On Her Majesty's Secret Service (novel)


On Her Majesty's Secret Service (novel)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service  
FlemingOHMSS.jpg
First edition cover - published by Jonathan Cape. Note drawing of Bond family arms and motto.
Author(s) Ian Fleming
Cover artist Richard Chopping (Jonathan Cape ed.)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series James Bond
Genre(s) Spy novel
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date 1 April 1963
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
ISBN NA
Preceded by The Spy Who Loved Me
Followed by You Only Live Twice

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the tenth novel in Ian Fleming's James Bond series, first published in the UK by Jonathan Cape on 1 April 1963, where the initial and secondary print runs sold out, with over 60,000 books sold in the first month. Fleming wrote the book whilst the first film in the Eon Productions series of films, Dr. No, was being filmed nearby.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is considered the second book in what is known as the "Blofeld trilogy", which begins with Thunderball, had an interlude with The Spy Who Loved Me and concluded with You Only Live Twice. The story centres on Bond's the ongoing search to find Ernst Stavro Blofeld after the Thunderball incident; Bond finds him thorough the College of Arms in London and, after meeting him and discovering his latest plans, attacks the centre where he is based. Blofeld escapes. Bond also meets and marries in the story, which ends with Blofeld killing his wife just hours after the ceremony.

The novel was adapted to run as a three part story in Playboy in 1963 and then as a daily comic strip in the Daily Express newspaper in 1964-1965. In 1969 the novel was adapted as the sixth film in the Eon Productions James Bond film series and was the only film to star George Lazenby as Bond.

Contents

Plot

For more than a year, James Bond, British secret agent 007, has been involved in 'Operation Bedlam', trailing the private criminal organization SPECTRE and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld following their hijack of two nuclear device and the subsequent blackmail of the western world, as described in Thunderball. Bond is convinced SPECTRE no longer exists and, frustrated by his inability to find Blofeld and MI6's insistence that he continue the search, Bond composes a letter of resignation for his superior, M.

Whilst composing his letter, Bond encounters a suicidal, beautiful young woman named Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo first on the road and subsequently at the gambling table, where he saves her from a coup de deshonneur by paying her gambling debt she is unable to cover. The following day he follows her and interrupts her attempted suicide, but they are captured by professional henchmen. They are taken to the offices of Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Unione Corse, the biggest European crime syndicate. Teresa, 'Tracy' to her friends, is the daughter and only child of Draco and he believes the only way to save his daughter is for Bond to marry her. To facilitate this, he offers Bond a dowry of £1 million (£17 million in 2011 pounds[1]); Bond refuses the offer, but agrees to continue romancing Tracy while her mental health improves.

The College of Arms building in London.

Afterwards, in answer to a question, Draco uses his contact to inform Bond that Blofeld is in Switzerland, but does not know precisely where. Bond returns to England to be given another lead: the College of Arms in London has discovered that Blofeld has assumed the title and name Comte Balthazar de Bleuville and wants formal confirmation of the title and has asked the College to declare him the reigning count.

On a visit to the College of Arms, Bond finds that the family motto of Sir Thomas Bond is "The World Is Not Enough", and that he might be (though unlikely) Bond's ancestor. On the pretext that a genetically-inherited minor physical abnormality (a lack of earlobes) needs a personal confirmation, Bond impersonates a College of Arms representative, Sir Hilary Bray and is able to visit Blofeld's lair atop Piz Gloria, where he finally meets Blofeld. Blofeld has undergone plastic surgery partly to remove his earlobes, but also to disguise himself from the police and security services who are tracking him down.

At Piz Gloria, Bond learns Blofeld has been curing a group of young British and Irish women of their livestock and food allergies. In truth, Blofeld and his aide, Irma Bunt, have been brainwashing them into carrying biological warfare agents back to Britain and Ireland in order to destroy Britain's agriculture economy, upon which post-World War II Britain depends.

Believing himself discovered, Bond escapes by ski from Piz Gloria, chased by SPECTRE operatives, a number of whom he kills in the process. Afterward, in a state of total exhaustion, he encounters Tracy. She is in the town at the base of the mountain after being told by her father that Bond may be in the vicinity. Bond is too weak to take on Blofeld's henchmen alone and she helps him escape to the airport. Smitten by the resourceful, headstrong woman, he proposes marriage and she accepts. Bond then returns to England and works on the plan to capture Blofeld.

Helped by Draco's Union Corse, Bond mounts an air assault against the clinic and Blofeld. Whilst the clinic is destroyed, Blofeld escapes down a bobsled run, tossing a grenade after the pursuing Bond, who narrowly misses being killed. Blofeld, however, escapes. Bond flies to Germany where he marries Tracey. The two of them drive off on honeymoon and, a few hours later, Blofeld and Bunt drive past, machine gunning them: Tracey is killed in the attack.

