As a follow up to our Fleming Revisited series last year, we have started to take a look at how the literary world of 007 continued after Ian Fleming’s death. Last time we looked at Colonel Sun, Kingsley Amis taking on the first ever Bond continuation novel. This time we take a strange sideways detour into the world of Christopher Wood, and the one and only Roger Moore.
Christopher Wood was a writer. He graduated from Peterhouse at Cambridge University in 1960 before doing his British National Service in Cyprus. Here he was inspired to continue his efforts at writing with Terrible Hard, Says Alice. This book has been praised, alongside Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Heller’s Catch-22 as one of the only books to truly tell the harsh reality of war. A serious writer of serious stories.
Although under the pseudonym Timothy Lea, he became something else entirely. In his own words:
“I always did like smut”
“Timothy Lea” would pump out Confessions of a Window Cleaner, Confessions of a Driving Instructor, Confessions from a Holiday Camp, Confessions from a Hotel, Confessions of a Travelling Salesman, Confessions of a Film Extra, Confessions from the Clink, Confessions of a Private Soldier, Confessions from the Pop Scene, Confessions from a Health Farm, Confessions from the Shop Floor, Confessions of a Long Distance Lorry Driver, Confessions of a Plumber’s Mate, Confessions of a Private Dick, Confessions from a Luxury Liner, Confessions from a Nudist Colony, Confessions of a Milkman, Confessions of an Ice Cream Man and Confessions from a Haunted House.
These would go on to be adapted into a series of British sex-farce comedy movies, think Carry On… but with actual boobies and sex, starring Robin Askwith.
So well and truly established in the 1970s, with a keen eye for action and warfare, but a lover of cheeky smut and innuendo? That sounds like a perfect match for something else that was big in the 1970s – Roger Moore’s James Bond.
Bond had veered wildly away from the world of Ian Fleming from 1967’s You Only Live Twice onwards. Roald Dahl (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) discarded all of Fleming’s novel other than one or two characters or concepts and started from scratch. After a highly faithful adaption of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, they reversed course again through Diamond’s Are Forever, Live And Let Die, and The Man With The Golden Gun into the fantastical and all new.
However Bond was in serious trouble. Roger Moore was in the role and while his first movie, Live And Let Die, was a smash-hit, The Man With The Golden Gun received terrible reviews and performed more sluggishly at the box office than its predecessors, despite a huge budget. Twelve years on screen, nine movies made. The questions were being asked as to whether Bond as a cinematic franchise was over.
However, just like every time before or since, whenever anyone had said that, or questioned Bond’s continued place in the world without understanding the history of the franchise, it’s global impact, or global audience, things were far from over.
Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli went for broke. It took him four years, at the time an unheard-of gap between Bond movies, but he pushed on and made, quite simply, the biggest Bond yet.
This was not easy. He had one massive issue to overcome after another. Chief among these was that he had no story whatsoever.
The novel The Spy Who Loved Me was the shortest, the most self-contained, the most sexually explicit Bond novel. It was a clear departure from other Fleming 007 stories. Fleming was unhappy with it and when he sold the rights to the movie he stipulated that only the title and the character of James Bond could ever be used. The rest of it must not be made into a movie, ever.
Broccoli respected this, and a huge number of writers submitted drafts and treatments. Eventually one by Richard Maibaum was chosen. Director Lewis Gilbert asked writer Christopher Wood to have a look at the script and rewrite parts of it. With that, Wood was inducted into the 007 family.
Like Heaven Above Me
The screenplay had nothing to do with Fleming’s original novel and this presented Eon Productions with a fantastic opportunity. For the first time in the history of 007 a novelization could be written based upon the script. Fleming’s agents had legal rights to publish the novelization, but outside of this they had no control.
Wood, as a novelist, was commissioned to write the book by Eon. As Ian Fleming’s literary agent Peter Janson-Smith says:
“We had no hand in [the Christopher Wood novelizations] other than we told the film people that we were going to exert our legal right to handle the rights in the books. They chose Christopher Wood because he was one of the screenwriters at the time, and they decided what he would be paid. We got our instructions on that, but from then on, these books-of-the-films became like any other Bond novel—we controlled the publication rights.”
