On August 12th, 1964, Ian Fleming died in Canterbury. He was 56 years old.
Like his famous creation, James Bond, Ian Fleming was both a heavy drinker and a chainsmoker. Unlike Bond, he suffered from heart disease. In 1961, he had his first known heart attack and his health was always precarious afterward. It is said that his last words were to the ambulance drivers: “I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”
Eight months after Fleming’s death, his final James Bond novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, was published. (One more collection of short stories, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, would follow in 1966.)
The Man With The Golden Gun opens with a brainwashed Bond attempting to assassinate M and ends with Bond turning down a knighthood and again declaring his loyalty to Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In between, Bond is tasked with tracking down and killing the notorious assassin, Pistols Scaramanga. (Scaramanga is known for using a golden gun.) Bond once again goes undercover, assuming the name Mark Hazzard and working his way into Scaramanga’s operation. Felix Leiter makes another appearance and, by the end of the book, it looks like Bond might even find happiness with his secretary, Mary Goodnight.
It’s an unfortunate book. Apparently, Fleming had finished his first draft but was still in the process of editing when he died. As a result, The Man With The Golden Gun has all the flaws that you would associate with an early draft. The plot is thin. There’s little nuance or subtlety to the dialogue. Bond comes across as being rather dull, showing little of the wit or personality that was present in both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Scaramanga is a bit more interesting but he can’t compare to the great Bond villains like Blofeld or Goldfinger. There’s really not much else to say about The Man With The Golden Gun. It’s a sad way to end Fleming’s Bond series but, at the same time, it doesn’t diminish everything that Fleming accomplished in the previous novels.
Anyway, since I’ve reviewed all of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, I guess now is the time to rate them all, from best to worst. Not included in the list below are the two collections of short stories that Fleming wrote, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.
From best to worst:
- On Her Majesty Secret Service (1963)
- From Russia With Love (1957)
- Moonraker (1955)
- Goldfinger (1959)
- Dr. No (1958)
- You Only Live Twice (1964)
- Casino Royale (1953)
- Live and Let Die (1954)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
- Diamonds are Forever (1956)
- Thunderball (1961)
- The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)
Despite Fleming’s death, Bond would live on. Not only would there be the films but other writers would continue Bond’s literary adventures. Later this year, I’ll start in on the non-Fleming Bond novels. Until then, I hope everyone has enjoyed this look back at Ian Fleming’s original novels!