Sunday, 29 May 2011

How to write a James Bond novel

I’m ten chapters in to the new James Bond novel by Jeffery Deaver, Carte Blanche. Mind you, that’s not saying much – the chapters are very short (not quite As I Lay Dying short, but if I kept to my ‘a chapter before bed’ rule, it would take me the best part of two and a half months to read). So far the book is shaping up well. I’ll present a book review and an examination of the Bond memes replicated in the novel soon, but today I thought I’d explain why I think Carte Blanche will be a better Bond adventure than Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care.

In 1962, Ian Fleming published a short piece, entitled, ‘How to write a thriller’. We learn here that it took Fleming six weeks to write a Bond novel. This he did by writing 2000 words for four hours each day during his annual two-month stay in his Jamaican home, Goldeneye. Six weeks may seem inadequate, but it followed months of research, and years of experience hewn from his wartime and journalistic careers.

Sebastian Faulks copied Ian Fleming’s recipe for writing, in that he blocked out six weeks of his diary and wrote the book. Faulks does not specify how long he took to research the story before then, but in his piece on writing Devil May Care, he merely says that he found an idea for the villain’s scheme, and took Bond to a location Bond had not been before. And Faulks admits that whereas his well-known pastiches incorporate 125% of the original authors’ characteristics, Devil May Care contained 75%. I would agree. Parts of his novel were not too different in style to his deliberate pastiche, published in his collection of parodies, Pistache.

We know more certainly how much research went into Carte Blanche: six months. In On Writing Carte Blanche, Jeffery Deaver notes that this time was spent researching Bond, plot details, and aspects of modern intelligence, resulting in 3,000 pages of research and a story outline of 130 pages. And, like Fleming, who said that he rarely wrote about places he had not seen, Deaver has visited all the places described in the book. Carte Blanche took Deaver three months to write after the research.

Fleming wrote that ‘each word must tell and interest or titillate the reader before the action hurries on’. Judging by the research, and from those ten chapters, Deaver will also succeed in this aim. I’ll let you know!


Deaver, J, 2011 Writing Carte Blanche, Hodder and Stoughton
Faulks, S, 2009a Sebastian Faulks on writing Devil May Care, in Faulks 2009b
Faulks, S, 2009b Devil May Care, Penguin
Fleming, I, 2009 Ian Fleming on writing thrillers, in Faulks 2009b

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Tintin film poster imitates Bond

The advance posters for the forthcoming film, The Adventure of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn, which will be released on 26th October and star Daniel Craig as the pirate Red Rackham, have something of the Bond-poster structure about them. In an earlier blog entry, I described the evolution of the British Bond posters, and identified elements that were successful – that is, the elements or motifs that were repeatedly incorporated into the posters of successive Bond films. I suggested that these elements were so successful, that they had escaped the world of Bond and were routinely used for non-Bond film marketing campaigns. We can see this on the Tintin posters.

In the international version of the poster, Tintin and Snowy are centrally placed. There is a hint of movement, as they appear to be walking. The placement recalls the central position that Bond has taken on the majority of posters, while the movement brings to mind the British Quantum of Solace poster, which shows Bond walking. We could also view Snowy as equivalent to the Bond girl, who, especially since the Pierce Brosnan era, has featured as prominently as Bond on the poster. Then, in the background of the Tintin poster, there is the montage of scenes from the film – a seaplane under the control of a drunken Captain Haddock, a camel train across the Sahara, and the Unicorn itself. The scene montage is, of course, a recurring element of the British Bond posters.

The US version of the Tintin poster follows a convention to which the US Bond posters often adhere. The Tintin poster retains the central Tintin and Snowy, but places them in front of a single scene – the Unicorn moored alongside a dock. Similarly, the US versions of Bond posters have tended to reject the multiple-scened montage in favour of a single strong image. The Living Daylights poster, for example, opts for the gun-barrel motif, rather than the montage selected for the British version. The background on the Licence to Kill poster features the menacing visage of the villain, Franz Sanchez, rather than a more representative group of images on the British version. The poster for For Your Eyes Only removes all scene representations, leaving Bond and the Bond girl only. (Incidentally, the Japanese designers and artists sit at the opposite end of the spectrum, packing their posters with selection of scenes at the expense of individual characters, even Bond.)