To differentiate the novelization from Fleming’s original, it was named James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me, and it was released. This was the first new Bond novel published since Colonel Sun a decade earlier. The book was an instant sensation. It topped the bestseller list in the UK and stayed on the list for several months.
Meanwhile, the movie would go on to smash all previous records, proving doubters wrong and further cementing Bond’s place in cinema.
So it is just a standard novelisation right? Well, yes and no. Think of the movie The Spy Who Loved Me, follow the beats, the general story, and then add more. Quite a lot more.
Among the biggest changes are the involvement of SMERSH, who have been reactivated and want to continue their decade long feud with Agent 007 of the British Secret Service.
The pre-title sequence of the movie occurs, in the novel, not in Burgard in the Austrian Alps, but in a cabin up the Aiguille du Mort, a mountain near the town of Chamonix. The team after him, the woman who betrays him, are all SMERSH including Sergei Borzov. His lover, fellow SMERSH agent Anya Amasova is not present.
In Wood’s version of the story they are just as brutal and dedicated as the Fleming novels ever showed them to be. This is part of what makes some uneasy with the content of this book. Whereas the movie is fairly light in tone and breezy, the novelization is anything but. It invokes Fleming and, in between the main storyline of the movie, it goes hard.
Licence To Kill
You start to realise this isn’t quite the movie early on, as Bond discovers the dead body of murdered woman hanging in a plastic laundry bag in the closet of the chalet, tipping him that he is being set-up.
Following Fekkish’s murder at the hands, and teeth, of Jaws – which is described in gory detail – Bond is captured by the SMERSH agents he fights off in the movie. This allows for a torture scene, again described in detail, where Bond is attached to car battery via his testicles and tortured to reveal the location of the submarine tracking system.
Bond does not send a man plummeting to his death by retrieving his tie with a quip, as in the movie. He simply shoots him in the face as the man is hanging from a balcony.
Stromberg, here renamed Sigmund Stromberg, is given a customary Bond villain physical abnormality in the form, of webbed hands. He also gains an extensive backstory that includes his fascination with marine life, and making his fortune as an undertaker and cremator, stealing gold fillings from the dead. He was also contracted by the Nazi’s to build large scale crematoriums and lots of his wealth came from opportunities here before he fled. Post-war he recycled his money into shipping to take advantage of Germany having lost its fleet.
Hulking henchman Jaws also gets a fantastically detailed backstory. Here, his real name is Zbigniew Krycsiwiki. He was born in Poland, the product of a union between the strong man of a travelling circus and the Chief Wardress at the Women’s Prison in Kraków. He inherited his fathers violent temper and his size from both of them.
Arrested by the secret police during the 1972 bread riots, he was beaten in prison with hollow steel clubs encased in thick leather and left for dead. His teeth are smashed out, and his jaw broken beyond repair.
Krycsiwiki later escaped and stowed aboard one of Stromberg’s vessels, where he was caught. Recognising the value to his organisation of a man of such size and power, Stromberg hired a prestigious doctor to create an entirely artificial jaw and set of teeth over 14 operations that left him mute.
The horror of torture, ripping steel teeth and backstories involving the holocaust doesn’t stop at the characters. Key events in the movie are given a new, often much darker spin.
Instead of dropping his traitorous secretary through a trapdoor in a booby-trapped lift into a shark tank, the book has a more graphic version. Stromberg sends her to retrieve some files from “Room 4C”. While she is in there, Stromberg simply raises one entire wall of the room to flood it, allowing in the shark to kill her. This is a Great White in the book, unlike the Tiger shark of the film, and the book describes her terror in intimate detail as the shark moves in for the kill.
