Friday, 18 May 2012

The Structure Of A Series: Ian Fleming


A series of novels may be enjoyable to read not only because the novels are individually enjoyable but also because the series itself develops an aesthetically pleasing structure. One multi-volume story emerges from and behind several single volume stories. For example, it may become possible for another author to write a fictitious biography of a series’ central character, although such adaptations can be unnecessarily sensationalized. Details of Sherlock Holmes’ education need not include the implausible revelation that his tutors included Moriarty.

Series that I have in mind are: 

the Holmes canon, which ended with Holmes’ death but then found ways to continue (see here);
The Chronicles of Narnia
by CS Lewis;
the nine Church of England novels by Susan Howatch;
the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson;
the Exiles/Intervention/Milieu sequence by Julian May;
and, of course, the James Bond series by Ian Fleming.


Fleming’s James Bond canon comprises fourteen volumes easily divided into two sevens. The first seven volumes are a chronologically linear sequence of novels, beginning and ending with the collective villain, SMERSH. The second seven volumes comprise five novels beginning with the collective villain, SPECTRE, ending with the aftermath of Bond’s conflict with SPECTRE and book-ended by two collections. Since SMERSH was a Russian state organization and since Russian Intelligence in the form of the KGB returns as the main collective villain in the last novel, the series comes full circle. Despite the d├ętente period when SPECTRE replaces SMERSH as the continuing villain, Fleming’s Bond remains a Cold War character. We do not see him fighting any later enemies and he could hardly have remained active long enough to do so.

(Because I am discussing a series in which Communists are villains, I will briefly state my own position. Readers who do not want politics can skip this bracketed passage. I accept The Communist Manifesto and considered joining the Communist Party but could not share its support for the Soviet Union. Fortunately, Tony Cliff, an unorthodox Trotskyist, had analysed Russia, China and Eastern Europe as state capitalist, not socialist, and had built a left alternative, which I joined. We worked with Communists in the unions and political campaigns but found that they were moving towards accommodation with the status quo. After all, they supported the foreign policy of a government which no longer led world revolution. They no longer exist as a political party. 

(To Bond’s Secret Service, the CIA is a friendly organization. If I suspected that an inquisitive American was CIA, I would not tell him anything. I enjoy Fleming’s fictitious world but inhabit a different real one. Unguarded talk with a member of an intelligence service would get me expelled from the Party as a security risk though not executed by SMERSH. When SMERSH existed, its targets, according to Fleming, included Trotsky. Trotskyists do not command the resources of a state and unorthodox Trotskyists unreservedly opposed the Stalinist state until it was overthrown.)

The Ninth Novel

Fleming did not want the ninth novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, to be filmed so a series of authentic film adaptations of the novels would include seven films in the SMERSH period but only four post-SMERSH. The earliest short stories, originally written as TV episodes, could be adapted as such to provide an interlude between the earlier and later films. Authentic dramatisations should contain no character called Q, because Q was merely the name of a Secret Service Branch, not of the Head of that Branch. In the sixth novel, Dr No, Major Boothroyd, the Armourer, is neither called Q nor in Q Branch though the film Q later acquired his surname.

The Spy Who Loved Me may be non-canonical. Fleming tried to write a different kind of fiction and, in my opinion, succeeded, as also in his three short stories that feature Bond but are not Secret Service stories. In every other novel, Bond as third person view point character meets the heroine usually while engaged on a mission. This time, instead, the heroine narrates her life for nine chapters, not meeting Bond until Chapter 10, and he departs before the concluding, fifteenth, chapter. So far, this makes the book different from, though not inconsistent with, the rest of the series but there is an overt contradiction. 

The eighth novel, Thunderball, ends with SPECTRE destroyed. The tenth, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS), opens with Bond believing, wrongly as it turns out, that SPECTRE has not been re-formed and even that its founder and chairman, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is dead. Yet in the intermediate volume, The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond says then that Blofeld has revived SPECTRE. If this novel is regarded as non-canonical, then it could also be regarded as potentially initiating a new sequence of encounters with Blofeld differing from those recounted in OHMSS and in the eleventh novel, You Only Live Twice, and therefore leading to a different conclusion from that described in the last novel, The Man With The Golden Gun.