The similarities between the Tintin posters and the typical Bond poster suggest that poster designs fit into region-specific cultural environments, resulting in a degree of conformity within those regions. The posters produced for the US and UK (or international) markets follow different sets of rules which have gradually evolved over time. The Tintin or Bond posters look the way they do, because that’s the way that posters designed before them in their respective regions have looked.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

More Moyle memes inherited by Ian Fleming

It is clear from the words given to M, and the description of James Bond reading the book, that, rather than simply referencing the title, Ian Fleming read in detail Alan Moyle’s 1950 guide on naturopathy, Nature Cure Explained (1950), before he wrote Thunderball (1961), the adventure in which Moyle is mentioned. However, there are hints in other novels that Fleming read the book earlier. What is more, his reading may have influenced an aspect of Bond’s character and, in one case, a plot detail that would result in one of the most iconic images in cinema.

Chapter 11 of Nature Cure Explained concerns hydrotherapy, the use of water in curative treatments. One of Moyle’s rules is that cold water should be applied after any treatment using hot water. For instance, there is the alternative hot and cold sitz bath, and if having a hot full bath, a cold shower must follow. The reason? According to Moyle, the aim of water treatment is to achieve action and reaction of the blood. Heat draws the blood to the surface, whereas the cold water returns the blood from the skin to the deeper blood-vessels. The result, it is claimed, is increased and better blood circulation (Moyle 1950, 124).

Does this remind you of anyone? In his first adventure, Casino Royale (1953, chapter 8), Bond ‘took a long hot bath followed by an ice-cold shower’. Bond does something similar in From Russia, with Love (1957, chapter 11): he ‘stood in the glass shower cabinet under very hot and then cold hissing water’. Incidentally, that was after he did twenty press-ups and touched his toes twenty times, among other exercises, all while naked. And we know from Moyle (1950, 157) that naked exercise is recommended in Nature Cure. Returning to water treatments, in Diamonds are Forever (1956, chapter 22), Bond takes ‘a “Hot Salt” bath followed by a “Cold Domestic” shower’ while sailing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth. For all I know, the Queen Elizabeth was indeed fitted with such facilities, but it nevertheless recalls the ‘Epsom Salt Bath’ described by Moyle (1950, 130).

Let us turn to another aspect of Fleming’s earlier writing that recalls Moyle, in this case the idea or meme that being covered in gold paint causes death, which appears in Goldfinger (1959, chapter 14). Goldfinger kills his companion Jill Masterton in revenge for Bond taking her away from him by painting her from head to foot in gold. Without a portion of the skin unpainted, she dies by skin asphyxiation. The meme spread with the release in 1964 of the film of the book, helped not least by the enormous popularity of the film, the iconic image of Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson (sic) lying dead on a bed covered with gold, and Shirley Eaton’s reprise of the ‘golden girl’ role for the cover of Life magazine.

Like Bond’s ablutions, the plot detail may not have been original to Fleming, but may have come from the pages of Moyle. Discussing the need, in his view, for the skin to be exposed allowing it to breath and be invigorated by the elements, Alan Moyle (1950, 22) reminds us of ‘the story of the little boy who was painted with gold paint and died’. It is possible that Fleming read the book before he wrote Goldfinger and was taken with Moyle’s warning as a potential villainous means of murder.

