Clau-ntum of Solace: James Bond-age with Claude Lalumière

Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

In coop­er­a­tion with ChiZine pub­lish­ing, the peo­ple behind many of my favourite genre nov­els of the past decade, I here­by present James Bond-age, a series of inter­views with the many bril­liant con­trib­u­tors who make up the new­ly-pub­lished Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond.

And yes, it hap­pens that I’m one of the contributors—my short sto­ry “Not an Hon­ourable Dis­ease” clos­es the anthology—so don’t both­er com­plain­ing about jour­nal­is­tic bias. My blog, my rules.

Click here for infor­ma­tion on how to pur­chase your very own, not-avail­able-in-the-Unit­ed-States copy of Licence Expired.

I’ll be post­ing inter­views in order of the Table of Con­tents. Today’s author?

Spe­cial Agent 0018, Licence to Edit

Claude Lalumière

Claude Lalu­mière

Claude Lalu­mière is the author of Objects of Wor­ship, The Door to Lost Pages, and Noc­turnes and Oth­er Noc­turnes. His fourth book, Ven­era Dreams, will be released in 2017. He’s edit­ed more than a dozen antholo­gies in var­i­ous gen­res. Born in raised in Mon­tre­al, he’s now head­quar­tered in the Pacif­ic North­west. Claude is also co-edi­tor on a new project near and dear to my heart.

Tell us about your sto­ry, “You Nev­er Love Once.”

You Nev­er Love Once” is set in Jamaica in the present day. A retired British Secret Ser­vice man known local­ly as “the Com­man­der” caus­es prob­lems for Ver­non Tevis, a trou­bleshoot­er for an inter­na­tion­al pros­ti­tu­tion ring. The sto­ry picks up on threads from sev­er­al Bond nov­els: Live and Let DieDia­monds Are For­ev­erDr. No, Goldfin­ger, The Spy Who Loved Me, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Ser­vice.

My orig­i­nal title was “The Whore Who Loved Him”; although it accu­rate­ly described the sto­ry and its place in the Bond canon, and even echoed a line in the text, it was nev­er­the­less jar­ring­ly out of tone, set­ting the mood entire­ly wrong for what fol­lowed. It took me a long time, but once I hit on “You Nev­er Love Once” I knew I’d found exact­ly the right title. The edi­tors agreed. Also, cred­it where cred­it is due: [co-edi­tor] David Nick­le came up with one of my favourite lines in the sto­ry (well, I changed it a lit­tle, but he came up with the idea). It’s the bit about the drag­on, and that’s all I’ll say for now.

How did the idea come about?

I’ve been devel­op­ing Ver­non Tevis as a poten­tial series char­ac­ter for a set of glo­be­trot­ting noir sto­ries (still in the mak­ing), and once the invite came in the temp­ta­tion to pit Ver­non Tevis against James Bond was too strong to resist. Also: inject­ing a bit of Ian Flem­ing into him was just what Ver­non Tevis need­ed. It made me bet­ter under­stand my new char­ac­ter.

What was your first intro­duc­tion to James Bond?

The film The Man with the Gold­en Gun, when it pre­miered on the ABC Sun­day Night Movie in Jan­u­ary 1977. I imme­di­ate­ly became a life­long Bond fan

Where would you advise a Bond new­bie to start?

That’s easy—Casi­no Royale. That book is bril­liant. One of my favourite nov­els ever. A haunt­ing and mer­ci­less por­trait of a secret agent so weak before women that he believes he must wear an armour of misog­y­ny to pro­tect him­self. His dys­func­tion­al and defec­tive rela­tion­ship to women proves to be his undo­ing.

Why do you think Bond has such last­ing appeal?

As inter­est­ing as the books are, the char­ac­ter would not be as promi­nent in pop cul­ture with­out the films. Espe­cial­ly, the first three films with Con­nery.

In the world of Bond, what would you like to see hap­pen?

A tele­vi­sion series faith­ful­ly adapt­ing, in chrono­log­i­cal order, the Flem­ing canon, as peri­od pieces set in the 1950s to ear­ly 60s. I want would the showrun­ner to be Matthew Wein­er, the cre­ator of Mad Men. I’d want this inde­pen­dent of the film series. I think the world can han­dle two co-exist­ing media Bonds.

If you were a secret agent, what would your ide­al mission/spy name be?