Bond is similarly much more ruthless. In his final confrontation with Jaws he uses the magnet to slowly lower Jaws into the shark’s pen, rather than just releasing him to splash down. He dips Jaws into the water, still attached to the magnet, to deliberately attract the shark:
“Now both hands were tearing at the magnet, and Jaws twisted furiously like a fish on the hook. As Bond watched in fascinated horror, a relentless triangle streaked up behind the stricken giant. A huge gray force launched itself through the wild water, and two rows of white teeth closed around the threshing flesh.”
Jaws does not survive the encounter, as he did not in the original script before his character proved popular in test screenings.
This mix of 70’s Roger Moore Bond with hard, Fleming-esque sequences that call back to the tone and approach of the original novels, was discombobulating to some who could not reconcile the two styles.
Colonel Sun writer himself, Kingsley Amis, reviewed Wood’s novelization for the New Statesman at spoke directly of marrying together the two conflicting styles:
“Mr Wood has bravely tackled his formidable task, that of turning a typical late Bond film, which must be basically facetious, into a novel after Ian Fleming, which must be basically serious. The descriptions are adequate and the action writing excellent.”
The more hardcore Bond fans, well-versed in Fleming, rate Wood’s The Spy Who Loved Me novelization very highly, even if the Lotus Esprit in the book version is red. Sacrilege!
Wood must have done something right. He was invited back. He went on to write the screenplay for Moonraker alone, and adapted it into his second Bond novelization.
Take My Unfinished Life…
James Bond And Moonraker, again titled to avoid confusion with the Fleming original, was released alongside the Moonraker movie. This time there was not as much difference in tone from screen to page, as you would expect from an adaption by the sole screenwriter, however a streak of darkness remains.
There are still some key differences. Jaws does not appear in the early sequence. His reappearance during the cable car scene is commented on, with Bond having presumed him dead by shark. The character of Dolly, Jaws’ “Girlfriend” from the movie, does not appear at all. There is a female astronaut still alive towards the end of the novel that is referred to, but that is all. Jaws also does not appear in the Amazon boat chase.
Bond is still portrayed with a harder, more-Fleming edge than Moore’s portrayal. A scene is included whereby Bond vents a gun crew into space from a laser turret on Drax’s station to prevent them firing on the approaching Americans.
Drax is described as he was in Fleming’s original novel, with red hair and a bushy red moustache and half of his face badly scarred.
The Venice boat chase is changed significantly, with the gondola having an emergency motor, but the hovercraft sequence thankfully removed entirely as the whole chase is more explosive and deadly, and far less comical than the movie version.
Holly Goodhead does not attempt to flirt with the imposter ambulance crew, instead Bond’s escape opportunity comes during their attempted rape of Holly.
Just as dark is Jaws’ rage when he realises Drax is about to betray him with no place in his master race for the mute, disfigured giant. Drax’s guards have skulls crushed and are mutilated by the rampaging monster.
Jaws does not team-up with Bond. He just decides he can’t be bothered to kill 007 anymore as the man who was paying him to do it has turned on him. He has no happy resolution with a girlfriend. Instead he helps free Moonraker 5 as a final insult to Drax, and is presumed lost when the station is destroyed in the atmosphere.
Just like The Spy Who Loved Me novelization, where you sit on the sliding scale from Fleming to 1970’s and early 80’s James Bond will define whether you think these changes or additions are for the better, much as how it informs to this day who their favorite interpretation of Bond is.
Christopher Wood went on to write the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He always had pride in his involvement in the world of 007, culminating in a 2006 memoir entitled James Bond, The Spy I Loved.
He passed at his home in Southwest France on 9th May 2015, but his death was not widely marked until Roger Moore paid tribute to him on social media. Moore and Wood had remained good friends from their time together in the Bond family.
Links to Fleming Revisited, our walk through Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, can be found at the following links: Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice,
If you are a Bond fan, check out our complete rundown and ranking of all the 007 movies prior to No Time To Die. You can find that here.
You can even read one of our most argument-causing articles ever where we explain why Quantum Of Solace is actually really good.