007 Tweets of note from Jeremy Duns, Anthony Horowitz

On Sunday, Jan. 25, two rather interesting posts on Twitter emerged related to the world of James Bond.

The first was from journalist and author Jeremy Duns. He came across a 1963 story in the Daily Express indicating that, at one time, Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman was interesting in having actor-playwright Robert Shaw script a 007 film.

Shaw, of course, played Red Grant in 1963’s From Russia With Love. There are no details about what Bond project this might have been for.

Generally speaking, screenwriter Richard Maibaum was close to Albert R. Broccoli, the other Bond co-producer. Saltzman was always on the lookout for other scribes, including Len Deighton (who did uncredited work on From Russia With Love), Paul Dehn (Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (Thunderball).

Duns previously has detailed the work screenwriter Ben Hecht did for producer Charles K. Feldman’s ill-fated 1967 Casino Royale film. Duns researched how Hecht had a more serious take in mind. Duns has a e-book on the subject, ROGUE ROYALE.

The other Tweet came from Anthony Horwitz, writer of the next James Bond continuation novel coming out this fall.

The author, as it turns out, was watching the 1974 movie on television. On Jan. 15, HE TWEETED he had delivered his Bond novel. On Jan. 22, HE TWEETED that he had seen the cover, calling it “perfect.”

UPDATE: Horowitz later engaged in a dialogue with other Twitter users.

One commented to Horowitz that the Golden Gun novel isn’t one of Fleming’s best novels. Horowitz’s reply: “True. But that rubber nipple? Oh dear.” In a separate response, he said of the 1974 movie’s car jump: “Great stunt. But the sound and the sheriff? Oh dear.”

He was then informed by freelance writer and author Jeffrey Westhoff, “Slide whistle was John Barry’s choice, which he later regretted. But director, etc. could have nixed it.” Horowitz’s reply: “That’s a very interest piece of movie trivia!”

E-book on Ben Hecht’s Casino Royale scripts available

Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht

A new e-book about screenwriter Ben Hecht’s drafts for the ill-fated 1967 Casino Royale movie is now available.

The author is Jeremy Duns, who in EARLY 2011 wrote about the scripts by Hecht, one of the best screenwriters of all time, for the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.

Duns has now expanded his work into the 11,000-word Rogue Royale: The Lost Bond Film by the ‘Shakespeare of Hollywood.’ Hecht did a mostly faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first novel. But Hecht died in 1964 and the writer’s death caused producer Charles K. Feldman to switch gears.

The eventual result was the 1967 spoof, which was expensive to make and generated a fraction of box office of the regular 007 film series produced by Eon Productions and released by United Artists.

You can check out the e-book at the U.S. VERSION OF AMAZON.COM or AMAZON U.K. Duns also has an entry on his blog about Rogue Royale that you can read by CLICKING HERE.

Earlier posts:

TELEGRAPH REPORTS ON BEN HECHT’S 1960S CASINO ROYALE SCRIPTS

CASINO ROYALE’S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: OH NO, 007!

The African war that may have influenced Boyd’s Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the new James Bond novel by William Boyd, according to U.S. publisher HarperCollins, is set in 1969 and takes place in “Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation” that “is being ravaged by a bitter civil war.” Bond is assigned “to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.”

It sounds as if Solo’s story may concern a fictional version of a real war. From 1967 to 1970, THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR raged, after the southeastern provinces of Nigeria, a former U.K. colony, seceded to form the Republic of Biafra. (To see a Wikipedia map, CLICK HERE.) Nigeria, with U.K. support, took back Biafra. That civil war also produced MANY DISTURBING IMAGES, including those of starving children.

Boyd has written a number of stories set in Africa.

If Solo is using the Nigerian civil war as the basis for the plot, it won’t be the first time a spy novel has done so. The 1967-70 conflict was a setting in the 2009 novel FREE AGENT by Jeremy Duns. The novel’s lead character is Paul Dark, who “is a seasoned agent for MI6 when a KGB officer turns up in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war wanting to defect.”

In the publicity materials for Free Agent, the story is endorsed by William Boyd, who calls the tale a “wholly engrossing and sophisticated spy novel.”

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns, in a reply to yesterday’s post about the HarperCollins plot summary, provides a LINK to the plot summary of Solo by the Curtis Brown literary and talent agency. It reads thusly (with the part in boldface type added emphasis by this blog):

It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.

A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, DC, where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.

Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his ever waking moment.

To view Wikipedia’s entry for the Nigerian Civil War, CLICK HERE

To view a promotion for Free Agent along with an excerpt, CLICK HERE.

Earlier post:

BOYD’S U.S. PUBLISHER PROVIDES PLOT SUMMARY OF SOLO

RE-POST: Happy 60th anniversary, Mr. Bond

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover


Originally posted April 1. Reposted for the actual anniversary.

Sixty years ago, readers sampled the start of a novel by a new author. “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” it began. The world hasn’t been quite the same since.

