If you try to assassinate your boss - even though brainwashed at the time - you must pay the price. To redeem himself James Bond has to kill one of the most lethal hitmen in the world: Paco 'Pistols' Scaramanga. In the sultry heat of Jamaica 007 infiltrates his target's criminal cooperative - only to find that Scaramanga's bullets are laced with snake venom. When the end comes, every shot will count. Includes an exclusive bonus interview with Kenneth Branagh.
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This is no formulaic gung ho story either. The conclusion of You Only Live Twice (Fleming's best novel and one almost entirely ignored by the screenwriters of the film which took its title) saw an amnesic and missing-presumed-dead Bond living as a fisherman in Japan. His arch enemy Blofeld is dead, yes, but in a sense Bond too is gone. Gone with his memories and any desire to continue to be 007.
Golden Gun opens with a man claiming to be James Bond pushing his way into MI6 HQ. We are told there have been many since this dead hero's obituary was published in The Times. Bill Tanner and Moneypenny can hardly believe this may be their friend and while it is, he's a changed man - brainwashed by the KGB and hellbent on assassinating M.
Obviously he doesn't succeed, but this is just the spur for a story where a deprogrammed but distraught Bond, desperate to redeem himself, is selected for an impossible mission - stopping Francisco 'Pistols' Scaramanga, the novel's eponymous villain.
While not, in truth, Fleming's best novel this is certainly one of his most interesting. He returns us previous locations (such as the Jamiaca of Live & Let Die and Dr No) as a kind of final lap of honour and his presentation of a jaded Bond in search of meaning creates a character a far cry from the 'joke superman' of the film series. (That phrase isn't mine, by the way, it's Sean Connery's.) There are times where the prose is a little rough around the edges. While Fleming finished the novel he did not get to revise it before publication, as was his usual practice. A lot of the detail that makes his writing so compelling is missing, but the more experimental nature of the story he is telling compensates for that.)
Kenneth Branagh's reading is superb. His Bond is smooth on the surface, but brittle and troubled underneath. His M is suitably patrician - and he really goes to town with Scaramanga. The novel's Scaramanga is very different from the man a viewer of the 1974 film (in which he's played by Christopher Lee) might be expecting, but Brannagh gives us the character from the page, all vicious eccentricity and unadulterated greed, in all his glory.
An underrated and interestingly odd James Bond story, by Bond's creator, read by a great actor. What's not to like? (Posted on 4 March 2013)
Would you recommend this product to a friend? Definitely yes
The Man with the Golden Gun has one of the most shocking starts to any Bond novel: a breathtaking opening sequence in London, when a brainwashed James Bond confronts his chief, ‘M’...
James Bond has come back from the dead. He’s been missing for a year, believed killed, after a mission in Japan. But something’s not right and even Miss Moneypenny is worried: ‘there’s something wrong with him. I’m frightened.’
‘007 was good agent once. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a good agent again. Within limits, that is.’ Those lines, said by Bond’s chief, are chillingly read by Sir Kenneth Branagh on this audiobook.
Branagh conveys M’s coldness, anger and impatience with Commander Bond, while Bond really sounds like a sick man: he’s detached and unemotional, with clipped tones.
Kenneth Branagh then deftly shifts pace and sweeps us onwards to an exciting, gripping climax in the mangrove swamps of Jamaica.
We hear a Bond who is more vulnerable and human than expected. For example, never likes killing in cold blood. But he’s up against a well-drawn enemy in Scaramanga.
With an exotic location, Bond girl Mary Goodnight and Fleming’s trademark descriptions of luxurious food and drink, The Man with the Golden Gun is a memorable Bond novel and is a superb audiobook to listen to.
Listen out for:
- Bond’s face-to-face with M is not to be missed
- Scaramanga’s menacing entrance
- the climax between Scaramanga and Bond.
- the chapter: ‘Hear the Train Blow!’
The Man with the Golden Gun is the thirteenth James Bond title by Ian Fleming.