Monday, 20 June 2016

Quantum of Solace – don’t be expecting the film



James Bond Book 8 is

For Your Eyes Only

 a short story collection published 1960 containing:


From a View to a Kill, 
For Your Eyes Only, 
Quantum of Solace, 
Risico, 
The Hildebrand Rarity
 
 
Quantum of Solace



[The story of a young married couple in Bermuda]

He cast about desperately for something that would occupy her and make her happy, and finally, of all things, he settled – or rather they settled together – on golf. Golf is very much the thing in Bermuda. There are several fine links – including the famous Mid-Ocean Club where all the quality play and get together at the club afterwards for gossip and drinks…

She took to spending all day at the Mid-Ocean. She worked hard at her lessons and got a handicap and met people through the little competitions and the monthly medals, and in six months she was not only playing a respectable game but had become quite the darling of the men members. I wasn’t surprised. I remember seeing her there from time to time, a delicious, sun-burned little figure in the shortest of shorts with a white eyeshade with a green lining, and a trim compact swing that flattered her figure, and I can tell you,’ the Governor twinkled briefly, ‘she was the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen on a golf course. Of course the next step didn’t take long. There was a mixed-foursome competition. She was partnered with the oldest Tattersall boy – they’re the leading Hamilton merchants and more or less the ruling clique in Bermudan society…’


commentary: I’d always assumed that the title Quantum of Solace’ was made-up for the 2008 Bond film – it sounded so very modern and uptodate. It turns out that the title wasn’t, but the entire plot was. Quantum of Solace is a story in this collection, and bears no relation whatsoever to the film, which is a sequel to Casino Royale (my Bond film knowledge is very poor, though I have now finally watched these two films – CR and QofS ).

As I trundle through the Ian Fleming books, I find Kingsley Amis’s James Bond Dossier to be invaluable: his description of Quantum of Solace is:
A Maugham-ish anecdote recounted to Bond. Not a secret-service story.
-which is a very fair description. (A character in the story has a fox-fur tippet, which I feel is a very un-Bond accessory, much more Maugham.**) It is melodramatic and unlikely, but genuinely interesting and unpredictable, you really want to know what is going to happen in this story of a doomed marriage. Bond triggers the story (after a semi-official dinner party in the colonies) by a casual comment on the marriageability of air stewardesses- although in fact:
Bond had no intention of marrying anyone. If he did, it would certainly not be an insipid slave. He only hoped to amuse or outrage the Governor into a discussion of some human topic.
And sure enough the Colonial Governor concerned launches into a story about a man who married an air hostess. This person has similarities with Bond in his history (ie the history that will later be revealed for Bond) so perhaps Fleming was experimenting. Rather sweetly, the romance begins because the lady concerned helps him with the great difficulties involved in flying – this man is a well-educated diplomat, but apparently has difficulties when mealtime comes:
She showed him how to deal with the complicated little cellophane packages, how to get the plastic lid off the salad dressing.
Those were the glamour days, eh? Anyway, no spying but I thought a pretty good story. Air hostesses do feature in Fleming: see entry on Goldfinger for a good illustration.

The other tales in the book entertained me less. From a View to a Kill has Bond on a motorbike, and a weird teenage wish-fulfilment of a beautiful woman scooping Bond up (she’s left her car double-parked, engine running) from a Parisian pavement café. According to the wonderful collection of Fleming’s letters, The Man with the Golden Typewriter, when he sent this to his editor at publishers Jonathan Cape the response – while very enthusiastic - included ‘quibbles about erroneous descriptions of flowers’ and the gentle correction ‘brown squirrels are generally, I think, called red squirrels’.

For Your Eyes Only has a woman with a bow and arrow, coming over all Katniss Everdene. Amis’s irresistible summing-up says it contains ‘M at his most unspeakable’ and that the motive for the crime in the book is ‘just luxuriating in villainy, really’.