On the other hand, the series is full of contradictions yet remains a single series. It is easy to rationalise this particular contradiction. The heroine, Vivienne Michel, according to the title page co-writing the book with Fleming, tells us what Bond had told her that his Service had then believed about some of its opponents. Thus, there is plenty of scope for error or economy with the truth by one of these multiple narrators. OHMSS could begin with Bond mistakenly believing that he had been wrong to think that SPECTRE was involved in the events of The Spy Who Loved Me.

Does SPECTRE Survive?

Even if this novel is canonical, it would have been possible to launch a second sequence of SPECTRE novels. In the first place, in OHMSS, Blofeld had changed his physical appearance so completely that Bond initially thought that this could not be the same man. Two actors should be used in any film series although the second actor should then re-appear in You Only Live Twice where Bond does recognize “Dr Shatterhand” as Blofeld. Even if, in accordance with film tradition, the audience does not see Blofeld’s face during the SPECTRE meeting in Thunderball, we should see enough of his body to agree with Bond later in OHMSS that Blofeld has changed a lot. Since Blofeld is the view point character for the SPECTRE meeting, we could mostly be shown the other members looking towards him. However, since the novel does describe Blofeld’s face, the film should show it. He should not be stroking a cat. (In fact, the only villain in the novels who approaches Bond holding a cat is Goldfinger and that is because the cat plays a role at that stage in the plot.) 

Returning to the idea of further SPECTRE novels, let us suppose that, after the events of The Man With The Golden Gun, a new independent organization sells intelligence to M. It emerges that this organization calls itself SPECTRE and engages in criminal activity. Bond, investigating, learns in one novel that SPECTRE is led by a mysterious “Number One” and, in the next novel, that this Number One is the original Blofeld of Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me whereas the “Blofeld” of OHMSS and You Only Live Twice had been an imposter usurping the name of SPECTRE. The final confrontation with the real Blofeld would have to be followed by Bond’s retirement from the 00 Section although Fleming resisted this, keeping his hero in the eternal present.

One badly and probably hastily written post-Fleming Bond novel presents SPECTRE as a larger and still existent organization impossibly run by Blofeld’s daughter. He didn’t have one. This novel reads like the summary of a post-Connery film but is not an authentic sequel to Fleming’s series. Fleming presented the rare, for Bond, heroine-as-villain theme far better in the short story, “The Living Daylights.”


Bond fights four kinds of villains:

Nazis left over from the War;
North American gangsters.

The Spy Who Loved Me is the only novel to feature all four: the KGB hires SPECTRE whose ex-Gestapo agent works with Canadian gangsters. There are lesser continuing villains: 

the American Spangled Mob;
the American Purple Gang;
the Italian Mafia, here called the Unione Siciliano;
the Mafia's French equivalent, the Union Corse. 

The Spangled Mob had employed “The Man With The Golden Gun,” Scaramanga, smuggles diamonds under ABC (see below) and joins Goldfinger’s Hoods’ Congress. The Purple Gang, also in the Hoods’ Congress, has members who are killed by Scaramanga and Goldfinger and another who is blackmailed by SPECTRE. The Mafia is represented in Goldfinger’s Hoods’ Congress, Blofeld’s SPECTRE and Scaramanga’s “Group." SPECTRE poaches members from the Union Corse which then helps Bond against SPECTRE.

Fleming’s fictional world, like some others, is populated by collective villains that become familiar to regular readers and Fleming interconnects them. “The Group” is the setting for an unlikely alliance between the KGB and the Mafia. As a schoolboy, I thought, “Two bad guy outfits: right.” However, Group members themselves ask what they have in common. The Hoods’ Congress, convened for a raid on Fort Knox, had simply not known that its convener, “Mr. Gold” (Goldfinger), represented SMERSH but the gangsters in the Group at least suspect that the European Hendriks is Russian-backed while Hendriks himself seeks Scaramanga’s confidential assurance that money-making enterprises in Jamaica will generate social unrest. For once, Fleming presents Bond as literally spying, even eavesdropping, on a colorful combination of capitalist, communist and criminal conspiracies in the Caribbean.

