Colonel Sun (1968)

Author: Kingsley Amis
(writing as Robert Markham)
Published: 28th March 1968
MI6 Rating:

Data Stream
Villains: Colonel Sun Liang-Tan
Plot: Destroy a Soviet summit and frame the British Secret Service
Bond Girls: Ariadne Alexandrou
Allies: Niko Litsas, Bill Tanner, M
Locations: Windsor, UK; London, UK; Athens, Greece; Vrakonski
Highlights: Scene at Quarterdeck, final battle

Capsule Synopsis
When James Bond's boss, the enigmatic M, is kidnapped in Greece, Bond must race to his rescue with only some local fishermen to help! But 007 uncovers a plan to sabotage a USSR summit... and the evil Colonel Sun is planning to frame the British Secret Service for the crime!

Cover Artwork
The first edition cover artwork was painted by Tom Adams in a Salvador Dali style with dragon shaped clouds, melting guns and other surreal images.

Above: 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) released on 28th March 1968

Official Blurb (First Edition)
Lunch at Scott's, a quiet game of golf, a routine social call on his chief M, convalescing in his Regency house in Berkshire - the life of secret agent James Bond has begun to fall into a pattern that threatens complacency … until the sunny afternoon when M is kidnapped and his house staff savagely murdered.

The action ricochets across the globe to a volcanic Greek island where the glacial, malign Colonel Sun Liang-tan of the People's Liberation Army of China collaborates with an ex-nazi atrocity expert in a world-menacing conspiracy. Bond finds himself working in alliance with the beautiful tawny-blonde agent of a rival secret service in the struggle to overpower this ruthless enemy who discards the unwritten rules of espionage. Stripped of all professional aids, Bond faces unarmed the monstrous devices of Colonel Sun in a test that brings him to the verge of his physical endurance.

Incredibly, the author adds his own imaginative impetus to the Bond saga yet preserves all the excitement and eloquence, the pace and glitter of a vintage Fleming novel.

Chapter Listing

  1. A Man in Sunglasses
  2. Into the Wood
  3. Aftermath
  4. Love from Paris
  5. Sun at Night
  6. The Shrine of Athene
  7. Not-So-Safe-House
  8. Council of War
  9. The Altair
  10. Dragon Island
  11. Death by Water
  12. General Incompetence
  13. The Small Window
  14. The Butcher of Kapoudzona
  15. 'Walk, Mister Bond'
  16. The Temporary Captain
  17. In the Drink
  18. The Dragon's Claws
  19. The Theory and Practice of Torture
  20. 'Goodbye, James'
  21. A Man from Moscow

Right: British Pan paperback 1st edition (1970 onwards)


M is kidnapped from home, but Bond manages to escape the kidnappers who waited for his arrival. Following a lead to Greece he deliberately walks into the trap set by the beautiful Ariadne Alexandrou, a Greek working for the Reds. The agents team up, with the Soviets worried about a forthcoming 'event'. Meanwhile, the British Head of Station disappears. Bond and Ariadne, who by now are lovers follow a lead to Vrakonisi, a small island off Greece where Chinese agent Colonel Sun Liang-Tan is holding M. Ariadne enlists an old friend, Niko Litsas who wishes revenge on von Richter, a WW2 enemy for his atrocities. Litsas and Bond overpower a guard ship meant to prevent their reaching the island, where a Russian-led peace conference is taking place and Bond fears it will be attacked by the Chinese, with his and M's bodies left nearby so that everyone will presume they were responsible.

Ariadne proves unable to convince Russian General Arenski of the plot, but he sets up a plan to lure Bond which 007 doesn't fall for. Bond then sees Sun and von Richter setting up for their attack on the Russians from Sun's neighbouring house, where they deduce M is being held. They attack by night but are captured. Sun then viciously tortures Bond in preparation for dumping his body, but one of his disgusted female helpers cuts Bond's bonds without the villain seeing. Bond stabs Sun and frees the others, killing Sun's henchmen and preventing von Richter from firing the mortar enough to hit the conference. Litsas finishes the German off, but Bond finds that Sun has survived the stabbing and now plans to come at Bond with a grenade. Bond reaches safety and finally stabs Sun through the heart.

Kingsley Amis Forward (1991 UK Reprint)
"I wrote this book, sidestepping out of my career as a straight novelist for the occasion, because I was asked to do so and because I found the project irresistible."

"When Ian Fleming died in 1964, it was felt that James Bond was too popular a figure to be allowed to follow him. Who was around that might provide a passable successor to the Fleming canon?"

"No doubt I seemed as likely a lad as most. My last novel under my own name had had bits of espionage in it More to the point, I had published in 1965 what was intended as a light-hearted and sympathetic survey of the original thirteen volumes, 'The James Bond Dossier', most of it written before Fleming's death and approved by him in all but three tiny details, which I corrected. And, as I said, I could not wait to try it."

"The best as well as the most believable Bond novel to date" - Cleveland Amory, Cosmopolitan

"First class" - The Daily Telegraph
"All the Bond ingredients are here" - The Evening Standard

Above: British Panther paperback 1st edition (1977)

"The experiment was an interesting one: Amis was a first-class writer and a Bond fan, and what he produced was a workmanlike job, though one reader at least blenched to find Bond drinking rosé with his cold beef, or with anything else for that matter" (Amis pointed out that Bond drinks rose in GOLDFINGER - with sole meunière)" - Philip Larkin

Time Magazine Review (May 10th 1968)
His most devoted fans, including his publishers, simply could not bear to live without him. Although Ian Fleming died almost four years ago, his creature, James Bond, is back, resuscitated by British Author Kingsley Amis. A specialist on 007, as he proved three years ago in the James Bond Dossier, Amis provides a reasonably healthy, if slightly pale, replica. It remains to be seen whether the trans planted heart will function smoothly (and profitably), or whether it will provoke rejection symptoms. The new Bond lacks much of the comic-book charm that connected so well when the camp craze was at its height a few years ago.

He makes a halfhearted attempt to evolve Bond from a set of gangliac reactions to a more speculative character. Unfortunately, the technical gimmickry, which was essential, has been discarded—although not the fancy man-of-distinction brand names. As in the standard 007 diversion, weapons and women are fondled with equal ardor, though sex is not nearly as important as the inflicting and suffering of physical pain. Indeed, Amis hits an almost pornographic intensity as his Bond gets his eardrums probed with a meat skewer, his septum stimulated by a broom straw, and his frontal lobe pummeled with an incessant and derivative yak about the spiritual union between the tormented and the tormentor.

Above: American Bantam paperback 1st edition (1969)

The pedantic sadist is Colonel Sun of the People's Liberation Army of China, who wants to blow up some Russians and then blame the incident on the West. Bond's problem is to stop him. The reader has no problem except to try to enjoy himself while awaiting the obvious.

Publication Timeline

1968 March 28 - 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) released
May - 1st edition Harper & Row hardback (USA) released
1969 1st edition Bantam paperback (USA)
1970 1st edition Pan paperback (UK)
1977 1st edition Triad/Panther paperback (UK)
1991 1st edition Coronet paperback (UK)
1993 1st edition HarperCollins paperback (USA)