A year ago, we took a slow walk through all of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, largely in order. Many people said they enjoyed the series, and a few even asked if we would go any further, maybe by doing the same for all the movies? A more interesting suggestion from several Outposters was that we look into the continuation novels of James Bond.

When Ian Fleming died from his second heart attack, aged just fifty-six, on 12th August 1964 the character of James Bond did not die with him. The movie franchise was in full swing, with Sean Connery and co making a movie a year since 1962. In literary form, too, Bond would endure. Eventually he would feature in a further 35 novels, 4 short stories and even a series of books based on his exploits as a schoolboy… and counting.

So there are rich areas of Bond lore to be mined here. So where to start? At the beginning… after the end.

Colonel Sun
The Dali inspired first edition cover

Colonel Sun

Eight months after Fleming’s death, Glidrose Productions (now Ian Fleming Publications) published his unfinished book, The Man with the Golden Gun. A number of authors had been asked for their thoughts on Fleming’s manuscript to allow it to be completed. Among them was Kingsley Amis.

Glidrose would also go on to publish short story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights in 1966, but they had a problem. The movie series was already becoming embroiled in legal rows with the permanent thorn in their side that was Kevin McClory and Thunderball. Bond was the most valuable entertainment property in the world at the time, and everyone wanted a piece. As the Bond character could not be copyrighted in literature, Glidrose had to keep producing novels to retain the rights.

They decided to commission a continuation novel. James Leasor, writer of the Robert Gunn novels and the book The Sea Wolves was based upon, was approached. He turned them down, so they turned back to Amis.

Amis
Kingsley Amis

Amis had form in the world of 007. In 1965 he had written The James Bond Dossier. This was a critical analysis of the Bond books. He had also written under the pseudonym Lt.-Col. William (“Bill”) Tanner. Bond scholars among you will recognise this as the name of M’s Chief Of Staff in both the novels and the movies. The Book of Bond was a tongue-in-cheek manual for newly recruited agents.

Amis accepted. At the time it was considered highly unusual for such an established author to take on the work of another like this. Amis was established. He was already known for works such as Lucky Jim (1954) and One Fat Englishman (1963). He would go onto be considered one of the most famous writers of satire of all time. Critic Sally Beauman commented that it was:

“…unusual, not to say unprecedented, for an established author to pick up the torch in this way [although] Bond [is] too big, and too profitable, a property to be placed in the hands of an unknown.”

Not everyone was happy. Amis had been a member of the Communist Party Of Great Britain from his time at University up until the mid 1950’s. Totally at odds with the politics of Fleming that filtered through clearly into James Bond.

Colonel Sun

Fleming’s wife, Ann, would not endorse his appointment and disliked Amis personally. She would say:

“… he will create a petit bourgeois red brick Bond…”

Amis and his wife Jane had spent time holidaying in the Greek Islands and he would draw on this to create Bond’s newest adventure, set among former Nazis, smugglers and Chinese communist agents operating in the Aegean sea.

Just like Fleming, Amis would use the names of people he met in real-life for inspiration for characters, and events, in his writing. The Altair boat of the novel shares the name with the boat Amis used on holiday. The characters of Legakis and Papadogonas were Greek friends of his, and a doctor who appears in the story is named the same as Amis’ own doctor.

Amis would finish writing in 1967. Jonathan Cape would publish Colonel Sun on 28 March 1968 under the pseudonym for Amis of Robert Markham. The book would sell over half a million copies worldwide.

M Is Missing

Bond arrives at Quarterdeck, M’s house, to find kidnappers in the process of removing M. Bond follows the clues to Vrakonisi, one of the Aegean Islands and uncovers the plans of Colonel Sun of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Sun

Sun is to sabotage a Middle East détente conference which the Soviet Union is hosting, and use the bodies of M and Bond to blame Great Britain for the disaster, goading Britain and Russia into confrontation which will envelop the rest of the West, leaving China as the last man standing.

To stop this Bond will team up with Ariadne Alexandrou, a Greek Communist, and form a partnership with Litsas, a former Second World War resistance fighter, to stop the Chinese who are working with Von Richter, a former Nazi, to attack the Russians.

The book famously contains a brutal torture sequence in which Sun attempts to break Bond, before he inevitably falls by Bond’s hand.

Colonel-Sun

Positive reception to the book would point to this torture sequence as sadistic, but in line with Fleming’s tone and previous Bond novels. They praised the work for being neat, direct and not overly complicated, just as Fleming’s originals. Some did point to a Fleming’s personal styles and tastes being missing from the book, and therefore diluting its Bond-ness.

The Daily Mirrors reviewer, Alexander Muir, liked the book, calling it:

“…an exciting, violent, sadistic and sexy piece of reading matter…”

His problem was that Amis was, in his opinion, too good for the pulpy subject matter so he felt Colonel Sun was:

“…altogether too meticulous and well written – Fleming was a hypnotic but slapdash writer. And, at times, I sensed parody. This could be fatal.”