The Last Novel

Fleming usually presented exotic settings, especially Jamaica where he wrote the novels and to which he appropriately returns in the last novel, The Man With The Golden Gun. (Bond does visit Russia once but between novels. However, one superb later short story, “The Living Daylights,” has the Le Carre setting of the divided Berlin.)

In Gun, Hendriks echoes two earlier novels when he advises Scaramanga that, in a volatile world, gold or diamonds are safer investments than stocks and shares. He also mentions rare postage stamps which Fleming could have adapted as a way for the KGB to pay its agents. (Fleming informs us, through Hendriks and Scaramanga, that the date of the African Revolution will be secretly decided in the Kremlin. I suggest that popular movements and mass uprisings cannot be governmentally controlled, further that they threaten existing governments, including, at that time, the Russian regime.)

Why does Bond not take any of several chances to kill his last villain, Scaramanga? Is this question Shakespearean? Why does Hamlet not take his chances to kill Claudius? Hamlet is indecisive. Bond is increasingly reluctant to kill in cold blood although that is how he earned his 00 number. He has a good reason the first time. He would have had to kill the chauffer as well. But why does Scaramanga sit beside the chauffeur with Bond behind him instead of behind the chauffer with Bond beside him? Of course, he did not yet know that “Mark Hazard” (Bond) had been sent to kill him but he had survived till then as a celebrity assassin by maintaining his guard. This might be a passage that Fleming would have rewritten if he had had time to revise this posthumously published novel.

Bond’s hesitation to kill allows Scaramanga to shoot first and generates a dramatic showdown which could be filmed exactly as narrated. Bond should be played in eleven films and several TV episodes by a previously unknown actor answering the slight physical description given in the books. Scaramanga, described in detail, does not resemble Christopher Lee.


In the first five novels, Bond successively defeats:

(I) a Communist trade union organizer, Le Chiffre, who is then executed by SMERSH;
(II) a SMERSH financier, Mr. Big;
(III) a Russian-backed Nazi, Hugo Drax;
(IV) a diamond smuggler, ABC;
(V) the Head of Operations for SMERSH, Rosa Klebb, who, while being arrested, stabs and poisons Bond so that he loses consciousness... 

This would have been the death of Bond and the end of the series if Fleming had not been persuaded to continue. Instead, between books, emergency medical treatment saves Bond who goes on to defeat:

(VI) the independent operator, Dr Julius No;
(VII) the SMERSH treasurer, Auric Goldfinger.

Five short stories provide an interlude before the second series of novels in which Bond defeats: 

(VIII) the SPECTRE deputy Supreme Commander, Emilio Largo;
(IX) the SPECTRE assassin, Horst Uhlmann, then two thugs threatening Vivienne Michel;
(X) the SPECTRE founder and chairman, Blofeld;
(XI) Blofeld post-SPECTRE;
(XII) the Cuban-backed assassin, Francisco Scaramanga.

In the last three novels, which form a concluding trilogy, the series most nearly becomes a serial:

Novel XI must begin by addressing the condition in which Bond was left at the end of X;
XII must continue the narrative from the point which it had reached at the end of XI;
XII concludes this sequence of events and ends with the perfect epitaph for James Bond. (Look it up.)
Bond’s status in the Secret Service and even his life are on the line throughout this trilogy, which builds on the earlier series.
In the earlier novels, Bond, becoming dedicated to destroy SMERSH in novel I, inflicted a major defeat on it in II and on another branch of Russian Intelligence in III. After the interlude of IV, SMERSH attacked Bond in V. After recuperating in VI, Bond again defeated SMERSH in VII.

