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The walking, talking microagression that is James Bond is getting a remake:
In a new book, however, James Bond will be getting a dose of modern morality, as author Anthony Horowitz reveals the tricks he used to drag the spy kicking and screaming into the era of political correctness.
Horowitz, the writer of new Bond novel Trigger Mortis, said he had worked carefully to preserve Ian Fleming’s original character and ensuring his 1950s attitudes remained in tact.
But he has introduced a cast of new characters to point out the error of his chauvinistic ways, including messages about smoking causing cancer, women who give him a run for his money, and an “outspoken” gay friend.
Because if there is anything James Bond needs it’s an “outspoken” gay friend. Apparently, a character who is gay but not “outspoken” would be unimaginable. The novel is set in 1957, so it would be interesting to imagine how many “outspoken” homosexuals were working for MI6 at the time. Since homosexual conduct was – in theory – a fireable offense in every intelligence and military organization in the world for years afterwards, I suspect that any outspokenness exists only in the author’s exquisitely sensitive imagination.
Please keep in mind that the above refers to the Bond novels, not the films which are in many ways an entirely separate enterprise. Something like half of all the people on earth have seen a Bond film, very few of those have read Ian Fleming’s original novels or the subsequent “tribute” stories that have been written in the half-century since his death. This is something of a pity. While I haven’t read — nor do I plan on reading — any of the pseudo-Flemings, I have read some of the originals. Ian Fleming was a master prose writer, as was his now largely forgotten brother, Peter.
Ian Fleming isn’t the only one to get the post-mortem ghost-writer treatment. The same has been done to Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Back in the early 1990s Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was mated with a much hyped sequel, Scartlett. I think the two-time Bond actor Timothy Dalton was in the TV adaptation version. I’d look it up on IMDB, but I doubt anyone cares. These are examples of marketing going to war with art. A fair fight it is not.
Not being modern enough with an appropriately gay friend, James Bond has in this new novel also acquired a live-in girlfriend. In the early Connery films Bond was paired with a girlfriend named Sylvia Trench. You can see her at the very beginning of Dr No and From Russia With Love. The character was dropped from the later films. Since no one remembers Sylvia Trench, Bond is instead being paired with no less a Bond girl – sorry Bond woman – than Pussy Galore.
Now imagine living with a woman like Pussy Galore. Heck, imagine living with the actress who immortalized her, Honor Blackman. If you’re thinking action, adventure, and wild nights of passion … you’d be wrong:
Trigger Mortis sees the new couple living in 1957 Chelsea and irritating one another over their boiled eggs, with “an uneasy silence full of dark thoughts and words unsaid”.
Given the flaccid nature of what I’ve read so far, I’m certain the thoughts aren’t dark enough. The author explains himself with the brazenness you’d expect:
“My first duty, my first responsibility was to be true to the original feel of the book, to be true to Ian Fleming: his creation, his world and his ideas.
“What I was trying to do was wrap myself in his mantle and write a book that would be worthy of him.”
Ian Fleming was, for his time, an unusual enlightened and far sighted man. Perhaps if he was writing a Bond novel in 2015 there would be an outspoken gay friend. Fleming, however, didn’t live long enough to experience the New Jerusalem that has subsequently been built in England’s green and pleasant land. Instead this pseudo-Fleming is using the real article as a puppet for his personal views.
Perhaps if Mr Horowitz’s version of Fleming’s version of Bond was set in 2015, then adaptations could be justified. But it isn’t. The novel is set six decades in the past, but with modern sensibilities slipped in under the guise of a dead writer. The Bond of the novels was a man of his times. He smoked like a chimney and shagged anything that moved.
Trigger Mortis is the sort of sophomoric re-writing of literary history you’d expect from a militant feminist, the type that likes to re-imagine Queen Elizabeth I as a lesbian being oppressed by the Tudor patriarchy. An attempt at cleverness that becomes wearily predictable. Even the novel’s title, Trigger Mortis, has the feel of a failed attempt at mordant wit.
James Bond isn’t real. Even by the standards of the novels – which were far more realistic than the films – he is a creature of fantasy. To imagine a politically correct Bond is to imagine Merlin as a research chemist or Prospero as a climatologist. Even in a world of pure fiction we cannot be left alone. Our imaginations must be made to conform to the dictates of our pedantic times.Published in