRE stay-behind structure – ghost cells of SPECTRE loyalists acting as sleepers until the time is right for a SPECTRE reformation and resurgence. The time is now.

The regular monthly comic is priced at $3.99.

Ian Fleming Publications, which controls rights to the literary 007, announced a licensing deal with Dynamite in 2014. Dynamite said last year  that Ellis and Masters would be the initial creative team on the title.