Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz

With Original Material by Ian Fleming

New York: HarperCollins, 2015, pp. 320.

It is not easy to make judgments about the James Bond continuation novels because just working out the criteria is a job in itself. For instance, are we just looking to be entertained, or are we expecting faithfulness to the original Ian Fleming books? If that is the case, are we more concerned with faithfulness to the content, or to the form? For example, are we looking for the Fleming prose style--its technique of the "indirect" glance, its penchant for the evocative over the encyclopedic--or are we content to just get the formula?

The character . . . how many of the rough edges do we expect the new book to retain? Do we insist on a Bond endlessly excreting the reactionary gripes of the Edwardian Etonian who created him, and going to seed when too long without a mission--or would we be happier without such details?

Some metafictional elements, some self-parody, are inevitable--they were already an increasingly conspicuous presence in the later Fleming--and if history is any guide, likely to be profuse. How much are we okay with, and exactly what parts of the whole set-up are we okay with seeing mocked?

One can go on, but I suspect you get the idea by this point.

Evaluating Trigger Mortis is a little trickier because the concept is different this time. Rather than straining to update 007, or just picking up the tales where Fleming left off back in the mid-'60s, this one attempts to insert an original story within his series, mere weeks after the events of Goldfinger. The approach is necessarily more restrictive, any inconsistency the more jarring--as with the character's attitude. Perhaps the '60s would have changed Bond a little, so that he might take some amusement in the scandals of Mick Jagger rather than tut-tut at these kids today . . . but here we get Bond before even his time at Shrublands, when any liberty of the sort is much more glaring.

Moreover, in writing this novel Horowitz prominently used a story Fleming created for that television series that never happened . . .

And I have to admit that this has helped leave me of two minds about the book. And in the end it seemed simpler to just write two different reviews--one more sympathetic, one more critical.

You can find the more sympathetic review here.

You can find the more critical one here.

A Sympathetic Review: Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz

With Original Material by Ian Fleming

New York: HarperCollins, 2015, pp. 320.

A case can be made that Anthony Horowitz's Trigger Mortis is the best continuation Bond novel written to date.

Granted, there are ways in which Horowitz makes less effort to capture the flavor of the Bond novels than his predecessors. He does not really strive to give us the flavor of Fleming's writing to the degree that, for example, Kingsley Amis did. Fleming's particular way with words, his tendency toward what Umberto Eco called the "technique of the aimless glance," his penchant for combining lengthy descriptions of the mundane with much brisker treatments of the sensational.1 Reading Horowitz we need not bother with subtext very much; if there is a thing we really need to know, he flatly tells us about it.

However, despite that Horowitz does not strive to give us the same sense of Bond's interiority as Amis, or John Gardner. Indeed, apart from his Soviet-bashing (which crosses the line into indisputably racist remarks against Slavs), Horowitz's Bond generally comes off as a less world-weary and bad-tempered, less snobbish and bigoted and reactionary figure--at times because of changes that will not quite ring true (Bond's thoughts about women drivers, for instance, directly contradict what Fleming's character actually said), but more often as a result of strategic silences. (Bond's thoughts regarding the final outcome of the James Bond-Pussy Galore-Logan Fairfax triangle, for example, are passed over in such a silence, and he does not think of it afterward.)

Still, much of the Fleming sensibility is there, not least in a rather Fleming-like story--perhaps the most satisfactorily Fleming-like plot since Fleming was actually writing these things. The implausible wealthy emigre villain-and-rocket plot, the blend of low crime and games of state, gangsterism and SMERSH, the choice of Central European and North American settings, are all in line with the tradition. Fleming's taste for car chases--and train chases--is of course quite prominent within the book's action. And there are subtler touches, too, among them the shadow of World War Two, particularly as it was fought between Britain and Germany (German rocket scientists, Nazi counterfeiting operations, while the memory of the war and the time before the war hangs heavily over Bond as he travels the country); the odd Gothicisms (the stone circle, Jason Sin's castle); and the "tacky" image of the American landscape in the book's second half (like the motel Bond stays at in Virginia, or the ads he sees on the New York subway, even if the expressions of disapproval are comparatively muted). (It helps, too, that evocations of past adventures are frequent, but subtle, as with Horowitz's making oblique reference to Bond's rather close-up view of the Moonraker's launch when he looks at an American Vanguard.)

