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 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 Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Dr. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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