Characters and themes

On Her Majesty's Secret Service contains what continuation Bond author Raymond Benson calls "major revelations" about Bond and his character.[2] These start with Bond's showing an emotional side, visiting the grave of Casino Royale's Vesper Lynd, which he did every year.[2] The emotional side continues with Bond asking Tracy to marry him.[3]

The character of Tracy is not as well defined as female leads in the Bond canon, but Benson points out that that it may be the enigmatic quality that Bond falls in love with.[4] Benson also notes that Fleming gives relatively little information about the character, only how Bond reacts to her.[4]

Academic Christoph Lindner identifies the character of Marc-Ange Draco as an example of those characters who have morals closer to those of the traditional villains, but who act on the side of good in support of Bond; others of this type include Darko Kerim (From Russia, with Love), Tiger Tanaka (You Only Live Twice) and Enrico Colombo ("Risico").[5] Fellow academic Jeremy Black considers the connection between Draco and World War II, with Draco wearing the King's medal for resistance fighters. The war reference is a method used by Fleming to differentiate good from evil and raises a question about "the distinction between criminality and legality".[6]

Background

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was written in Jamaica at Fleming's Goldeneye estate in January and February 1962,[7] whilst the first Bond film, Dr. No was being filmed nearby.[8] The first draft of the novel was 196 pages long and called The Belles of Hell.[9] Fleming later changed the title after being told of a nineteenth-century sailing novel seen by Fleming's friend Nicholas Henderson in Portobello Road Market.[10]

HMS Repulse on manoeuvres in the 1920s

As with all his Bond books, Fleming used events or names from his life in his writing. Thus, in the 1930s, Fleming often visited Kitzbühel in Austria for the skiing; he once deliberately set off down a slope that had been closed because of the danger of an avalanche. The snow cracked behind him and an avalanche came down, catching him at its end: Fleming remembered the incident and it was used for Bond's escape from Piz Gloria.[11] Fleming would occasionally stay at the sports club the Schloss Mittersill in the Austrian Alps; in 1940 the Nazis closed down the club and turned it into a research establishment examining the Asiatic races. It was this pseudo-scientific research centre that inspired Blofeld's own centre of Piz Gloria.[12]

The connection between M and the inspiration for his character, Rear Admiral John Godfrey, was made apparent with Bond visiting Quarterdeck, M's home. He rings the ship's-bell for HMS Repulse, M's last command: it was Godfrey's ship too.[13] Godfrey was Fleming's superior officer in Naval Intelligence Division during the war[14] and was known for his bellicose and irascible temperament.[15] During their Christmas lunch, M tells Bond of an old naval acquaintance, a Chief Gunnery Officer named McLachlan. This was actually an old colleague of both Godfrey and Fleming's in the NID, Donald McLachlan.[8]

The name Hilary Bray was that of an old-Etonian with who Fleming worked at the stock broking firm Rowe & Pitman,[16] whilst Sable Basilisk was based on "Rouge Dragon" in the College of Arms. Rouge Dragon was the title of heraldic researcher Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees who asked Fleming not to use the title in the book; in a play on words, Fleming used Mirrlees's address, a flat in Basil St and combined it with a dragon-like creature, a basilisk, to come up with the name.[17] Mirrlees had Spanish antecedents, generally born without earlobes and Fleming used this physical attribute for Blofeld.[16] Mirrlees also discovered that the line of the Bonds of Peckham bears the family motto "The World is Not Enough", which Fleming appropriated for Bond's own family.[12]

Fleming also used historical references for some of his names, and 007's number refers to one of British naval intelligence's key achievements of World War I: the breaking of the German diplomatic code.[18] One of the German documents cracked and read by the British was the Zimmermann Telegram, which was coded 0075[19] and which was one of the factors that led the US entering the war. Another reason for using the 007 number was the polymath and Elizabethan spy, John Dee, who would sign his letters to Elizabeth I with 00 and an elongated 7, to signify they were for her eyes only.[20] Marc-Ange Draco's name is based upon that of El Draco, the Spanish nickname for Sir Francis Drake,[16] a fact also used by J. K. Rowling for the naming of her character Draco Malfoy.[21]

For Tracy's background, Fleming used that of Muriel Wright, a married wartime lover of Fleming's, who died in an air-raid[22] and Bond's grief is an echo of Fleming's at her loss.[23] Fleming did make mistakes in the novel, however, and after Bond ordered a half-bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, Fleming's friend Patrick Leigh Fermor pointed out that that it was the only champagne at the time not to be produced in half-bottles.[24]