The same can be said for Horowitz's handling of these elements. As a thriller-writer he does not go so questionably over the top as Raymond Benson, or keep the adventure too grounded to feel very Bondian at all, the way Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd did, instead finding a middle ground closer to the originals than the work of most of his predecessors. Think Fleming's pace at its fastest, all the way through the book, more or less, and while the action that ensues may contain nothing quite so flamboyant as Bond's blowing up Mr. Big's yacht or chasing Blofeld in a bobsled, it packs sufficient fireworks to satisfy any reasonable taste, especially at the climax (treated the more satisfactorily perhaps because of Horowitz's plainer style, and tendency to flesh out the action more thoroughly than Fleming did). Moreover, in treating all this Horowitz manages to display a sense of humor (facing a captive Bond, the villain knows that he has been in this situation before) without making a complete joke of the thriller element, the way Amis did (mostly unintentionally, I think), or Gardner tended to do (quite intentionally, I'm convinced). The same cannot be said for the sex-romance-gender politics part of the story (some of this is in fact impossible to take as anything but parody), but it does still have Bond and Bond girl coming together at the end.

Of course, the desire to be faithful also makes it very difficult not to be repetitive. (Indeed, this is not the first continuation novel to have Bond in a car race like this, Gardner having done it in For Special Services three decades ago.) Moreover, it has to be admitted that this particular plot, which brings together unfinished business from Goldfinger, the car race plot Fleming had been developing (in the end, just a subplot) with the main story about Jason Sin, along with a couple of smaller bits (a noirish tale of murder, a bit of revenge directed against Bond himself) is almost as sprawlingly structured as Deaver's Carte Blanche. Still, Horowitz makes it feel fresher and flow better than it ought to, in part because some of his variations on familiar themes constitute improvements. The car race in Nurburgring, one of the strongest aspects of the assemblage, has in its visceral aspects and tight binding with its subplot an intrinsic interest that the card and golf games did not--while Sin's obsessions bring a new interest to the card game that Bond does end up playing with him. And on the whole if Horowitz made certain compromises, he struck me as typically making the right ones, and putting the full package together with sufficient aplomb that I would not be disappointed to hear that he got a return offer on the job.

1. Umberto Eco remarked in his classic essay "Narrative Structures in Fleming" Fleming's tendency to linger on the "apparently inessential" and then "with feverish brevity" describe "in a few paragraphs the most unexpected and improbable actions"--a contrast evident in Goldfinger's long golf game, and then its rushing through the robbery of Fort Knox.

A Critical Review: Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz

With Original Material by Ian Fleming

New York: HarperCollins, 2015, pp. 320.


In taking on Bond Anthony Horowitz largely dispenses with the idea of attempting to emulate Fleming's prose, or his treatment of Bond's interiority. Instead, in this story set back in the literary Bond's '50s-era heyday, he focuses on producing as "Flemingesque" a story as he possibly can, not only utilizing the formula that had largely emerged by the time of works like Dr. No and Goldfinger, but also incorporating numerous smaller themes (from World War Two legacies to unflattering comments about American aesthetics).

This approach has an obvious appeal, but also some real limitations--all the more striking in light of the limitations of the material he is looking to emulate. Fleming himself reused a number of his major ideas in his period writing the Bond novels, so that attempting to repeat them yet again carries real risks. Moreover, plausibility and nuance were not usually features of his political scenarios.

