James Bond, Agent 007 and possessor of the licence to – in a very real sense – kill, is by no means a nice person. Ian Fleming’s Bond novels are remarkably entertaining, superbly and sparely written, and in many ways to the sensitivities of the modern reader, very wrong. I wish to celebrate perhaps the most James Bond sentence ever written. And it’s not by Mr Fleming.
As you might expect, Fleming wrote a lot of very James Bond sentences. Until yesterday, when I read the sentence I will spotlight here, I would previously have offered either the opening lines of Casino Royale or Bond’s closing words from said novel as the most James Bond sentence imaginable. (I will not reproduce either here. But I may yet allude to it Bond’s closing words in the closing line of this post. And if you’ve not read Casino Royale, treat yourself as soon as possible – it is the best Bond book by far).
The sentence I wish to share with you was penned by William Boyd, in his officially-licensed (to be written, rather than to kill) Bond novel Solo.
Boyd has been a favourite writer of mine for more than a decade. He wrote not one but two of books I love in the extremely small literary genre that I would characterise as ‘epic picaresques in which a creative type lurches through most of the 20th Century, bumping into historical figures along the way.’ These two Boyd tomes are Any Human Heart and The New Confessions, the enjoyment of each of which I envy you if you have yet to read both or either. (There is a third novel in this wonderful micro-genre, Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess. If anyone out there knows of any further Century-spanning picaresques in this invented category of mine, please, please let me know what they are!).
Over his past few books Boyd has shifted over from what we might call “literary fiction” to become a writer of spy thrillers. And he is darned good at it.
Boyd definitely “gets” the book version of Bond as Fleming created him. Cruel, brutal, capable of charm when needed, but not a charming person. Sadistic, yet also a slave to his tastes for life’s little luxuries (sometimes oddly effete luxuries, given his macho brutality. Most pointedly, Bond’s preference for ED Pinaud Elixir in OHMSS, bizarrely described as “that Prince among shampoos.”).
On p.208 of Solo, Boyd displays just how much he “gets” Bond with what I consider to be the most James Bond sentence ever penned. Gentle reader, I give you:
“His conscience was assuaged somewhat by the fact that he hadn’t made love to her just to steal her passport.”
This is the very essence of the book version of Bond. If you’ve never read a Bond book, please give one a go. It may yet come to define the term “guilty pleasure” (or, better, just plain “pleasure”) for you. And if you have read the Bond books, please let me know what you think is the most James Bond sentence ever written.
It strikes me that this post will also more than likely be the last I write in 2014. Thank you very much indeed for reading this post, and may 2015 be very kind to you.
The year is dead now.