VIII, beginning: SMERSH has been disbanded but SPECTRE recruits ex-members of the Gestapo, SMERSH, Mafia, Union Corse, Yugoslav Secret Police and Blofeld’s own previous espionage service, RAHIR. 
End: Bond destroys SPECTRE but Blofeld escapes.

IX is arguably non-canonical but, in my opinion, successful. Part Three, a different kind of thriller, resembles but improves on Mickey Spillane and fits the continuity insofar as it shows Bond tracking SPECTRE. The heroine’s biography, Parts One and Two, evokes an endless summer when, in her memory, the sun is always shining…

This returns us to the concluding trilogy:

X, beginning: Bond drafts a letter of resignation from the Secret Service because he disagrees with the continued search for Blofeld.
End: Bond destroys the revived SPECTRE but Blofeld escapes again, this time killing Bond’s wife, the daughter of the Capu of the Union Corse, immediately after their wedding.

XI, beginning: the bereaved Bond has gone to pieces and M intends to sack him but is persuaded to try him out on a different kind of assignment which turns out to be a diplomatic mission to Japan.
Near the end: Bond, asked by Japanese Intelligence to kill Dr Shatterhand, who is really Blofeld, succeeds but is shot in the head and falls from a height into the sea…M writes his Obituary in The Times.
End: Bond is rescued from the sea and physically recuperates but suffers amnesia and travels into Russia in search of his identity.

XII, beginning: Bond returns brainwashed to kill M, fails, is de-brainwashed and sent against Scaramanga who may be able to kill him. (Thus, Bond will either die or regain the confidence of the Secret Service.)
Near the end: Scaramanga shoots Bond once in the stomach but, before losing consciousness, Bond shoots Scaramanga several times in the heart…two bodies lie in the Jamaican swamp.
End: as happened between novels V and VI, emergency medical treatment saves Bond who will soon return to duty and is even offered a knighthood which he declines.


After bereavement, physical trauma, brainwashing and de-brainwashing, can Bond, with his now sluggish memory, really be the same person as before? Because of the limits of the kind of series that he is writing, Fleming has to wind up with a restored not a changed Bond at the end of the last novel. We are told that, after de-brainwashing, his old hatred of the KGB returned. He had originally hated a different Russian organization, SMERSH, and, in the eighth, ninth and tenth novels, the focus had shifted to hunting down an international organization, SPECTRE, but his character remains consistent despite these changes. One apparent inconsistency is that the earlier Bond had willingly killed in cold blood whereas the later Bond is reluctant to do so but this is a credible development. Also, a hero who finds killing increasingly difficult is more sympathetic than one who becomes hardened to it.

In the earlier novels, Fleming had handled Bond’s return from apparent death differently. Dr No, Chapter I, describing familiar characters in a familiar setting, seems to present life continuing without Bond. Chapter II opens with M who, after a page or so, casually remarks that he will see 007 in half an hour. We then receive a belated and low-key explanation of why Bond is still alive despite the ending of the previous volume so there is not the same continuity of narrative as, later, in the concluding trilogy.

My favorite novel of the series is You Only Live Twice because it is the point at which the series is most nearly a serial, its exotic Japanese setting is unique in the series and it recounts the final show-down with Blofeld.

Structural Turning Points

The series has two turning points. The first is From Russia, With Love because that book was intended to end the series and does end with Bond’s death unless we read further. Bond, having met SMERSH in Casino Royale, has decisively defeated it by the end of From Russia, With Love. He has killed its Chief Executioner, captured its Head of Operations and thwarted its plans to murder Western cipher experts and discredit British Intelligence. Earlier in this novel, the Head of SMERSH, known not by a number but, like M, by his initial, G, had said that there would be serious implications for all branches of Russian Intelligence if this plan fails.
Because the Plan centers on the public and ignominious killing of James Bond, G and his comrades review the cases covered by the previous four novels. They mention Le Chiffre, “the Negro” (Mr. Big), Drax and diamond smuggling. Thus, the first five novels, considered as a unit, form a completed series, with G (Grubozaboyschikov) as the equivalent of Blofeld. Unlike Blofeld, G appears only once but must have been in the background earlier. According to Fleming, he succeeded Beria as Head of SMERSH. Beginning with SMERSH, the series broadens its focus but returns to SMERSH for the decisive conclusion.

