Once again it is time for Fleming Revisited, the Last Movie Outpost quest to re-read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in order of publication and discuss them here. You can read all of our previous entries here starting with Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, and Goldfinger.
Today’s edition is something special, as it is the first time we tackle a collection of Fleming’s short stories about James Bond, in the shape of For Your Eyes Only. A collection of stories that served as an inspiration to a large number of Bond movies over the years. Allow us to explain…
Comparisons between the movie version of For Your Eyes Only, the collection of short stories, and indeed, other novels in the Fleming series throw up excellent examples of how, post-Thunderball, the 007 movie franchise had really become its own thing. They were now largely separate from the novels. The books became something of a mix and match source material from which elements were plucked, sometimes randomly, to create one single scene or plot point in one of the movies.
The movies would then push the boundaries of sense and realism, which created the famous and cinematic version of Bond until they went too far. Then, with a snap, they would reset. As the hollowed-out volcano of You Only Live Twice gave way to the hard-edged, focussed and tragic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the invisible car and ice surfing of Die Another Day gave way to Casino Royale, so did the space-based shenanigans of Moonraker require a reality reset in the form of For Your Eyes Only.
Space stations, hover-gondolas, and double-taking pigeons gave way to a simple race to find a nuclear targeting computer set amongst the world of Greek smugglers, and a wronged woman on a mission of revenge.
The Bond producers deployed their usual mantra here when things had gone a bit too far.
If In Doubt, Return To Fleming
Writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson turned to Fleming’s first short-story collection. As you will see, they not only mined several stories for plot points to craft For Your Eyes Only as a movie, but they would return again and again for inspiration. They also went back to Live And Let Die and lifted, wholesale, the keel-hauling scene from that book to deploy it here as punishment for Bond at the hands of the villain.
As decisions go, choosing For Your Eyes Only for inspiration was a good one, as these tight individual chapters from the life of James Bond are varied and strong.
It was first published by Jonathan Cape on 11 April 1960. It was the first time Fleming had tried a short-story format for 007. All previous adventures had been full-length novels.
It is an interesting mix, with three straightforward action and adventure tales, but with two more experimental attempts that give an insight into Bond’s character and attitudes at this point in his career, while sometimes challenging his worldview. His character is sometimes reflective, less sadistic than he was in earlier adventures.
It is speculated that Fleming’s changes in his private life may have been responsible for this shift in attitudes. His always colorful love life may well have been undergoing something of upheaval once again.
Reviewers noticed this too. Writing in The Listener, reviewer John Raymond agreed, saying that:
“The Commander seems to be mellowing with the years, is less of a show-off … and, for once, his chronicler has almost cut out the sadism”
The Times claimed that:
“…the mood of For Your Eyes Only is, in fact, a good deal soberer and, perhaps, more weary than before.”
The collection of short stories originally had their inception in an aborted James Bond television series that was being planned at the time, and each of these stories was written by Fleming to become an episode. The series never came to fruition.
In order to truly understand how these varied tales have influenced James Bond over the years, it is necessary to take each of them in turn.
From A View To A Kill
In the depths of the Cold War, a despatch rider traveling from SHAPE, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, then located in Versailles, is en-route to Station F in Saint-Germain in France. He is killed and his documents stolen.
Bond is already in Paris at the end of a dismally failed mission on the Austro-Hungarian border. He is remembering his first trip to Paris as a teenage boy when he lost his virginity and his wallet to a Parisian prostitute.
As he is close by, M sends him to assist the investigation and to prevent Army Intelligence from taking over.
Bond disguises himself as a dispatch-rider and follows the same journey to Station F to draw out the assassin. In the process, he uncovers a hidden Russian intelligence-gathering operation deep in the forest.