The novel, of course, was Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, published April 13, 1953. About 5,000 copies of its first edition were printed and it sold out quickly. Fleming combined the skills and experiences of two lives: his work as an intelligence officer during World War II and his experience as a journalist in spotting the right, and telling detail.

Casino Royale was a short novel. But it had an impact on readers. The story’s hero, British secret agent James Bond, first loses and then wins a high-stake game of cards with Le Chiffre, the story’s villain. Later, Bond is helpless, the victim of torture by Le Chiffre. But before Le Chiffre can finish the torture, he is dispatched by an operative of Smersh for being “a fool and a thief a traitor.” The Smersh operative has no orders to kill Bond, so he doesn’t. But he carves up the back of Bond’s right hand. “It would be well that should be known as a spy,” the killer says.

What seems to be novel’s climax happens less than three-quarters of the way through the story. But the new author had some other ideas to keep readers turning the pages until the real resolution. Bond is betrayed Vesper, a woman he had fallen deeply in love with. She commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills.

Bond, after all this, doesn’t collapse. He emerges more resolute, determined to “attack the arm that held the whip and the gun…He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.”

Writer Jeremy Duns in an essay PUBLISHED IN 2005 argued “there’s a strong case to be made for it being the first great spy thriller of the Cold War.” Toward the end of his article, Duns writes, “Before Casino Royale, the hero always saved the damsel in distress moments before she was brutally ravaged and tortured by the villain; Fleming gave us a story in which nobody is saved, and it is the hero who is abused, drawn there by the damsel.”

For Fleming, Casino Royle was just the start. More novels and short stories followed. He lived to see two of his novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, turned into movies in 1962 and 1963 (following a CBS adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954). The author visited the set of the third film, Goldfinger, but died in August 1964, just before 007 became a phenomenon, spurring a spy craze.

Six decades later, the 23 movies of the Eon Production series (plus a couple of non-Eon films) are what most people think of when the name James Bond is mentioned. 2012’s Skyfall had worldwide ticket sales of $1.1 billion.

Oh, the Fleming books remain in print. Ian Fleming Publication hires a continuation novel author now and then (William Boyd, the latest continuation author, is scheduled to disclose his novel’s title on April 15). Periodically, there’s a new book about some aspect about the film series.

Fans can fuss and debate about Bond (and do all the time). But there is one certainty: without Casino Royale’s publication six decades ago, none of that would be possible.

UPDATE: Other 007 blogs and bloggers are noting the anniversary today, including THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER, BOND BLOG, MARK O’CONNELL, JAMES BOND BRASIL, FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE and THE BOOK BOND You can also read an article in the Express newspaper by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, Spy Vibe, part of the COBRAS group of blogs, has a post including a graphic of various Casino Royale covers. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

Happy 60th anniversary, Mr. Bond

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover

Sixty years ago, readers sampled the start of a novel by a new author. “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” it began. The world hasn’t been quite the same since.

The novel, of course, was Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, published April 13, 1953. About 5,000 copies of its first edition were printed and it sold out quickly. Fleming combined the skills and experiences of two lives: his work as an intelligence officer during World War II and his experience as a journalist in spotting the right, and telling detail.

Casino Royale was a short novel. But it had an impact on readers. The story’s hero, British secret agent James Bond, first loses and then wins a high-stake game of cards with Le Chiffre, the story’s villain. Later, Bond is helpless, the victim of torture by Le Chiffre. But before Le Chiffre can finish the torture, he is dispatched by an operative of Smersh for being “a fool and a thief a traitor.” The Smersh operative has no orders to kill Bond, so he doesn’t. But he carves up the back of Bond’s right hand. “It would be well that should be known as a spy,” the killer says.

What seems to be novel’s climax happens less than three-quarters of the way through the story. But the new author had some other ideas to keep readers turning the pages until the real resolution. Bond is betrayed Vesper, a woman he had fallen deeply in love with. She commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills.

Bond, after all this, doesn’t collapse. He emerges more resolute, determined to “attack the arm that held the whip and the gun…He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.”

Writer Jeremy Duns in an essay PUBLISHED IN 2005 argued “there’s a strong case to be made for it being the first great spy thriller of the Cold War.” Toward the end of his article, Duns writes, “Before Casino Royale, the hero always saved the damsel in distress moments before she was brutally ravaged and tortured by the villain; Fleming gave us a story in which nobody is saved, and it is the hero who is abused, drawn there by the damsel.”

For Fleming, Casino Royle was just the start. More novels and short stories followed. He lived to see two of his novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, turned into movies in 1962 and 1963 (following a CBS adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954). The author visited the set of the third film, Goldfinger, but died in August 1964, just before 007 became a phenomenon, spurring a spy craze.

Six decades later, the 23 movies of the Eon Production series (plus a couple of non-Eon films) are what most people think of when the name James Bond is mentioned. 2012’s Skyfall had worldwide ticket sales of $1.1 billion.