(G sees strikes in England as an advance for the Soviet Union. As I write, the Soviet Union is history and major British Trade Unions are striking against below inflation pay rises. As a Union Steward, I am not an agent of a foreign power.)

The second turning point is Thunderball, the point at which the films start feeding back into the books. This novel not only changes the collective villain from SMERSH to SPECTRE but also changes the continuing villain from an organization to an individual, belatedly introducing Bond’s personal opponent, Blofeld. It is followed only by the experimental The Spy Who Loved Me and by the concluding trilogy, thus by two narratives, the first atypical, the second tripartite. The last five novels also form a completed series. Thus, Dr No and Goldfinger provide an interlude during which Bond recuperates from the attack by Klebb, although he must also contend with Dr No, and SMERSH executes its last major operation.

When writing this “interlude” diptych, Fleming had been persuaded to continue the novels but had not yet devised a suitable successor for SMERSH which, arguably, had already suffered its lethal defeat in From Russia, With Love. Its Head, G, and Head of Planning, Kronsteen, were physically untouched, not being out in the field, but they could hardly survive politically after the loss of Grant (Executioner) and Klebb (Operations) and Bond’s defeat of the Plan. Goldfinger’s Operation Grand Slam, although grandiose, must have been SMERSH’s dying spasm. 

In Goldfinger, the world is changing though we do not know it yet. The novel hints at China as a new opponent. Fleming’s immediate successor, Kingsley Amis, followed this lead and presented an appropriately named Bond villain. After Mr. Big, Dr. No and No 1, we get Colonel Sun.

When SPECTRE succeeded SMERSH, it had been created by Kevin McClory, Jack Wittingham and Ian Fleming for a film but the first two were not credited on the title page of the first edition of the novel, hence a court case. Thus also, EON films somehow lost SPECTRE which reappeared in another film starring Connery, produced by McClory. EON filmed a comical and disrespectful death of Blofeld without naming him. The character fares better in the novels where he is strangled by Bond and his body is left in the about to explode Castle of Death. 

Although originally intended as a conclusion, From Russia, With Love introduced a scenario that Fleming repeated several times: the meeting of villainous characters. G convenes and threatens a meeting of Russian Intelligence chiefs. Goldfinger’s men kill two gangsters leaving the Hoods’ Congress. Blofeld and Largo each kill a man at different SPECTRE meetings and Blofeld has done this twice before. Scaramanga kills a man at a Group meeting. SPECTRE’s elimination of unsatisfactory members, not confined to meetings, followed the SMERSH practice of assassinating failures like Le Chiffre and was copied by THRUSH (see below).

Film and TV Parallels

Structurally, the Sean Connery Bond films parallel the Ian Fleming Bond novels.

Fleming’s Bond:
encounters SMERSH for the first time in the first novel;
confronts its Head of Operations at the climax of the fifth novel;
has his last encounter with the organization in the seventh novel. 

The Connery Bond:
encounters SPECTRE for the first time in the first film;
confronts its Number One at the climax of the fifth film;
has his last encounter with the organization in the seventh film.

The sixth novel must explain why Bond is still alive and the sixth film must incorporate a new actor, George Lazenby. These parallels are accidental. After the seventh novel, Fleming wrote a second coherent series whereas, after the seventh film, the cinema series became unfocused and diffuse. The film makers lost the copyright to Blofeld and SPECTRE and did not replace them with anything comparable.