It is short and very taut. There is not a moment wasted in this short story. Interestingly, From a View to a Kill was originally going to tell the backstory of Hugo Drax, the villain from the novel Moonraker. It was not to have featured Bond at all and taken place in World War II. It would have told the story, relayed in Moonraker, of how Drax was the motorcycle riding assassin who crashes his bike and is taken to an American field hospital. Later, the hospital is bombed, leaving Drax with amnesia and a disfigured face.
Fleming had drawn up the outline for a talked-about James Bond television series that never materialized. Instead he adapted one episode outline into this story. Fleming took inspiration for the hidden KGB bunker from his brother Peter’s band of Auxiliary Units who dug tunnel networks in Britain in 1940 as part of a resistance movement in advance of a German invasion.
The original name for the story was The Rough with the Smooth, and this was also going to be the title of the whole short-story collection until For Your Eyes Only was chosen just before publication.
The title of From A View To A Kill was announced as the next James Bond movie at the end of Octopussy. As the movie was developed it was shortened to A View To A Kill. In the end, the movie borrowed nothing from the book but the Paris and Versaille locations for Bond’s meeting with his French contact and for Zorin’s horse racing base.
For Your Eyes Only
Owners of the most beautiful house in Jamaica, the Havelocks, are brutally murdered on their own property after they refuse to sell their home to Herr von Hammerstein, a former Gestapo officer who is the chief of counterintelligence for the Cuban secret service. The murders were carried out by Cuban hitmen under the direction of their leader, Major Gonzales.
There is some bad luck for all of those involved. Havelock’s Best Man at his wedding was M, a close and old friend. He, in turn, sends his best man, 007, on an unsanctioned and voluntary mission to both avenge his friends and to make a clear statement to anyone who thinks they can attack British citizens without reprisals.
Bond trails von Hammerstein to Vermont via Canada and finds the Havelocks’ daughter, Judy, on her own mission of revenge armed with her hunting bow.
The murder of the Havelocks and the revenge mission of their daughter were used in the movie as one of the triggers for the whole story. In that version, the Havelocks are assisting in the search for the ATAC device, the MacGuffin of the movie, when they are assassinated by Gonzales. Judy is replaced by Melina, the hunting bow becomes a crossbow. Other stories in this same collection then serve as inspiration for the continuation of the movie.
The story was originally entitled Man’s Work. This is in reference to Bond’s attitude that Judy has no business becoming a killer. A speech he gives Judy in the story serves as a basis for two other Bond movie moments. First Roger Moore’s warning of revenge, given to Melina, in For Your Eyes Only, and then Daniel Craig’s description of the emotional cost of revenge given to Camille in Quantum Of Solace, also a title from this collection.
Another title considered was Death Leaves An Echo.
The setting of Vermont was chosen as Fleming had spent a number of summers at his friend Ivar Bryce’s Black Hollow Farm at Echo Lake, which became the model for von Hammerstein’s hideaway. Von Hammerstein is modeled after General Baron Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, one of Hitler’s opponents.
Quantum of Solace
After completing a mission in the Bahamas, Bond is in Nassau and attends a dinner party at Government House. He is the last remaining guest, about to retire for the night. In passing, he remarks to the Governor imagining if he ever marries, it might be nice to marry an air hostess. The Governor invites Bond to the study for a drink before leaving and relays to him the story of civil servant Philip Masters and air hostess Rhoda Llewellyn.
After meeting aboard a flight to London, the couple married hurriedly. Masters was posted to Bermuda but after a while, Rhoda began a long affair with the eldest son of a rich Bermudian family. This is open knowledge among Bermudian colonial high society.
Humiliated, Masters’ work deteriorates and he suffered a nervous breakdown. The Bermuda Governor gives him time off, and then sends him to Washington for a short assignment to let him get away from the island and his wife’s infidelity.
Upon returning he is a changed man, steely, determined. The affair has now ended. Being hard-hearted, untrustworthy, and manipulative, Rhoda has just assumed she will be forgiven and taken back. That her kindly sap of a husband will forgive her and she can return to how things were.