If Fleming had read Nature Cure Explained even before Bond’s first appearance in Casino Royale, then does that make Bond a disciple of Nature Cure? Well, no. His 70-a day smoking habit suggests otherwise (though curiously Moyle does not mention smoking), and a philosophy that Bond’s secretary attributes to Bond in his ‘obituary’ (You Only Live Twice (1964), chapter 21: ‘ “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” ’) does not bring to mind the naturopathic lifestyle of joyless diets, regular fasts, herbal remedies, and general abstention from any activity that could induce illness.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

James Bond and alternative medicine

Recently I acquired an addition to James Bond’s library: Nature Cure Explained (1950), by Alan Moyle. The book is waiting for Bond on the bedside table of his room at the Shrublands sanatorium. As described in Thunderball (1961), Bond is ordered there by M to undertake a two- to three-week abstemious regime to improve his physical fitness. Bond turns to the book shortly after his arrival (Thunderball, chapter 2) and manages to get through 12 of its 19 chapters, discovering in the process that Nature Cure, or naturopathy, is ‘the application of natural laws’ through fasting, balanced and special dieting, exercising, and hydrotherapy among other means to maintain good health and prevent disease. Evidently M has read the book too. His views on denatured food, the harm of conventional medicine, and his reference to pioneers (usually Austrian or German) of the naturopathy movement (chapter 1), are taken direct from the pages of Moyle.

To some extent, naturopathy sits on the milder end of the alternative medicine spectrum. Alan Moyle’s manifesto for a balanced diet includes the consumption of whole foods, abundant fruit and vegetables (preferably raw), fair quantities of dairy products, and little meat. Sixty years on, much of Moyle’s assertions would find little disagreement. We accept without question the health benefits of wholegrain products, and pass on the ‘wholegrain-is-good’ meme to the next generation as naturally as we transmit our genes. Society, too, has long rejected foods that contain additives and preservatives, something much despised by Moyle. Words like ‘natural’, ‘pure’, and ‘fresh’ are scrawled over food packaging like graffiti under a railway bridge, and while the food displaying such labels is not necessarily those things (as Which? noted), it is nevertheless a recognition that consumers seeking a healthy lifestyle form a significant population.

One also cannot argue with Moyle’s claim that exercise is very beneficial, although his insistence of exercising in the nude, as well as his view that the ‘uplift [in morale] arising from the freedom from clothes’ leads to ‘a healthier outlook on sex’ reminds us of naturopathy’s links with the naturism movement, and recalls the film of badminton-playing naturists eagerly watched by Sid James in Carry On Camping.

Moyle is likely to have fewer supporters, however, for his preference for sour milk (replacing pasteurised milk, which Moyle claims is robbed of nutrients), the recommendation to fast once a year for seven days (ideally in the ‘eminently suitable’ period of spring), and his special diets, like the potato diet (breakfast: potato and onion broth; mid-morning: potato and onion broth; lunch: baked or steamed potatoes; supper: baked or steamed potatoes and potato and onion broth). More worrying is Alan Moyle’s assertion that a cold is the body’s way of telling us that it is clogged with poisons from unhealthy living and needs to be brought back into balance; fried food, he maintains, is one cause of colds.

But Alan Moyle’s rejection of conventional medicine is dangerous. Drugs, he claims, suppress disease, not cure it. The only way to treat disease is to rectify the underlying cause – a result of a violation of the natural laws – by fasting, dieting, water treatments, and so on. Maintaining Nature Cure obviates the need for medicines, as one is less likely to become ill. To be fair, Moyle expressed his views a long time ago when research into viruses or the causes of cancer was at its infancy. However, today’s naturopathy movement retains this principle, though acknowledges that ‘short term measures which assist in the removal of symptoms for the comfort or safety of the individual’ are sometimes necessary.

Returning to Thunderball, how does James Bond cope with his nature cure? He is put on a course of strict dieting, massage, irrigation (presumably colonic), hot and cold sitz baths, osteopathy, and some traction. This final treatment, incidentally, is not mentioned by Alan Moyle, and may have been an plot device original to Fleming or derived from another source. We learn that Bond consumes vegetable soup and, later, orange slices. He has massage, including effleurage, which, ‘acts on the cutaneous nerves and superficial vessels’ (Moyle 1950, 155). The results? Reduced blood pressure, weight loss, osteopathic lesions gone, and clear eyes and tongue (chapter 4). On his release from the clinic, Bond initially maintains the diet, replacing his usual breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and coffee with yoghurt. But the regime is short-lived. SPECTRE has stolen two atomic missiles and Bond is ordered to the Bahamas to investigate. For this, Bond needs some proper food, and he breaks his diet with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, hot-buttered toast (‘not wholemeal’, he tells May, his housekeeper), and double-strength coffee.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The journalist, the model, and the search for James Bond