The latter in particular is evident in Fleming's most direct contribution to this specific work, a Soviet scheme to stage a fatal accident for British racing champion Lancy Smith during a race. Their purpose is to permit a Soviet entry into the same competition to emerge victor, and thus "demonstrate the superiority of Soviet engineering." A fairly silly conception, its believability relies entirely on the readiness to believe the Soviets are not just monstrous, but completely nuts--a thing they were depicted as being time and again in Fleming's novels (in Moonraker, in Goldfinger, their schemes entailed an idiotic indifference to consequences), and which Bond flatly declares them to be here, Bond having no difficulty believing in the suspected sabotage plot because it seems to him simply another "example of the utter cold-bloodedness and contempt that seemed to be built into the Slavic race."

Setting aside the offensiveness of such sentiments (and the unintended irony in them--just who's really contemptuous here?), similar problems are quite evident in the villain and the scheme at the heart of this book's plot. "Jason Sin" (the colorful but unfortunate Anglicization of Jai Seung Sin) is very much in the line of Fleming villains--a foreigner and ethnic Other who arrived in a Western country in the aftermath of wartime chaos, and in a short time (and by suspect means) amassed a large fortune, despite which he has kept his past a closed book, while in the present question marks hang over his sex life that imply something outside heteronormative expectations. Moreover, despite a complete lack of personal connection to the Soviet bloc, or interest in Soviet ideology, he is in the service of SMERSH, on whose behalf he will employ advanced technology in a plan intended to harm the English-speaking powers at the heart of the Western alliance. Indeed, his East Asian background, pretensions to wielding the power of death over others, and involvement with rocketry recall Dr. No (while, given how this is all coming on the heels of Goldfinger, one can hardly overlook that he is specifically Korean). His war-related grudge--and again, interest in rocketry--recall Drax.1 His status as an ethnic outsider in the United States, his base in the New York area, and his accidie, all recall Mr. Big.

Given so much of what we have seen before the character and premise cannot but seem derivative. It may be claimed that Horowitz's combination of familiar features makes this all feel fresher than it is--but it also makes it less coherent, the whole not geling together convincingly. The result is that despite the aura of intrigue with which Horowitz imbues Sin in his early appearances (his use of cards in determining the punishments of his enemies is an interesting variant on the old theme), in the end he is less engaging than the various particular madnesses from which his character was derived.

Much the same can be said for the villain's plans. In Dr. No, No suggests something rather similar to Sin's plot when he says that going beyond jamming the radio signals guiding American rocket tests to bringing those rockets down on Western cities:
"They would land on Havana, on Kingston . . . on Miami. Even without warheads, Mister Bond, five tons of metal arriving at a thousand miles an hour can cause plenty of damage in a crowded town . . . There would be panic, a public outcry. The experiments would have to cease . . . And how much would Russia pay for that to happen, Mister Bond? . . . Shall we say ten million dollars for the whole operation? Twenty million? It would be a priceless victory in the armaments race. I could name my figure."
Here, instead of an actual rocket coming down, there would be just a suggestive plant of evidence at the scene of a disaster, a less plausible variation on an already implausible idea bespeaking diminishing returns.

These particular weaknesses makes the flaws of the handling of the material more difficult to overlook. Certain aspects of the villain's character seem underdeveloped--Sin's revelations about himself not satisfyingly accounting for his vandalism of his paintings (initially presented as a very significant clue to the man, but not commensurately referenced later). Still more problematic is the story's presentation of the massacre at No Gun Ri as the "key" to Sin--the sort of thing perhaps too weighty for such prominent use in a narrative like this. Indeed, Horowitz's use of it can be taken as trivializing the event (it is raised, then treated as irrelevant), and this is all the worse because of the evocation of the September 11 attacks (rich foreigner attacks tallest building in New York), making for a typically tasteless postmodernist muddle--the more so because, at any rate, its significance for Sin's actions is made ambiguous. (Sin says that he will not forgive the United States--but this is not a matter of revenge, and not only is he indifferent to the plan's fuller success, but he would be just as happy to work for the CIA as for SMERSH.)