Bring down the supervil­lain cap­i­tal­ist cabal head­quar­tered in Dubai. I would have no name, oper­at­ing com­plete­ly anony­mous­ly.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, if you worked for MI6 (CSIS, CIA, etc), what would your posi­tion be?

Some­thing text- or infor­ma­tion-relat­ed. I would nev­er be in the field.

What’s your opin­ion of James Bond as a per­son? As a secret agent?

One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of Bond is that he loathes vio­lence. He loves intrigue and adven­ture, but he hates killing peo­ple. He is haunt­ed by every death he has caused, no mat­ter how jus­ti­fied.
I’ll assume the ques­tion refers to the lit­er­ary Bond, the Flem­ing Bond, the ur-Bond. (All the movie Bonds are not only dif­fer­ent from each oth­er but also very dif­fer­ent from Fleming’s Bond.)

The Bond canon, to my mind, is only inci­den­tal­ly about espi­onage. The nov­els, espe­cial­ly, show the psy­cho­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion of Bond, espe­cial­ly in terms of his com­plex rela­tion­ship toward women (the sto­ries are more wide-rang­ing in terms of theme and top­ic). The final para­graph of the final nov­el, The Man with the Gold­en Gun, leaves us with Bond hav­ing an epiphany about his roman­tic iden­ti­ty. Flem­ing was real­ly a romance writer who used the spy thriller as his back­drop. Even when the plots are bad (say, Dia­monds Are For­ev­er), the scenes deal­ing with romance leap off the page (the only good scenes in that nov­el are the ones involv­ing Tiffany Case, and those scenes are dyna­mite). In that sense, the worst of the nov­els is Goldfin­ger, because Pussy Galore is by far Fleming’s worst-real­ized female char­ac­ter. Flem­ing was, usu­al­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly deft with women in his books (those who have not read the nov­els and sto­ries might be sur­prised to know that, often, Bond is about to fail in his mis­sion but is res­cued by a woman who is por­trayed as more resource­ful than he is and as wrong­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed).

Back to Bond him­self: after he sheds his ini­tial misog­y­ny and its flip side, blind wor­ship­ful adoration—the two extremes that almost killed him in Casi­no Royale—Bond is revealed to be a ten­der roman­tic who learns to rel­ish his dom­i­nant but fierce­ly lov­ing nature. (Although he is out­matched by Hon­ey Rid­er, who not only res­cues him but also dom­i­nates Bond sex­u­al­ly.) But he can’t shake the lim­it­ing and prob­lem­at­ic notion that the world is made for men, and that’s how he likes it and wants it to remain. And his homo­pho­bia remains dis­turb­ing. Nev­er­the­less, he is a stead­fast and loy­al friend (wit­ness his warm and last­ing rela­tion­ship with Felix Leit­er). Bond ulti­mate­ly loves women, but he still wants the world to be a play­ground for boys. On a per­son­al lev­el, he treats women in a mature way, admir­ing with­out reser­va­tion (and being attract­ed to) their often supe­ri­or (to his) intel­li­gence and skills, but on a soci­etal lev­el, he main­tains an infan­tile and patri­ar­chal atti­tude.

One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of Bond, utter­ly lost in the films, is that Bond loathes vio­lence. He loves intrigue and adven­ture, but he hates hurt­ing and espe­cial­ly killing peo­ple. He is haunt­ed by every death he has caused, no mat­ter how jus­ti­fied. As the books progress, the weight of the mur­ders he’s com­mit­ted becomes increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult for him to bear.

A fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter. Not one to admire, nec­es­sar­i­ly, but nev­er­the­less mes­meris­ing to read about.

Sean Con­nery as James Bond

Favourite/least favourite movie Bond?

Sean Con­nery. No ques­tion. The body lan­guage. The rhythm of his speech. It’s the clos­est to the Flem­ing Bond we’ve yet seen. Also, he’s the most charis­mat­ic of all Bond actors. He com­mands our atten­tion every moment he’s on the screen—in the first three films, espe­cial­ly. (In his final “offi­cial” out­ing, Dia­monds Are For­ev­er, he’s clear­ly not ful­ly present, and in his “unof­fi­cial” return, Nev­er Say Nev­er Again, he’s wear­ing the role like a com­fort­able set of clothes.) Roger Moore was my first Bond, though, so it was jar­ring when I encoun­tered Sean Con­nery, whom I didn’t like at first but then grew to admire above all cin­e­mat­ic Bonds.