Writing in The Times Literary Supplement, Simon Gray was very unimpressed. He referred to this Bond as:

“…a chuckle-headed imposter whose arthritic thought processes would be a liability in a physical tussle down at the pub.”

Then, just as now, James Bond divided opinion as different people like their Bond in a different way. Craig or Moore, Fleming or Richard Maibaum, chair based testicular torture or submarine cars. Thus it has ever been.

Colonel-Sun

In the world of Bond analysts and commentators, Colonel Sun has been thoroughly dissected. Eventual Bond continuation author Raymond Benson, whose work we will no doubt get to eventually if enough people want us to continue this series, said Amis’ Bond is lacking in humor, as Bond was at the very start of Fleming’s novels.

Benson claims this is the right interpretation as the final few Fleming novels preceding the events of Colonel Sun have impacted Bond in terrible ways.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service his wife is murdered in front of him on his wedding day. He takes a serious head injury and has amnesia in You Only Live Twice, and in The Man With The Golden Gun he is brainwashed, de-programmed and is at the point of death from Scaramanga’s poisoned bullet. Benson refers to this Bond as brutal and unforgiving once he gets on mission.

Military historian and Bond expert Jeremy Black has spoken about the novel moving away from two-party Cold War themes and highlighting the rising Oriental threat. Echoes of the experience of the Japanese in World War 2 are present in the casual disregard by the Chinese for human life.

The Guardian proving it is always gonna Guardian, published a fiftieth anniversary review of Colonel Sun in which they said it features:

“…the most repellent racial caricature of all, a descendant of Fu Manchu and other fiendish Orientals. Amis channels Fleming as a connoisseur of ethnicities.”

Oh The Guardian. Never change.

A Farewell To Arms

Amis would not return to the world of 007 again, although he came close. He had a very uncomfortable trip to Mexico in January 1968. One thing that did come out of this was the idea for another Bond story. At the time, the New York Times Book Review wrote:

“Mr. Amis never moves about by air, and cultivated his own deficiencies – his phrase – he went from St. Louis to Mexico City by train. En route, he remembered that Bond loved trains and found himself plotting an assassination on a train. Then as his train moved on, there occurred the inevitable sentence – Bond had never liked Acapulco.

The plot would have centred around tensions between British Honduras and Guatemala over rival claims to Mexico. There was heavy implication that Amis would kill Bond off for good in the novel.

Fleming implied that he killed Bond more than once in his novels as he tired of writing him. However Fleming would always bring him back for a new adventure. In Amis outline, a bazooka-wielding bartender would blast Bond on the train and that would be the end of 007.

Colonel-Sun

In a 1968 letter to Robert Conquest, Amis clearly states that it would only have been a short story. Amis also approached Glidrose with an idea for a Bond short story that would have featured a 70-year-old Bond coming out of retirement for one final mission. Both of these were rejected, and Amis never wrote another 007 novel.

Colonel Sun was serialised in the Daily Express newspaper from 18 March 1968 to 30 March 1968 and would go on to be adapted as a comic strip in the same newspaper in 1969–1970.

Like all works of Bond, elements of the novel have turned up in various Bond movies as the producers frequently dip in and out of Bond-lore. 1999’s The World Is Not Enough used M’s kidnapping as part of the plot. 2002’s Die Another Day had a main villain called Colonel Tan-Sun Moon. He was originally called the exact name of the character from the novel, Colonel Sun Liang-tan, however the Fleming estate insisted on royalties for the use of the name so it was changed.

Sun

No such qualms for Spectre (2015) when chapter 19 (The Theory and Practice of Torture) is lifted wholesale from Colonel Sun as the torture scene. Even entire sections of dialogue are reproduced straight from the novel and given to Blofeld, rather than Sun.

An acknowledgement to Amis’ estate is included in the end title credits for this reason.

So that is Robert Markham, aka Kingsley Amis, and the story of the beginning of James Bond’s continuation in print after Fleming’s death. Next time, we might just take an interesting sideways diversion into two of Roger Moore’s most loved outings as 007 and what these meant for the world of James Bond in literature.

Bond

Links to Fleming Revisited, our walk through Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, can be found at the following links: Casino RoyaleLive And Let DieMoonrakerDiamonds Are Forever, From Russia With LoveDr. No, GoldfingerFor Your Eyes OnlyThunderballThe Spy Who Loved MeOn Her Majesty’s Secret Serviceand You Only Live Twice,

We stepped out of order to do Octopussy And The Living Daylights then ended with the last full novel by Fleming, The Man With The Golden Gun.

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.

Check back every day for new content at Last Movie Outpost.
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