She is in for a rude awakening as her husband’s wrath lays out the conditions of her existence from this point on, in excellently cold-hearted detail:
“He said in the matter-of-fact voice of a house agent: “Here is a plan of the house. I have divided the house in two. Your rooms are the kitchen and your bedroom. Mine are this room and the spare bedroom. You may use the bathroom when I am not in it.” He leant over and dropped the paper on the open pages of her book.
“You are never to enter my rooms except when we have friends in.” Rhoda Masters opened her mouth to speak. He held up his hand. “This is the last time I shall speak to you in private. If you speak to me, I shall not answer. If you wish to communicate, you may leave a note in the bathroom.
I shall expect my meals to be prepared punctually and placed in the dining-room, which you may use when I have finished. I shall give you twenty pounds a month to cover the housekeeping, and this amount will be sent to you by my lawyers on the first of each month. My lawyers are preparing the divorce papers. I am divorcing you, and you will not fight the action because you cannot. A private detective has provided full evidence against you. The action will take place in one year from now when my time in Bermuda is up.
In the meantime, in public, we shall behave as a normal married couple.”
Masters put his hands in his pockets and looked politely down at her. By this time tears were pouring down her face. She looked terrified – as if someone had hit her.
Masters said indifferently: “Is there anything else you’d like to know? If not, you had better collect your belongings from here and move into the kitchen.”
He looked at his watch. “I would like dinner every evening at eight. It is now seven-thirty.”
Finally, on the day Masters leaves to return to England, she is left with nothing and discovers hidden debts. She is destitute, homeless, and shunned by the polite society she used to operate within, all by Master’s cold design as revenge for her infidelity.
The Governor explains his point to Bond. When the Quantum of Solace drops to zero, humanity and consideration of one human for another is gone and the relationship is finished.
The governor then reveals that the dinner companions whom Bond found dull were in fact Rhoda and her new, rich Canadian husband.
The idea of feelings for another human being totally extinguished by their actions, the Quantum of Solace dropping to zero, was taken to reflect Bond’s feelings for Vesper after her betrayal in Casino Royale, as told in the movie Quantum Of Solace.
The story of Masters and his cheating wife is based on a true story. Fleming’s neighbor and eventually lover Blanche Blackwell told it to him. In reality it was a police inspector that Fleming chose to portray as a civil servant.
The story is highly experimental for Fleming, told entirely as a recounted conversation. Fleming greatly admired W Somerset Maugham and adopted this approach as a homage to Maugham’s style. The basis of the story, a private conversation between an agent and a senior diplomat about socially unequal romance, is an adaption of Maugham’s own short story His Excellency.
Bond is sent by M to investigate a drug-smuggling operation based in Italy, with links to Greece and Albania, that has a major narcotics pipeline into England.
M directs Bond at a CIA informant, Kristatos. Kristatos points Bond at Colombo, claiming he is head of the smuggling operation. As Bond searches for evidence of Colombo’s involvement he is captured and taken aboard Columbo’s yacht.
It is there that he learns that Colombo is a smuggler, but he never smuggles drugs and has never operated as far as England.
Kristatos is actually the one in charge of the drug smuggling operation, and Kristatos is backed by the Russians to bring the misery of narcotics addiction to British shores, while also being a double agent feeding useless information to the CIA.
Bond, Colombo, and his men sail the Colombina into Santa Maria in Italy and attack a warehouse where Kristatos’s men are loading another shipment of drugs bound for England. They sink Kristatos’ ship, destroy the warehouse and Bond kills Kristatos as he tries to escape.
This was lifted for most of the middle act of the movie, as Bond’s informant in Italy in For Your Eyes Only is not what he seems and Bond joins Topol’s Columbo character on the warehouse raid.