Risico has a very weird and unnerving beach scene. TheQuantum of Solace 2 Hildebrand Rarity is about a very nasty man indeed, and reminded me of the recent TV adaptation of John Le Carre’s Night Manager. Both stories involve women showing themselves off in bikinis. This picture, right, (an advertising image from 1997) looks much more like something from the films, but Fleming does stress the smallness of the bikinis.

In the end the stories were not as satisfying as the novels – I’m looking forward to pushing on through to Thunderball now.

The golfing picture is from the wonderful Sam Hood collection at the State Library of New South Wales - a set of photos of everyday life that I have raided often for the blog, and can look at endlessly. Surely very much in the spirit of the description.

** Maugham and Fleming knew each other well, were on very friendly terms, and to some extent admired each other's work.













16 comments:

  1. I think I have this collection of stories, I'm not rushing headlong into the attic to recover them!

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    1. There's plenty of Bond you should read before this one - chronologically and in order of quality!

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  2. To be honest, Moira, I don't think I'll be chasing after these stories. Perhaps it's just that the spy novel/thriller novel context needs a little more development than you can do in a short story? Either way,...no, think I'll give this one a miss.

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    1. The short stories are definitely inferior - and I think I agree with you, it's just harder to do a good spy tale over the short length.

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  3. It was going to say that reading your blog about the stories is as good as reading them, but actually it is probably better as you have picked out the best bits AND there are pictures!

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    1. Why thank you! I appreciate the kind words.

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  4. I've read the collection but it has never impressed me much - apparently some of the stories were sketches for an aborted TV Bond series ...

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    1. Oh that does make sense Sergio - they do seem to be rather in outline.

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  5. When I originally read the novels I put this to one side for some reason. Last year I finally got round to reading it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Fleming was a massive admirer of Maugham, and QOS is a definite attempt to do something in his style. Way back I mentioned that Fleming often tried to do his books in the style of favourite writers, and THE HILDEBRAND RARITY feels a bit like something by his close friend Roald Dahl. Not quite a TALE OF THE UNEXPECTED, but something similar.

    RISICO and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY were used as the basis for the '80s Roger Moore Bond movie FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. The producers had decided to bring the series back to Earth after the crazy but fun MOONRAKER, with its space battles and plots to destroy humanity, and decided to return to Fleming. The venegance seeking girl with a crossbow and the rival smugglers are mainstays of the plot, and they even bring in the keel-hauling sequence from LIVE AND LET DIE, making it one of the more Flemingesque of the later Bond movies. This short story collection was quite useful to the film makers, supplying three film titles, and the vile Milton Krest from HILDEBRAND RARITY turns up as a subordinate baddie in LICENCE TO KILL.

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    1. Thank you for the info - I had no idea these stories had been used for films. I see there is one more collection of stories in the future. I'll have to see if they remind me of other authors.
      From reading his letters, Fleming had a very nice affectionate relationship with Maugham.

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  6. Moira, I was not aware of this collection until now. The comparison with Maugham is certainly interesting. My search for some of the old Ian Fleming paperbacks continues, as I'd like to read the novels first.

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    1. Starting at the beginning with Casino Royale I assume...

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  7. Moira: I am glad to hear Bond was consistent. An efficient secretary to take of him in London and a stewardess to handle fiendish airplane meal packaging. Of course he does not plan to marry. A wife would have made him take care of himself.

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    1. Yes you are right - wives tend to be less understanding. And those little packages are immensely difficult to open, as we all know...

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  8. Coming here almost three weeks late. Between work and illness, I have somewhat legitimate excuses. Otherwise I would never have missed a Bond post.

    I knew some of the books were collections of stories, and I never planned to read them. But I will now, just because I will be continuing the book / movie connection (even if the title is the only connection). Ggary's comments on where parts of the stories were used in movies is interesting and useful.

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    1. I know - ggary always has such educational and informative things to say!
      When I saw Quantum of Solace I did try to find any connection at all with the story, but I think there is none.

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