The unfolding of the narrative on the way to these less than satisfying revelations also has its problems from the standpoint of simple storytelling. The subplot about Thomas Keller's murder proved more tangential and less interesting when it was resolved than it initially seemed--while the same goes for the bit of intrigue surrounding Pussy Galore, which goes no further than the first quarter of the story. (Who were those men who came after her, really?) Meanwhile Fleming's contribution--the Soviet plot to sabotage a car race--adds up to just a subplot that winds up just a third of the way through, and (save for one bit that turns up at the very end) has surprisingly little bearing on the story. In contrast with, for example, Bond's investigation into Goldfinger's gold smuggling uncovering his involvement in something bigger, this is less the tip of the iceberg of a larger plan than an operation in itself which very slightly intersects with another, different operation, opening the door to Bond's coincidentally spotting Sin with the known SMERSH operator involved in both (who never pops up again in the story).

It all makes for rather a loosely assembled work, while even when taken alone the central investigation has its problems. Bond makes very little progress through the middle third of the book when we might have expected tantalizing clues (the only ones we get are familiar--bad guy interested in rockets, not enough after Drax and No), and pretty much everything of importance is not unearthed by Bond's sleuthing, but explained by Sin when he plays Talking Villain for a captured-and-about-to-be-put-in-a-death-trap 007.

The result is that this side of the story relies heavily on the action to carry it--perhaps too heavily--and the performance here is not unmarred by sloppy bits. (Bond uses a "judo" kick at one point--shades of Austin Powers here--and that M-60 machine gun's positioning makes little sense to anyone who understands geometry even slightly.2) At the same time it lacks the wackier touches that might have helped make the book memorable--like Bond's getting keel-hauled while waiting for his limpet mine to blow up Big's yacht, or his chasing Blofeld in a bobsled. The stronger bits are adequate, even robust--but a little on the generic side.

Still, if many of the book's problems come from an effort to be faithful to the original that for various reasons does not quite work, there are also aspects of the story in which Horowitz (in practice, at any rate) dispenses altogether with such pieties--those pertaining to Trigger Mortis' sex-romance side. Pure spoof, it speaks entirely to twenty-first century gender politics, rather than being explicable in terms of any Fleming precedent. Indeed, even Bond's friend Charles Duggan (himself a fairly anachronistic touch) laughs that Bond must be "losing his touch" when he hears about how things have shaped up here. Of course, this is all predictable to anyone who has been attentive to the contrast between the Fleming originals and prior continuation novels (already John Gardner had gone in this direction with early efforts like Licence Renewed and For Special Services). However, that it was so predictable, and that Horowitz went to such lengths in it, only underlines what should have been obvious looking at the rest of the narrative--that a writer's providing "more Fleming," even to this limited extent, may not really be all that worthwhile, while in significant respects impossible in today's market.

1. Dr. No declared that "I would proceed to the achievement of power—the power, Mister Bond, to do unto others what had been done unto me, the power of life and death, the power to decide, to judge, the power of absolute independence from outside authority."
2. Horowitz writes that Bond "used a judo move" to subdue an attacker, this "judo" move entailing Bond's "twisting round and lashing out with his right foot." Judo, however, is a martial art concerned with throws, not strikes (that's karate), Austin's "judo chop!" apart. In a world where it seems everyone is boasting about having a black belt in something, that this kind of sloppiness is not just so everpresent but so rarely remarked is the sort of thing that gives the lie to the douchebaggery choking the Internet.

The Bond Girls of Trigger Mortis: Pussy Galore, Logan Fairfax and Jeopardy Lane


At the close of the acknowledgements section of Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz writes that he "tried to stay true to [Ian Fleming's] original vision and to present the character as he was conceived in the fifties, whilst hopefully not upsetting too many modern sensibilities."