In the books, Klebb and Kronsteen of SMERSH plot Bond’s assassination before he has met either Dr No or SPECTRE. In the films, Klebb defecting from SMERSH joins Kronsteen in SPECTRE and plots Bond’s assassination in revenge for his killing of the SPECTRE Executive, Dr No. Thus, characters and organizations are shuffled arbitrarily. Some film promotional material suggests that Dr No directed SPECTRE before Blofeld. Thus, Blofeld would not have founded SPECTRE. Certainly, the film SPECTRE is a larger organization than the one in the novels. The SPECTRE operation in the film You Only Live Twice is so large-scale, international and extra-planetary in scope, that the film Blofeld must have been planning and funding it in the background throughout the course of events as presented in the previous four films.
SMERSH, differing in period and scope from the historical organization of that name, was created for the novels whereas SPECTRE, entirely fictitious, was created for the films but SPECTRE passed from the early films into the later novels. Dr No and For Your Eyes Only were based on proposed TV series. Thunderball, introducing Blofeld and SPECTRE, was based on a cinema screen treatment. It was the book of the film even though the film had not been made yet. Blofeld recurs or is mentioned in each succeeding novel. Thus, after From Russia, With Love, every volume except Goldfinger derives directly or indirectly from a screen treatment. (I leave out the second collection, Octopussy, which is a posthumous collection of, in different editions, two, three or four short stories originally published separately and thus was not conceived as a discrete volume.)

Confusingly, in the novel Thunderball, Largo is called Number One and Blofeld is called Number Two because the numbers around the SPECTRE meeting room table are periodically changed as a security measure. Thus, these characters could have had any numbers during Plan Omega/Operation Thunderball although Largo’s number “one” happens to correspond to his status as the main villain that Bond directly confronts in this novel. The films, avoiding such complexities, call Largo Number Two and consistently refer to the SPECTRE chairman as Number One until he comes face to face with Bond and introduces himself as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, although this name had been revealed in the cast list of the second film.

The idea of a secret organization whose members are numbered was used to more dramatic and philosophical effect in the later TV series, The Prisoner, where “Number One” turns out to be not another Blofeld type but the protagonist, Number Six. My number one enemy is myself, 1 = I. (At least, that seems to be the message.) There is a progression of villainous organizations in popular spy fiction: 

SMERSH in early Bond novels;
SPECTRE in later Bond novels and early Bond films;
THRUSH in a Bond parody, The Man From UNCLE TV series;
the Village in a more serious TV series, The Prisoner, which was a sequel to the Danger Man spy series.

(Fleming wanted to write a Bond TV series and is said to have suggested the name “Napoleon Solo” for the main protagonist of The Man From UNCLE. The Mafia boss in Goldfinger is called Mr. Solo.) 

SMERSH is a state organization for world domination. SPECTRE is a private organization for private profit. THRUSH is a private organization for world domination, thus a synthesis of SMERSH and SPECTRE. THRUSH is impossibly powerful and well resourced. A novel based on the UNCLE TV series suggests that THRUSH is an acronym for a ludicrous organizational title but also, more interestingly, that this “Technological Hierarchy…” was built by the successors of a London-based criminal genius, the Professor, presumably the famous villain whose surname appeared earlier in this article. Thus, both The Prisoner and one UNCLE novel present interesting answers as to the ultimate identity of the main villain.


As far as I can remember without re-reading everything yet again, Bond’s elderly Scottish housekeeper, May, although mentioned several times, comes on stage only twice, once in each of the turning points novels. Like Holmes’ land lady, Mrs. Hudson, she is underused. Like Wooster’s butler, Jeeves, she speaks her mind. Jeeves is deferential but firm. May is fiery and uninhibited. She complains about a persistent salesman who shows a Communist trade union card, thus warning Bond that the Russians might be watching him. The reader knows that SMERSH is planning Bond’s assassination but Bond, off his guard, disregards the warning. Later, May thinks that Bond eating yogurt and other health foods is no longer himself. Soon, he agrees, returning to scrambled eggs, bacon and strong black coffee.

But May’s main contribution to Bond mythology comes in the last novel when, insisting that he is still alive, she maintains his flat from her savings. Even then, she remains off stage. The KGB-controlled Bond does not return to his flat but stays at the Ritz because the latter conforms to the KGB image of high living. 

