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The Name Is Bond, Lucky Jim Bond

10-May-2008 • Literary

The Wall Street Journal has an article this week about the latest attempt to extend the James Bond franchise, with a forthcoming adventure tale by the literary novelist Sebastian Faulks. Not everyone is pleased, reports the NY Times:

“I find it terribly cheap and insulting to think that someone else has the right to continue writing on this storyline,” says Russell Steer, who manages the Old Book Company of McLean, a used bookstore in McLean, Va., and owns complete sets of the Ian Fleming novels in hardcover and paperback. “Keep a work and its creator together. This is all about the money.”

By now, though, cashing in on 007 is old hat. It may seem unlikely, but the first to try — in 1968, just four years after Ian Fleming’s death — was none other than Kingsley Amis, writing under the nom de plume “Robert Markham.” I haven’t read Amis’s version of Bond, but to judge from an ad that ran in the Book Review, it was quite a departure. Check out the Dali-esque melting pistol and the weird eyeball sun. The ad copy reads, in part: “Sooner or later, as James Bond’s followers have known, certain effects of his lifework would begin to show. … A certain speculative turn of mind was bound to develop.”

Called “Colonel Sun,” the book sold well in England but evidently not here; it never hit the Times best-seller list. And critics hated it. “I can say I got Bond the best press he ever knew,” Amis told The New York Times in 1968. “By comparison with me, they say, Fleming was great.”

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