'Forever And A Death': The Bond Connection

13th March 2017

Everything you need to know about Donald Westlake, his novel 'Forever and a Death' and it's Bond 18 connection

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In June 2017 Hard Case Crime will publish Forever and a Death, a novel by mystery and crime fiction author Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008). The novel, originally titled Fall of the City, was written in 1998 and is loosely based on Westlake’s outlines for the eighteenth James Bond film. Westlake’s work was ultimately rejected in favour of the story produced as 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.

In February 2015, I traveled to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University to examine the story outlines and relevant correspondence. In the course of that research, I stumbled upon a manuscript of Fall of the City a.k.a. Forever and a Death. My article, published in issue #32 of MI6 Confidential in October 2015, is the first to acknowledge the existence of Westlake’s novel and its connection to the Bond series.

What did Westlake contribute to the Bond 18 project?

Westlake wrote two story treatments for EON Productions during the summer and autumn of 1995, prior to the release of GoldenEye. The first treatment is 35 pages and the second 9 pages. None of Westlake’s material was used in any of the Bond films. 

Does James Bond appear in Forever and a Death? Were any of the characters carried over to the novel?

No (to both questions). Instead of Bond, Westlake created a character named George Manville, an engineer hired by Richard Curtis, the novel’s antagonist, to oversee the construction of luxury resorts in Southeast Asia. Manville gradually learns of his employer’s nefarious plans to destroy Hong Kong.

How does Forever and a Death resemble the Bond 18 stories?

In both the treatments and novel, an American business tycoon plans to loot Hong Kong’s banks and collapse the city’s infrastructure using a soliton, or oscillating wave, triggered by explosives in a maze of underground tunnels. The hero, with the help of a female companion, has to go underground and defuse the explosives. In the treatments the villain aims to carry this out on the eve of the July 1, 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China. The events of Westlake’s novel, however, take place about a year after the handover. 

Other than the plot to sink Hong Kong and the climax in the city’s tunnels, there is also one key scene shared by Treatment #1 and Forever and a Death. In the novel Curtis and Manville prepare to level an island off the coast of Australia using a soliton for the purpose of developing hotels. Environmental activist Kim Baldur, believing the explosions will damage the island’s coral reef, swims right into the detonation area. Seeing Baldur, Manville frantically attempts to abort the blast. Unfortunately, his explosives cannot be deactivated in time. This scene was originally intended for Bond 18 as an introduction to the character of Muffy Bhang, a Chinese government agent who uses the cover identity of an environmental activist.

I’ve heard that some of the Bond stories were developed using a mix of material by different writers. Was that the case with Westlake’s work?

To a certain extent. Richard Burges Smith’s 1993 story outline inspired some of the content in Treatment #1, and Treatment #2 was a collaboration between Westlake and writer/producer Michael G. Wilson, with one action set piece taken from Michael France’s draft of GoldenEye.

Where can I read more about Bond 18 and learn about the differences between Westlake’s stories and Forever and a Death?

You can read an in-depth analysis of the treatments in MI6 Confidential #32. To order a copy, visit mi6confidential.com.

Donald E. Westlake's Bond 18 treatments in MI6 Confidential magazine
Philip Poggiali FIRST reporTed on the unseen Bond 18 treatments in Issue #32

About The Author
Philip Nathaniel Poggiali is an academic librarian who lives and works just north of New York City. He loves movies and vintage crime fiction. You can read Phil's film and book reviews at Paperback Film Projector and Temple of Schlock.

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