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the second book in what is called "the Blofeld trilogy", sitting between Thunderball, where SPECTRE is introduced and You Only Live Twice, where Blofeld is finally killed by Bond.[25]

Release and reception

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was published on 1 April 1963 in the UK as a hardcover edition by publishers Jonathan Cape;[26] it was 288 pages long and cost 16 shillings.[27] A limited edition of 250 copies were also printed that were numbered and signed by Fleming.[26] Artist Richard Chopping once again undertook the cover art for the first edition.[26] There were 42,000 advance orders for the hardback first edition[28] and Cape did an immediate second impression of 15,000 copies, selling over 60,000 by the end of April 1963.[29] By the end of 1963 it had sold in excess of 75,000 copies.[30]

The novel was published in America in August by the New American Library,[26] after Fleming changed publishers from Viking Press after The Spy Who Loved Me.[31] The book was 299 pages long and cost $4.50[32] and it topped The New York Times Best Seller list for over six months.[26]

Reviews

Writing in The Guardian, critic Anthony Berkeley Cox, writing under the name Francis Iles, noted that the two minor grammatical errors he spotted "is likely to spoil no one's enjoyment"[33] of the novel as he considered that On Her Majesty's Secret Service was "not only up to Mr. Fleming's usual level, but perhaps even a bit above it."[33] Writing in The Guardian's sister paper, The Observer Maurice Richardson pondered if there had been "a deliberate moral reformation"[34] of Bond. However, he notes Bond still his harder side when needed. Richardson also thought that "in reforming Bond Mr. Fleming has reformed his own story-telling which had been getting very loose".[34] Overall he thought that "O.H.M.S.S. is certainly the best Bond for several books. It is better plotted and retains its insane grip until the end".[34]

Whilst The Sunday Times said that "James Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like between her sheets",[12] the critic for The Times considered that after The Spy Who Loved Me, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service constitutes a substantial, if not quite a complete, recovery."[27] In the view of the reviewer, it was enough of a recovery for them to point out that "it is time, perhaps, to forget the much exaggerated things which have been said about sex, sadism and snobbery, and return to the simple, indisputable fact that Mr. Fleming is a most compelling story-teller."[27] Marghanita Laski, writing in The Times Literary Supplement thought that "the new James Bond we've been meeting of late [is] somehow gentler, more sentimental, less dirty."[35] However, she considered that "it really is time to stop treating Ian Fleming as a Significant Portent, and to accept him as a good, if rather vulgar thriller-writer, well suited to his times and to us his readers."[35]

The New York Herald Tribune thought On Her Majesty's Secret Service to be "solid Fleming",[12] while the Houston Chronicle considered the novel to be "Fleming at his urbanely murderous best, a notable chapter in the saga of James Bond".[12] Gene Brackley, writing in the Boston Globe wrote that Bond "needs all the quality he can muster to escape alive"[36] from Blofeld's clutches in the book and this gives rise to "two of the wildest chase scenes in the good guys-bad guys literature".[36] Regarding the fantastic nature of the plots, Brackley considered that "Fleming's accounts of the half-world of the Secret Service have the ring of authenticity"[36] because of his previous role with the NID.

Writing for The Washington Post, Jerry Doolittle thought that Bond is "still irresistible to women, still handsome in a menacing way, still charming. He has nerves of steel and thews of whipcord",[32] even if "he's starting to look a little older."[32] Doolittle was fulsome in his praise for the novel, saying "Fleming's new book will not disappoint his millions of fans"[32] Writing in The New York Times, Anthony Boucher - described by a Fleming biographer, John Pearson as "throughout an avid anti-Bond and an anti-Fleming man"[37] – was again damning, although even he admitted that "you can't argue with success".[38] Having said that, he sets out to argue that point anyway, saying that "simply pro forma, I must set down my opinion that this is a silly and tedious novel."[38] Boucher went on to bemoan that although On Her Majesty's Secret Service was better than The Spy Who Loved Me, "it is still a lazy and inadequate story",[38] going on to say that "my complaint is not that the adventures of James Bond are bad literature...but that they aren't good bad literature".[38] Boucher finished his review lamenting that "they just aren't writing bad books like they used to." [38]