Anyone familiar with the Fleming originals--and how different their sensibility is from anything that would be regarded as acceptable in commercial fiction--cannot help but be skeptical reading those words, and the book preceding these comments justifies such skepticism. And perhaps nowhere is this more the case than in his handling of the book's three Bond girls: Pussy Galore, Logan Fairfax, and Jeopardy Lane.

The Return of Pussy Galore
As the novel begins, Pussy Galore is in London with Bond, hanging about his apartment--a completely unprecedented situation for Fleming's hero. Of course Fleming described an unhappy pattern to Bond's relationships in Casino Royale, a "conventional parabola"--
sentiment, the touch of the hand . . . the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears and the final bitterness . . . furtive alibis and the final angry farewell on some doorstep in the rain.
However, in subsequent books the latter parts were not usually mentioned (Tiffany Case in Diamonds is an exception), and just about never dramatized, let alone carried into the next book (the special case of his murdered wife Tracy aside). The result is that when reading the series, after the first, relatively unconventional and grim installment, Fleming's character has his fun and escapes the consequences--and indeed, it seems that Bond generally pursues his affairs so as to be able to do so.1

Bond's having to deal with Pussy Galore as the affair palls feels like not merely a novelty, but a concession to contemporary mores far less forgiving of men who have their fun and then move on, far quicker to remind us all of the less happy emotional and other entanglements sex tends to involve, even in a piece of ostentatiously retro escapism heavily marketed as true to the Fleming vision.

This is all the more so as Pussy's attitude toward Bond is a far cry from the "conventional parabola." Rather than tears and bitterness, she makes it very clear that she's ready to go while Bond dithers. As if that were not enough, Bond winds up meeting Pussy again while hoping to seduce the next lady in his life, reduced to "the stale admission of a suburban husband found cheating by his wife," and made to feel all the guiltier because his dithering contributed to a situation which almost got Pussy killed. And after all that it is Pussy who in the end takes the initiative, tells Bond that their time together was a lark ("We had fun, didn't we?"), "But there's no future in it and we might as well pack in before it all goes sour," while Bond can only "shamefully and hypocritically" mumble "Whatever you want, Pussy"--and have her call him a "bastard" and tear into him for the shameful hypocrisy of his not admitting that "It's what you want too."

Speaking of which, Pussy's already onto her next lover, who is not a man, but in fact the very woman Bond had expected to sleep with the night they ran into each other again, Logan Fairfax. Despite being hospitalized with injuries and not feeling or looking her best, she and not Bond was Logan's seducer--not just snatching away Bond's victory here, but in a lot of ways mooting an old one. If the reader thought that Bond had turned Pussy Galore around, so to speak (and this is what Fleming seemed to mean for us to think in Goldfinger), well, that's all undone here. Not only is she just fine without 007, thank you very much, but (as we generally think in the twenty-first century) sexual orientation just doesn't work that way--which gives her a chance to one-up a Bond increasingly one-upped by the women he meets in this particular department, while Bond can go without.

Perhaps wisely, Horowitz does not bother to tell us what Bond really thinks of all this, walking out of the room and in the next scene already in Germany, thinking of his memories of the place, and how the war has colored them.

Meet Logan Fairfax
The third participant in this triangle, Logan Fairfax, is running a training school for car racing enthusiasts where Bond prepares for his mission. Fleming never went so far as this in putting "a woman in a man's job," and still less did he have Bond submit to their authority the way that he has to submit to Logan's during his time under her tutelage.

Moreover, when women were arrogant, prickly, unpleasant, difficult, insulting as she is (and Logan is very much these things), Fleming's Bond did not gracefully endure their idiosyncracies as Horwoitz has him do, but typically had certain choice words for them (even if he tended not to use them to their faces), and received their attitude as a challenge--precisely because alongside the Tiffany Cases and Pussy Galores there were also the Vesper Lynds and Solitaires who threw themselves at him. In fact it can fairly be said that the "strong" women were there, when they were there, as exceptional figures intended to give Bond a chance to show he was stronger, and take that much more satisfaction in the conquest when he finally did get them into bed the way he did all the others.