The months before Daniel Craig was offered the role of James Bond saw intense media speculation about who would succeed Pierce Brosnan. Little had changed since 1961 when the producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli announced that they were about to film the first James Bond film, Dr No. Before Sean Connery had been cast, there was much anticipation in the press even at this early stage in the film series.

One of the journalists who joined the speculation, and indeed cultivated much of it, was Patricia Lewis, the show-business editor with the Daily Express. In June 1961, for example, Lewis reported that Saltzman was planning to screen-test Patrick Allen, but was ‘also thinking about Michael Craig and Patrick McGoohan’. In another article, she claimed that the producers were having trouble finding their man. This was enough for her to launch a competition to find the perfect actor, and of course gain massive publicity for the Daily Express. In an article entitled, ‘In search of a he-man’, she invited ‘every tough-talking type... a crack at landing this plum role.’ Lewis added that proof of acting ability was also required. Applicants were invited to submit their acting resumées and vital statistics to a film production company in Soho Square. Six finalists were to invited to a judging panel, which Lewis boasted would comprise Harry Saltzman, Cubby Broccoli, Ian Fleming, and Ken Hughes, as well as Lewis herself.

The winner was Peter Anthony, a professional model from London. Lewis quoted Broccoli as saying that Anthony had ‘a Greg Peck quality’ that was ‘instantly arresting’. This is not difficult to see from the image that Anthony had exploited during his earlier modelling career. His career had developed with Man About Town, a 1950s/60s lifestyle magazine for men, covering sport, drink, food, cars, and clothes, especially suits. One of its photographers was Terence Donovan, a pioneer of the ‘blow-up’ school of photography, who brought a sophisticated, masculine, film-style look to the magazine. His shots were about action and story. Set in real places far removed from the artificial creation of the studio, the photographs had a narrative drive that turned fashion shoots into stills from a film. And the movie was film-noir or spy thriller. Peter Anthony was one of Donovan’s stars.

In one image from 1960, ‘Starting Over’, Anthony is behind the wheel of a sports car. He is focused on the road ahead and drives with confidence. Another photograph, from 1961, shows Peter Anthony in the foreground. He wears a sharp suit and a shoulder holster for an automatic. The man is waiting for a contact, perhaps, but so too is the man in the shadows, hidden behind Le Figaro. And the title of this intriguing scene? ‘The secrets of an agent.’ The image could be lifted from Fleming; the hero could be Bond.

Anthony took these images to Broccoli and Saltzman. Pat Lewis reported that the producers were impressed and proclaimed that he was an ‘exciting find’. Anthony looked great in a suit; sophisticated with just the right hint of menace to have the edge over his enemies and the hold on the women. But image was not everything; the part demanded an acting ability that Anthony did not have. The producers agreed that he had potential, but was too risky to try out in their first film.

What of the other five finalists? According to Pat Lewis’ article in September 1961, the finalists were Gordon Cooper, a sales rep from Warrington, Anthony Clements, another salesman, this time from Bolton, Frank Ellement, a former teacher turned actor from London, Michael Ricketts, an aerial ropeways engineer from Hadleigh in Essex, and Bob Simmons, a stuntman.

Peter Anthony’s photographs certainly exist, but curiously, Bob Simmons makes no mention of this episode in his autobiography, while Cubby Broccoli excludes Peter Anthony from his. Reading Pat Lewis’ articles, I can’t help feeling that the competition results and the involvement of the Bond producers was to a large extent journalistic invention. If so, then that is another aspect of the media interest in the search for Bond that has seen little change in over 40 years.

Update: Click here for more further information on Peter Anthony's screentests.