The opposite point of view was taken by Robert Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times, who considered Fleming's work to be a significant point in fiction, saying that the Bond novels "are harbingers of a change in emphasis in fiction which is important."[39] The importance, Kirsch claimed, sprung from "a revolution in taste, a return to qualities in fiction which all but submerged in the 20th-century vogue of realism and naturalism"[39] and the importance was such that they were "comparable...only to the phenomenon of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories"[39] Kirsch also believed that "with Fleming, then we do not merely accept the willing suspension of disbelief, we yearn for it, we hunger for it."[39] The critic for Time magazine referred to previous criticism of Fleming and thought that "in Fleming's latest Bond bombshell, there are disquieting signs that he took the critics to heart"[40] when they complained about "the consumer snobbery of his caddish hero".[40] The critic mourned that even worse was to follow, however, when "Bond is threatened with what, for an international cad, would clearly be a fate worse than death: matrimony".[40] However, eventually a "deus ex machina (the machine, reassuringly, is a lethal red Maserati) ... saves James Bond from his better self."[40]

Adaptations

Grey haired man in red check shirt, sitting at a table on which his hands are resting.
George Lazenby, the second actor to play Bond on the cinema screen
Serialisation (1963)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was serialised in the April, May and June 1963 issues of Playboy.[41]

Comic strip (1964-1965)

Ian Fleming's 1963 novel was adapted as a daily comic strip published in the Daily Express newspaper, and syndicated worldwide; the strip ran for nearly a year, from 29 June 1964 to 17 May 1965. The adaptation was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky.[42] The strip was reprinted by Titan Books in The James Bond Omnibus Vol. 2, published in 2011.[43]

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

In 1969, the novel was adapted into the sixth film in the Eon Productions series. It starred George Lazenby in his only appearance of the Bond role.[44] With the novels films in a different order to the books, the continuity of storylines was broken and the films altered accordingly.[45] Even so, the previous film, You Only Live Twice, had Blofeld and Bond meeting and this was ignored for the plot of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.[45]

References

  1. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  2. ^ a b Benson 1988, p. 132.
  3. ^ Benson 1988, p. 133.
  4. ^ a b Benson 1988, p. 134.
  5. ^ Lindner 2009, p. 39.
  6. ^ Black 2005, p. 59.
  7. ^ Benson 1988, p. 22.
  8. ^ a b Lycett 1996, p. 398.
  9. ^ Benson 1988, p. 23.
  10. ^ Chancellor 2005, p. 204.
  11. ^ Chancellor 2005, p. 15-16.
  12. ^ a b c d e Chancellor 2005, p. 205.
  13. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 58.
  14. ^ Chancellor 2005, p. 192.
  15. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 74.
  16. ^ a b c Chancellor 2005, p. 113.
  17. ^ Lycett 1996, p. 404.
  18. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 65.
  19. ^ Chancellor 2005, p. 190.
  20. ^ "The original 007?". University of Cambridge. 4 November 2008. http://www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk/news/article/default.aspx?objid=53326. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  21. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 93.
  22. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 150.
  23. ^ Macintyre 2008, p. 155.
  24. ^ Chancellor 2005, p. 95.
  25. ^ Benson 1988, p. 131.
  26. ^ a b c d e Benson 1988, p. 24.
  27. ^ a b c "New Fiction". The Times: p. 16. 4 April 1963. 
  28. ^ Lycett 1996, p. 419.
  29. ^ Lycett 1996, p. 420.
  30. ^ Lycett 1996, p. 430.
  31. ^ Lycett 1996, p. 383.
  32. ^ a b c d Doolittle, Jerry (25 August 1963). "007 Seems a Bit Longer in Tooth". The Washington Post: p. G7. 
  33. ^ a b Iles, Francis (3 May 1963). "Criminal Records". The Guardian: p. 8. 
  34. ^ a b c Richardson, Maurice (31 March 1963). "The reformation of Fleming and Bond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service". The Observer: p. 25. 
  35. ^ a b Laski, Marghanita (5 April 1963). "Strictly for Thrills". The Times Literary Supplement: p. 229. 
  36. ^ a b c Brackley, Gene (22 August 1963). "Cmdr. James Bond Finds the Going Tough". Boston Globe: p. 19. 
  37. ^ Pearson 1967, p. 99.
  38. ^ a b c d e Boucher, Anthony (25 August 1963). "On Assignment with James Bond". The New York Times. 
  39. ^ a b c d Kirsch, Robert (25 August 1963). "James Bond Appeal? It's Elementary, Watson". Los Angeles Times: p. E14. 
  40. ^ a b c d "Books: Fate Worse than Death". Time. 30 August 1963. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,940753,00.html#ixzz1bKa1FcN5. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  41. ^ Lindner 2009, p. 92.
  42. ^ Fleming, Gammidge & McLusky 1988, p. 6.
  43. ^ McLusky et al. Horak, p. 6.
  44. ^ Barnes & Hearn 2001, p. 82.
  45. ^ a b Smith & Lavington 2002, p. 97.

Bibliography

External links

See also

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