Oh, the Fleming books remain in print. Ian Fleming Publication hires a continuation novel author now and then. Periodically, there’s a new book about some aspect about the film series.

Fans can fuss and debate about Bond (and do all the time). But there is one certainty: without Casino Royale’s publication six decades ago, none of that would be possible.

EARLIER POST: CLICK HERE to read a March 17 post about events at the University of Illinois to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale.

Len Deighton on From Russia With Love

Len Deighton and Michael Caine


The Deighton Dossier blog has a new interview with author Len Deighton. You can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE One thing that caught our eye was Deighton’s description of his work on From Russia With Love, the second 007 film.

The Q and A featured questions from readers. One of those readers was Jeremy Duns, journalist (he dug out Ben Hecht’s screenplay drafts for producer Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale) and spy author.

Richard Maibaum got the screenplay credit for From Russia With Love, with Johanna Harwood receiving an “adapted by” credit. Maibaum had a long association with Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. On the early Bond films, Harry Saltzman, the other Eon co-founder, was involved heavily in developing the scripts and often sought English writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins. Saltzman later produced the Harry Palmer series, starring Michael Caine, based on Deighton novels.

Here’s how Deighton in the Deighton Dossier interview, prompted by a question from Duns, described his time working on the film:

I’m very interested in your work on From Russia With Love – do you have any surviving drafts of your script and how do you regard it?

Len: I went to Istanbul with Harry Saltzman, plus the director and the art director. As with virtually all movies, the producer is the driving force who gets the idea, buys the rights, commissions the screenplay, chooses the actors and employs the director.

Harry demonstrated this creative power. We took breakfast together every day so that he could guide me and teach me how film stories worked. It was a wonderful course in movie making especially as the rest of each day was spent roaming around Istanbul with Harry plus the director and art director talking about locations and building the sets back in England.

I’ve always been rather careless about typescripts and notes etc. And having a restless disposition I have packed, unpacked and repacked countless times as my family and I lived in different countries, I don’t have much written stuff left.

Terence Young directed the movie and Syd Cain worked as art director, with Michael White as assistant art director.

The Deighton Dossier and this blog, are members of the Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies. We noticed the From Russia With Love mention from Tweets by Jeremy Duns.

Casino Royale’s 45th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 45th anniversary of Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale, the producer’s 1967 send-up of 007.

Feldman, one-time agent (Albert R. Broccoli was one of his employees) turned producer, was nobody’s fool. He had produced films in a variety of genres such as 1948’s Red River (uncredited), 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1955’s The Seven Year Itch and 1965’s What’s New Pussycat.

So, when he acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel in the early 1960s, Feldman recognized it had commercial potential even as the film series produced by one time associate Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was getting underway in 1962. (CLICK HERE for a post on Jeremy Duns’s Debrief blog for a more detailed history.)

Feldman tried to entice director Howard Hawks, his one-time colleague on Red River. Hawks was interested but the director backed out after seeing an early print of Dr. No with Sean Connery.

Feldman pressed on, signing distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht to come up with a screenplay. Details of Hecht’s work were reported last year by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project.

By now, Eon’s series was reaching its peak of popularity with 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed to a co-production deal with Kevin McClory, holder of the film rights for Thunderball. James Bond, The Legacy, the 2002 book by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, presents a narrative of on-and-off talks between Feldman, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists, the studio releasing the Broccoli-Saltzman movies. In the end, talks broke down. (Behind the scenes, Broccoli and Saltzman had their own tensions to deal with, including Saltzman’s outside ventures such as his Harry Palmer series of films.).

So Feldman opted to go for farce, but not in a small way. His movie had an estimated budget, according to IMDB.com. of $12 million. The Cork-Scivally book put the figure at $10.5 million. Either way, it was more than the $9.5 million budget of You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Broccoli-Saltzman series. Twice’s outlay included $1 million for Ken Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set.

Feldman’s film didn’t have that kind of spectacle. But he did pay money (or Columbia Pictures’ money) for talent such as John Huston (one of five credited directors), David Niven (playing the “original” James Bond, brought out of retirement, who implies the Sean Connery version of the Broccoli-Saltzman series was assigned the James Bond name by MI6), Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress (now famous because of Dr. No), William Holden, Woody Allen and….well CLICK HERE to view the entire cast and crew.

Casino Royale, however, was less than the sum of its impressive parts. The humor is uneven, it doesn’t really have a story, despite employing a number screenwriters, including Wolf Mankowitz, who introduced Broccoli and Saltzman to each other. (For a more sympathetic view, CLICK HERE for a long essay on the subject.)

The’67 Casino managed a reported worldwide gross of $41.7 million. That was good in its day, though less than a third of Thunderball’s $141.7 million global box office.

Much has been written since 1967 about the stressful production, including reported feuds between Sellers and Welles. Perhaps all that took a toll on the film’s producer. Feldman died in May 1968, a little more than 13 months after Casino Royale’s premier, at age 64.