educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
For July, the novel I read for my 40 by 40 list was Ian Fleming’s The Man with the Golden Gun. At the start of the month, I couldn’t decide on a novel to read. I went through the first two weeks of July bookless. Then at the end of that second week, I walked into a colleague’s office who had a small stack of Ian Fleming novels on a table. I’ve seen a number of James Bond movies, but I never read the novels, so I borrowed the book with the most interesting title.
Before I continue, I REALLY have to show you this blog I came across praising the many versions of book covers for Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories. Click here to see the page.
Before I really get started with this review, let me preface this by reminding you all about my slight propensity toward obsessive behavior. I get into these situations sometimes in which, if I come across something that really catches my interest, I must know everything about its histories, its component pieces, its idiosyncrasies, the various iterations this particular thing may take, etc.
Such is the case for Mr. James Bond.
I began reading The Man with the Golden Gun, and I had to do a Google search for Ian Fleming, I had to see what Wikipedia had to say about James Bond, and I searched for a list of all the Bond girls (strictly for informational research purposes, of course). And, as coincidence would have it, the reading of my first James Bond novel happened to coincide with July being James Bond Month on the Encore movie channels (channels, by the way, we coincidentally received from DirecTV after transferring our package to our new home).
So during the last two weeks of July, I peppered my reading of the novel with viewings of a couple classic James Bond movies. I watched Dr. No with Sean Connery (I didn’t actually watch the movie with Sean Connery…I meant the movie starred Sean Connery. But you probably guessed that.) I tried sitting through The Man with the Golden Gun but it was so extremely different from the novel that it didn’t make any sense to me. And I tried getting into On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (with the lesser-known George Lazenby as Bond), but that one just seemed silly.
The first James Bond movie I watched when I was in high school was License to Kill starring Timothy Dalton as Bond, and then I’ve seen each one after that. (Coincidentally, by the way, the movies with Timothy Dalton as Bond also starred an actor by the name of Robert Brown as M, James Bond’s boss and the head of the agency MI6.)
Coincidentally, this year also happens to be the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies. MGM Studios will release a special limited edition DVD box set of all the Bond movies with a release date set to coincide with the latest Bond movie this fall. (For all you kinfolk reading this post, the BOND 50 would make a GREAT gift for my 40th birthday this fall.)
Okay…now let’s continue with the book review…
So for July, I read The Man with the Golden Gun, and you know what?…It was okay…not spectacular, but just okay. I think after seeing so many James Bond films, I had this expectation of non-stop action, crazy explosions and gunfights, beautiful women all over the place. But the novel was not like that. In fact, James Bond spent most of the novel trying to figure out how to keep next to the villain without blowing his cover.
For those of you who saw the movie version, the novel is very different. In the novel, Bond has just returned to his headquarters in the U.K. after being missing and presumed dead for the past year. On his last mission in Japan, instead of killing James Bond, his captors effectively brainwashed him into returning to England to kill M. Of course, MI6 operatives figure out what happened, saved M, and successfully took James Bond to be re-brainwashed (or unwashed or cleansed or whatever the term is for the opposite of brainwashed.)
Anyway, in order to get him back into the swing of things, M sends Bond on a clear-cut, but dangerous, mission…assassinate Francisco Paco “Pistols” Scaramanga, an assassin responsible for the deaths of five other MI6 agents. Scaramanga is known as The Man with the Golden Gun because he is deadly accurate with his golden gun and custom-made bullets.
The novel is set in Jamaica (Fleming wrote all of his novels while living in a house he built in Jamaica. He also wrote the story Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Who knew?) Anyway, Scaramanga is a member of a cohort of criminals pooling their resources for a variety of investments, including the building of a resort hotel in Jamaica. Bond tracks down Scaramanga in Jamaica and manages to get hired on as Scaramanga’s personal assistant to make sure everything goes as planned while the gang’s all assembled.
Much of the plot is simple and the climax is predictable and somewhat anti-climactic for someone who has lived through decades of action movies. But it was rewarding enough for me to want to read a bit more before doing away with Fleming completely.