It might be noted, too, that where on occasions Horowitz simply silenced Bond's internal monologue on those occasions when he was likely to say something distasteful (see above), Horowitz pointedly changed the attitude of Fleming's Bond toward women drivers. Watching Fairfax at the wheel prior to their first meeting Bond thinks of her driving as rather distinctively a woman's--remarking "a lightness of touch . . . as if she was flicking ash off the shoulder of a man's coat."

The effect of these words is rather admiring and complimentary--and entirely different from what Fleming's Bond really had to say about women drivers, as expressed in the later Thunderball:
Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was always ready for the unpredictable.
Granted, Domino drove like a man (did a lot like a man, actually, which is why he called her a "Bitch" as she drove off in her MG), but the presumption stood, and the contrast here is such that Fairfax's inclusion in the story (set before Thunderball, of course) can fairly be called a continuity issue for the series. And of course, the "parabola" of Bond's relationship with Logan deprives him of the usual satisfaction in taking on a strong woman, proving himself the stronger and getting action in the process.

Driving Along Jeopardy Lane
After leaving Galore and Fairfax behind, Bond runs his race and accomplishes his object, thwarting a Soviet plot against British driver Lancy Smith. Afterward, he enters a party packed with race car groupies and thinks to himself "Almost every woman [Bond] had ever known had put up at least some measure of resistance, challenging him to win her round," and that "soft acquiescence" of the sort the groupies had to offer "didn't appeal" to him.

Given Bond's history, of course, this appears complete nonsense--soft acquiescence no barrier to his interest in the past (see above), and arguably yet another continuity break, taken for much the same reason as the prior one, the elision of a certain kind of Bond girl, a certain kind of sexual encounter (the girls who threw themselves at him, the casual dalliances more offensive to contemporary sensibility) within the narrative. And indeed, so does it go with the next woman Bond meets, Jeopardy Lane--similarly difficult and insulting at their first meeting, similarly resistant to his appeal. After fleeing the party with Jason Sin's men on their trail, they wind up drenched in a hotel room where, after she leaves the bathroom, Lane's first words are "If you think I'm going to sleep with you, you can forget it" and, as good as her word, the night ends with her in the bed and Bond on the sofa, thinking to himself that: "He had never slept like this before . . . a few feet away . . . A naked attractive girl."

But then that wasn't the first such disappointment he'd experienced in this book, was it? And making matters worse, she completely dupes him in the aftermath--after which, again, Bond is mad only at himself. This is, of course, the familiar first phase in a dynamic that was to become very familiar to fans of the Bond films from the 1970s on: Bond and a foreign female agent backing into each other in the course of investigating the same thing and having to work together, with much made of her as an equal partner--and Bond accepting it with a grace not to be expected of his '50s-era self ("Jeopardy . . . was taking over the whole operation and being utterly businesslike and unapologetic about it"). He also has plenty of occasion to admire her driving (this seems to be turning into a fetish with him), which saves Bond's life and the mission not once, but twice, over the course of the story. And while Bond and Jeopardy do get together in the end, once again, rather than Horowitz just having them enjoy the moment, much is made of the fact that the moment is all they will have, and again, that not only he but she will be moving on (just like Pussy and Logan, Jeopardy having someone else in her life).

Taken altogether, all this seems less an attempt at a Flemingesque Bond story than a parody of one, and not the kind of self-parody toward which Fleming increasingly tended as the series went on either. Rather it is a twenty-first century parody all the way through--while Bond's reaction to being the butt of the jokes time and again is not slightly altered from what it would have been before, but either elided or changed into something explicitly different from what we saw in the originals.