Because Holmes works from home, we often see his rooms in Baker St. Because Bond’s missions are, with one exception, abroad, we see little of his Chelsea flat off the Kings Road but we are told that it is small, comfortable, on a tree-lined square and has a long big-windowed sitting-room.


Bond dumps heroines between novels but not as many as we think. Two die, one turns out to be engaged to someone else, one is heading for prison, one stays for six months but then leaves, one (Vivienne) is only encountered for a single night, one Bond leaves to find his identity, one is in the last novel. That leaves only four heroines unaccounted for between novels. Similarly, only three heroines are unaccounted for in nine short stories. Surprisingly for Bond, there are no sexual encounters in the second collection. 

Re-reading not as a schoolboy but as an adult, I find Bond’s attitude to women odd. Some of his sexual approaches are aggressive. It is suggested that sex is a reward for danger. Sexually, we are told what Bond does but, usually, not how he feels about it. When feelings are described, the description is contradictory: “cold passion”? We are told once early in the third novel that he regularly makes love in this way to three married women. This is the only indication that Bond’s sexual activity is potentially scandalous and, maybe, a security risk.

 A lot more could be written at this point. I have neither discussed nor even named the heroines, except the one who comes to center stage as a narrator. My brief synopses necessarily name the villains but, of the heroines, mention only Vivienne and Tracy, Bond’s wife. Their wedding and her death are the unexpected conclusion of OHMSS and his bereavement is of necessity the premise of the following novel. One other heroine who should be named is the first, Vesper Lynd, to whom Bond proposes but she kills herself, confessing to have been a double agent, thus motivating Bond against SMERSH. Casino Royale, also summarizing how Bond became a 00 agent, is his “origin” story, setting the scene for the rest of the series. The Bond we see at the end of Casino Royale is unchanged by the end of The Man With The Golden Gun. The second novel, Live And Let Die, following the lead of Casino Royale, pits Bond directly against SMERSH but this time with a disposable heroine. Solitaire is alive and with Bond at the end but is not heard of again.

Bond is unsuccessful with three women: 

the earlier secretary of the 00 Section, Loelia Ponsonby, who will not become involved with anyone who might die soon;
Gala Brand, already engaged;
Tilly Masterson, a Lesbian.

However, he is then successful with another Lesbian, Pussy Galore. (Bond thinks that homosexuality results from women’s emancipation.)

The recurring potential sexual partners are M’s secretary, Miss Moneypenny, Loelia and her successor, Mary Goodnight, who appears in the concluding trilogy and one short story. Surprisingly, Mary becomes the heroine of the last novel either because this saves Fleming the trouble of inventing yet another disposable character or because it is yet another unexpected plot move. (Fleming keeps the surprises coming in the last five books. Several have been mentioned. Another is that Scaramanga, combining the roles of mastermind and gunman, is an unexpected villain.) 

Vivienne tells us that “All women love semi-rape.” Semi-? No one likes rape which is non-consensual sex. Does anyone like pretended rape? Some do, because some like pretended violence. Not all, because people differ and what they like varies. But they often generalize, for example by thinking that everyone likes what they like. Thus, Vivienne’s statement, though not accurate, may be authentic. She knows that Bond will not stay with her or with anyone else and he thinks the same about Mary at the end. Yet in OHMSS he proposes to Tracy partly because he thinks she will fit into his life style and partly because untidy, casual affairs leave him with a bad conscience. Really? Fleming, wanting the surprise ending of a wedding and an immediate bereavement, had to give Bond reasons to propose. Tracy fitting Bond’s life style is barely plausible. Bond’s bad conscience is not.
From discussing the heroines, I have returned to discussing Bond. The series is not about him and them but about him. By dismissing each heroine at the end of her single novel, Fleming reduces them to nonentities. After one adventure and one night with Vivienne, Bond leaves a letter offering advice and help but not expecting to see her again, yet, paradoxically, signs it, “Ever, J.B.”