Least favourite: George Lazen­by (see below for more on why). He’s sim­ply awful in every way.

Favourite/least favourite Bond novel/movie?

Favourite nov­el: Casi­no Royale. It hooked me from the first sen­tence and kept sur­pris­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing me.

Least-favourite nov­el: Goldfin­ger. The plot is ridicu­lous, and Pussy Galore is the worst lit­er­ary Bond girl—insultingly por­trayed and writ­ten. A low point for Flem­ing. Although the first few chapters—the cat and mouse game between Bond and Goldfinger—are good and promis­ing, it falls apart rather quick­ly after that.

Favourite film: From Rus­sia with Love. It’s the most faith­ful of the adap­tions, and Con­nery is superb through­out. What a thrilling adven­ture! (The nov­el is even bet­ter, though, sec­ond only to Casi­no Royale.)

George Lazen­by as James Bond (On Her Majesty’s Secret Ser­vice)

Worst film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Ser­vice. Every­thing is ter­ri­ble (although I love the book). The dat­ed and affect­ed psy­che­del­ic cam­era work. Lazen­by is eas­i­ly the worst Bond ever—what a ter­ri­ble actor; com­plete­ly inap­pro­pri­ate, on top of hav­ing no screen charis­ma what­so­ev­er. That moment when he direct­ly address­es the audi­ence at the begin­ning is com­plete­ly inane. Tel­ly Savalas as Blofeld is ris­i­bly awful. The whole thing comes off as an unin­ten­tion­al par­o­dy. What a waste of that sto­ry. Also, what a waste of Diana Rigg, who should have been the ulti­mate Bond girl, but end­ed up in this lame fias­co.

So From Rus­sia with Love is your favourite Bond film: what are your oth­er favourites?

Chrono­log­i­cal­ly: Dr. No (1962), Goldfin­ger (1964), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Licence to Kill (1989), Gold­en­eye (1995), Die Anoth­er Day (2002), Casi­no Royale (2006).

Casi­no Royale is your favourite Bond book, what are your oth­er favourites?

Chrono­log­i­cal­ly: Live and Let Die (1954), Moon­rak­er (1955), From Rus­sia, with Love (1957), For Your Eyes Only (1960), The Man with the Gold­en Gun (1965).

Tim­o­thy Dalton…never ful­ly got a chance to grow into the character…Licence to Kill is excel­lent; the first attempt at a more seri­ous noir Bond on screen.
In a few words, dis­cuss the run of each Bond actor.

Sean Con­nery: The ulti­mate screen Bond. The first three films are clas­sics and for­ev­er defined both the genre and the fran­chise. His lat­er films show a marked lack of engage­ment on his part, which gets more pro­nounced from film to film.

George Lazen­by: An abom­i­na­tion. Can we please remake On Her Majesty’s Secret Ser­vice with a real Bond actor, please?

Roger Moore: The Roger Moore who played The Saint should have been per­fect cast­ing as Bond and yet, although he defined Bond for a gen­er­a­tion, his take on the char­ac­ter is per­haps the most removed from the Flem­ing hero (except in the mas­ter­ful The Spy Who Loved Me). That said, all his Bond films remain enter­tain­ing to some extent, even if they’re often too fluffy.

Tim­o­thy Dal­ton: With only two out­ings, he nev­er ful­ly got a chance to grow into the char­ac­ter. The open­ing sequence of The Liv­ing Day­lights is a great adap­ta­tion of the short sto­ry of the same name, but the rest (not tak­en from Flem­ing) is ridicu­lous. Licence to Kill is excel­lent, though, and a sharp depar­ture from Moore; the first attempt at a more seri­ous noir Bond on screen.

Pierce Bros­nan: Two great polit­i­cal action thrillers book­end his run, with two mediocre films in-between. I think Die Anoth­er Day is one of the most unfair­ly reviled and most mis­un­der­stood Bond films. It’s one of the best of the entire series.

Daniel Craig: The Bond of dimin­ish­ing returns. After a bril­liant reboot with Casi­no Royale, each sub­se­quent film has been less good than the pre­vi­ous one. Even though he’s the sec­ond-best Bond in terms of per­for­mance, the films are get­ting too bloat­ed. Time for a fresh take, with or with­out Craig.

Tell the truth: you’re lis­ten­ing to James Bond sound­track music while you’re writ­ing this, aren’t you?

Of course I am.

Licence Expired: The Unau­tho­rized James Bond (ChiZine 2015)

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