Of course, that so much is different is in the view of most for the better. (Even those who might wish conventional male fantasy were treated a little more tolerantly in the newer installments of the series probably can't help feeling that a James Bond who calls women "Bitch" as soon as they are out of earshot comes across as a bit undignified and puerile.) But the point is that this was integral to Fleming's conception of the character--in many respects, a reaction to trends in the world that he did not like at all (there were many of them for the Edwardian Etonian in the age of Tommy Steele)--and one cannot toss all this out and at the same time claim to be anywhere near as faithful to the original as the PR so tiresomely assures us. In fact, it may not be going too far to say that Fleming's Bond and the twenty-first century (or even the 1970s!) are irreconcilable with each other. And the strain in trying to show otherwise has made the James Bond series as blatant a case of commitment to old IPs for purely commercial reasons as any in our pop cultural life today.

1. Indeed, in Moonraker, we learn that when back in town Bond carries on sexual relationships with three different married women--presumably, his way of limiting such involvements. There is no mention of anything like that in Horowitz's novel.

Time Capsule: Crowther on Goldfinger

At the time of Goldfinger's release Bosley Crowther, in his review of the film for the New York Times, spent much of his piece complaining that the writers were "involving him more and more with gadgets and less and less with girls"--in contrast with the prior "fantastic fabrications" (Dr. No and From Russia with Love) in which the hero was "constantly assailed by an unending flow of luxurious, exotic, and insatiable girls."

Even I was surprised by that. After all, Mr. Crowther was not talking about a movie of the tepid Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig eras, but a classic--even the classic--of the series' early '60s heyday. A movie which features two of the most iconic Bond girls of all time--Shirley Eaton's Jill Masterson, and of course, Pussy Galore.

Yet, a minute's thought showed the validity of his claim. As compared with the two prior Bond films Goldfinger did have less sex. Bond beds only two women in the movie's whole running time, compared with at least three in each of the prior films--and the sexuality more generally was handled differently in the way Crowther notes, the hero's being constantly assailed by said unending flow.

Many of these women, of course, were bait in a trap--Miss Taro, Tatiana Romanova. But the effect of their efforts at seduction (Tatiana in Bond's bed, wearing just a black choker) was more important to the fantasy than the motive behind it, all the more so as Bond and they usually had sex before the man with the gun came to take him out--after which the gunman failed miserably (predictably?), which kept that part from mattering so much.

There is, too, the fact that the first scene in which a woman throws herself at Bond involves no such agenda--Sylvia Trench in Les Ambassadeurs, then popping up in Bond's apartment, where, since it's a few hours before he has to make his flight to Jamaica, he sleeps with her. She makes it seem normal that such things happen to them, and the fact that some of the women who do so have ulterior motives that much less significant a detail.

By contrast, the girl in the trap in the pre-credits sequence in Goldfinger (Nadja Regin's Bonita) makes quite a different impression. Working the club as she is, her advances toward Bond are not quite so ostentatious as Trench's in Dr. No, and anyway, this time the man with the gun pops up before they can do the deed. Afterward, Bond does not have girls popping into his home, enticing him into squeezing sex in between assignments, but gets into Jill's suite in the line of duty. Afterward, Bond has no effect on her sister (readers of the novel know why), or on Pussy Galore (same reason), whom he has to work rather hard to wear down (with this, again, more plot-related).

In short, with the sex less frequent, less easy and less ostentatiously gratuitous, something of its element of fantasy was diminished. Still, it was far from extinguished--and Bond remained in his book "a great vicarious image for all the panting Walter Mittys in the world."

All the more so for its coming from a critic as prominent as Crowther, in the pages of the Times, the piece is a striking reminder of how completely some of the most basic aspects of the original conception--the accent on sexual fantasy, and on fantasy more generally--have been marginalized in Bond's most recent outings.

You can check out Crowther's original review here.

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