As the Bond novels proceed, Fleming revises dates to keep the hero young enough to remain active. He addresses age in “Endit,” the last chapter of The Man With The Golden Gun, but only to say that Bond annually attends a “grisly reunion” of ex-Secret Service members who recount their exploits to younger members like “…James Bond who was only interested in what was going to happen tomorrow.” As schoolboys, my generation read that passage without reflection but we are now old enough for age to matter and it should have mattered to Bond at the time as well.

Fleming died before he could revise The Man With The Golden Gun which was published posthumously. Bond, of course, lives on, but, for me, he lives neither in the films nor in the chronologically impossible novels by other authors but in the closing sentence of The Man With The Golden Gun: “For James Bond, the same view would always pall.”

Structure and Content

This article began as an appreciation of the structure of a series. Necessarily, it also refers to the content of the series but only to those aspects in which I am interested or about which I wanted to say something. Longer studies of Bond have been written. Other important aspects are individual plots, settings, villains and heroines and Fleming’s comments on the world of the period.


Reality-Fiction-Metafiction Interaction

Willingly suspending disbelief, we imagine fictitious characters as real and appreciate phrases or passages that make fictitious narratives seem real. For example, intelligence acquired by Bond informs a speech by President Kennedy. Novelists incorporate historical figures into fictitious narratives. G’s predecessor, Beria, his superior, Serov, and the later KGB director, Semichastny, all mentioned by Fleming, existed in our world as well as in Bond’s. An Author’s Note in From Russia, With Love, claims that G as described in the novel also co-existed with Fleming and his readers.

The title page of The Spy Who Loved Me credits the first person narrator of the novel, Vivienne Michel, as also co-author. My edition has a blurb by Vivienne in which she assures us that Fleming would not have co-written the story if it were not true. To avoid confusion, I must emphasize that these are ways in which Fleming makes his fiction seem real, not evidence that it is real. Issues can become confused at the reality-fiction interface. (A secondary school pupil told me that he didn’t think there really was such a person as Superman.) But Fleming seems to have told one lie. See above and below. 

Despite the secrecy of his profession, Bond becomes a publicly known figure in his world as well as in ours. His cases attract publicity. A personal friend and former colleague writes inaccurate popular books about him. After Bond's disappearance and presumed death, M writes his Obituary in The Times, contradicting biographical details as given by Fleming and G. Further, the Ministry of Defence receives calls from people claiming to be Bond. The Secret Service Chief of Staff’s comment, “The Ritz is sort of stage Bond,” distinguishes the real man from his theatrical parody.

In our world, John Pearson wrote biographies of both Fleming and Bond. In the latter, British Intelligence cons the Russians that Bond is fictitious by letting Fleming write him up as a fictitious character. The phrase, “It’s another nut who says he’s James Bond,” in the fourth paragraph of The Man With The Golden Gun, is spoken in the fictitious world where Bond is a real person but could equally have been spoken in the real world where Bond is fictitious or in an alternative fictitious world where he would also be fictitious. (Fictitious characters are usually fictions to each other.) Thus, this phrase, applicable in both kinds of worlds, might count as “metafiction”: fiction acknowledging its fictional status.
In the 1990’s, I wondered what had happened to G, if he was real. A work colleague who claimed to have worked for British Intelligence said that G had defected to Britain. Further, my colleague knew G’s minder who would be willing to pass a letter to G. I wrote a fan letter to G, placed it in a sealed envelope, penciled the letter “G” on the outside and placed the envelope in my colleague’s pigeon hole at work. The envelope disappeared from the pigeon hole and allegedly went to G. Understandably, I did not receive a reply.

Internet articles confirm that G’s superior, General Ivan Aleksandrovitch Serov, who telephones him in the novel, was real but that G was fictitious. In the fictitious world where Bond, G and, according to M, Fleming’s first ten novels all exist, G may have defected to Britain and received a letter from a reader of the novels.


I trust that interested readers of this unscholarly Internet article can find the passages in Fleming’s books to which I refer or can verify some of my statements elsewhere on the ‘Net but I will provide page references to the novels if requested.


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