Friday, 30 November 2012
Volume I, Casino Royale, introduces Bond and SMERSH to the reader and to each other;
Vol VII, Goldfinger, describes Bond's fourth encounter with SMERSH.
While writing the fifth novel, From Russia, With Love, Fleming had decided to end it and thus the series with the unexpected death of Bond. In fact, the novel as published does end with what retroactively has to be regarded as merely an apparent death, like that of Sherlock Holmes. Rosa Klebb, Head of Operations for SMERSH, kicks Bond with a poisoned knife after:
Bond had thwarted Russian Intelligence three times and the American Spangled Mob once (i.e., the contents of the first four novels);
SMERSH had retaliated for the Russians by attempting to assassinate Bond and to discredit British Intelligence;
Bond had thwarted this Plan by killing the SMERSH Chief Executioner, Donovan Grant, and arresting Klebb.
Thus, the one and only sequence of Bond novels would have begun and ended thus:
Vol I, Bond and SMERSH meet;
Vol V, Bond decisively defeats SMERSH which, however, succeeds in killing him after all right at the end.
Vol VI, Dr No, explains how Bond survived and describes what happened during his recuperation in Jamaica;
Vol VII, as above.
Vol VIII, Thunderball, discloses that Krushchev had disbanded SMERSH but some of its former members joined the independent organization, SPECTRE, founded and led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld;
Vol XII, The Man With The Golden Gun, ends with Bond fully reinstated in the Secret Service after he:
had destroyed SPECTRE;
had spent a fruitless year hunting Blofeld;
had drafted a letter of resignation from the Service;
had destroyed a revived SPECTRE;
was married but immediately widowed;
went to pieces, nearly getting himself and others killed;
was about to be fired by M;
lost his 00 number and was sent to Japan on a diplomatic mission;
found and killed Blofeld in Japan;
suffered physical trauma and amnesia;
lived for a year as a Japanese fisherman while his obituary appeared in The Times;
traveled from Japan to Russia in search of his identity;
was arrested, recognized, interrogated and brainwashed;
returned to London to kill M but failed;
was de-brainwashed, then sent to Jamaica in order to kill or be killed by the assassin, Scaramanga;
killed Scaramanga, while taking a poisoned bullet in the stomach and losing consciousness;
declined a knighthood.
Can Bond possibly be the same person after going through all that? He would have been ready to start a third sequence of novels if his author had not died but Fleming might not have been up to writing any more. If Vol XII had not been published posthumously, then Bond would have been left, still with amnesia, somewhere between Japan and Russia.
Prima facie, Vol IX, The Spy Who Loved Me, is inconsistent with the rest of the series because it shows Bond in action against SPECTRE, still led by Blofeld, at a time when, according to Vol X, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he was convinced that SPECTRE, having been destroyed, could not be revived and even that Blofeld was dead. On the one hand, the series is full of inconsistencies and I think that this one can easily be explained: Bond mistakenly came to believe that SPECTRE had not been involved in the events of Vol IX. On the other hand, there is evidence that Fleming did not regard Vol IX as really fitting with the series.
If we go with the latter idea, then the second complete sequence comprises only four novels and The Spy Who Loved Me presents an alternative history in which there could have been further encounters between Bond and SPECTRE...