Colombo is a classic Bond character. Larger than life, and as Bond academic, Christoph Lindner states, has morals closer to those of the traditional villains, but who act on the side of good in support of Bond. In this, he mirrors Darko Kerim (From Russia, with Love), Tiger Tanaka (You Only Live Twice), and Marc-Ange Draco (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
Fleming took inspiration from the story in 1958 as he holidayed with his wife Ann in Venice and at the Lido peninsula. As a fan of Thomas Mann’s work Death in Venice, he set a portion of the action here.
He took the name of the Countess and consort to Colombo – Lisl – from an ex-girlfriend from Kitzbühel in Austria, and he used the surname of Ferrari designer Gioacchino Colombo for Bond’s ally.
The Hilderbrand Rarity
Bond has just completed an assignment in the Seychelles and is bored as he winds down the time to his return to England. To help him pass the time his local fixer, Fidele Barbey, puts him forward as a skilled diver to help with an expedition.
A loud and uncouth American millionaire, Milton Krest, has brought his boat Wavekrest to the Seychelles in the search for a rare species of squirrelfish, the Hilderbrand Rarity.
Bond, Barbey, Krest, and his incredibly beautiful English wife, Elizabeth, set off aboard Wavekrest. Through the course of the voyage Bond learns that Milton verbally and physically abuses everyone around him, especially his wife. He punishes her if she dares appear to stand up to him by whipping her with an old slave whip made out of a stingray tail. He dubs this The Corrector.
Krest finds the Hildebrand Rarity and kills it, along with hundreds of other fish, by poisoning the water.
Krest gets very drunk, insults Bond and Barbey, and tells his wife he will beat her again with the stingray tail. Later that night, Bond hears Krest choking; investigating, Bond finds that Krest has been murdered, apparently by having the rare fish stuffed down his throat.
But who did it? And what must Bond do in order to avoid getting caught up in a murder investigation?
The Hilderbrand Rarity is a little-known entry in the world of Bond, but it has influenced the cinematic 007.
The character of Milton Krest and his ship Wavekrest appear in Licence To Kill. Here he is an accomplice of drug lord Franz Sanchez. Sanchez himself has the whip made from stingray tale that he uses to discipline Lupe Lamora. License To Kill also borrowed the unsanctioned mission and Best Man angle that was unused from For Your Eyes Only.
As an Easter egg for Fleming fans, the safehouse Bond and M use in Spectre is disguised as a business – Hilderbrand Prints And Rarities.
In April 1958 Fleming flew to the Seychelles via Bombay to report for The Sunday Times on a treasure hunt. However, this turned out to be boring and ultimately fruitless. Fleming instead used many of the details of the island for The Hildebrand Rarity.
Fleming used his experience from Pedro Keys, two islands off Jamaica, for the plan Krest used to obtain the fish. There he had watched two scientists use poison to obtain samples.
For the villain of the story, an abusive American millionaire, Fleming used just the name, Milton. This was the code name of a Greek sea captain who ferried British soldiers and agents through German patrols. Milton was a hero who received the Distinguished Service Order and an MBE. Fleming readily admitted it was only the name he took, and the character bears no relation to the real man. Krest was the name of tonic and ginger beer that Fleming drank in Seychelles.
A Farewell To Arms
So, does the short story format work? Does it suit Bond? Yes.
True to his somewhat pulp roots, the short and sharp storytelling benefits Bond here and allows the very different stories like Quantum Of Solace and The Hildenbrand Rarity to really breathe in amongst the more action-packed tales that make up the rest of the collection. In their abbreviated form, the stories cannot dwell on certain points and are very fast-paced.
The quieter stories give a good insight into Bond’s character, a character that Fleming had very nearly killed off several novels ago. Quantum Of Solace in particular gives and insight into both Bond and Fleming’s attitude to women.
Fleming would deploy the short story format again for the collection of works that eventually would make up Octopussy And The Living Daylights.
Before we get to those further short stories, though, we have something important to attend to. Next time around, it is finally here. The SPECTRE trilogy begins as a dangerous new enemy reveals themselves to Bond.
Fleming Revisited Will Return In…