Lots of travel for work lately, which means one thing: audio books. One more Bond novel knocked out. This time it was The Man with the Golden Gun
This was Ian Fleming’s final Bond book. Published a year after Fleming’s death, some have even posited that it wasn’t even finished by him, but other hands. At very least it’s often criticized for not having the polish and depth of his other novels. Still, it’s not a terrible little book.
This book starts with a bang. Bond arrives at headquarters brainwashed from his last mission. He’s on a mission to kill M. His attempt is thwarted and he is slowly deprogrammed and put back in service. His first mission is designed to get him back in 00 shape, and M decides the best way is to give him a nearly impossible task: go to the Caribbean to find and take out the brutal killer Scaramanga. Scaramanga uses a gold-plated colt .45 which shoots silver lined gold bullets. He is thought to be the man behind several secret service agents deaths.
Bond locates Scaramanga in Jamaican and manages to con himself into being Scaramanga’s temporary assistant under the name “Mark Hazard”. Scaramanga is involved in a hotel development deal on the island with a group of investors that consists of American gangsters and a KGB agent. The group is hatching a scheme to destabilize the sugar industry, running drugs into America, and other nefarious deeds.
Bond discovers that Felix Leiter is working undercover as an electrical engineer at Scaramanga’s hotel setting up bugs in the meeting rooms. As the meetings progress, Bond’s true identity is discovered and confirmed by the KGB agent. Scaramanga makes new plans to entertain the gangsters and the KGB agent by killing Bond while they are riding a sight-seeing train. Bond, with the help of Leiter, thwarts the ambush and kills most of the conspirators. Wounded, Scaramanga escapes into the swamps, where Bond pursues him where a final shoot-out takes place.
Not a bad little book, but felt drawn out at times. In fact, in one scene, Bond has Scaramanga completely in his power and knows he should kill him. Yet he does not because he’s curious what Scaramanga is up to. If he’d carried out his orders as instructed, this book would have been about 25 pages. So right off the bat you feel this is a bit of a cheat.
The next low point is that Scaramanga is a bit of a gangster caricature. I found myself getting tired of every other line of his being “Get the picture?” or “See here…” The movie version of him as a classy, million dollar killer of amazing skill is not to be found here. This guy likes to wave his gun around and shoot at people’s heads (missing intentionally) to get their attention. In many ways, he comes off more as a childish punk that never learned gun safety than a calculating killer.
Still, it’s not a bad little novel, and worth the read if you’re not going out of your way. C+