The Man With The Golden Gun Review
While the film adaptation of this book doesn’t impress the last of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels certainly delivers. Published in early 1965, eight months after Fleming’s death, the books sees Bond fight his most physically dangerous opponent, Francisco Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin and titular Man with the Golden Gun. For this book Fleming returns to his favourite setting, Jamaica. Indeed this book is full of the little cultural details that make Bond books quite different from so many other spy thrillers. Fleming wrote every Bond novel in his house, Goldeneye, in Jamaica and knew the island as well as he did England. He was impressed by the exotic culture and “old world” feel of the country and this is demonstrated in the book.
By this point in the Bond series Fleming had established several codes and conventions which he would regularly use through a large proportion of his books. These include the ubiquitous Bond girl, the cars and the finale fight with the villain, often one on one.
The actual story begins with Bond, brainwashed by the KGB, attempting to assassinate M with a cyanide gun. As a sort of test to see whether 007 is really back to his old self his superiors send him to assassinate Scaramanga who has been devastating the Jamaican sugar industry. Bond infiltrates Scaramanga’s organisation and attempts to discover the ultimate plans of the assassin. The story culminates in a vicious battle in the hellish mangrove swamps of Jamaica. Scaramanga is genuinely menacing and for almost the first time is actually a superior killer to Bond. This creates a new dynamic and makes the final battle somewhat different to usual as the fight is a simple one on one gunfight where the outcome is decidedly hard to predict.
With real style and skill Fleming intertwines scenes of intense action and true suspense as bond carries out his espionage duties. The pace never lets up, so much so that there is actually very little room for the Bond girl, Mary Goodnight. I must admit to not particularly liking Goodnight, she’s no Honeychile Rider. She exists simply to be rescued and doesn’t really do all that much. I think it’s better when the Bond girls are characters in their own right as well as love interests for Bond.
I have read the book but in the Christmas of 2013 I received the audio book version from audio-go read by Kenneth Branagh. Branagh is one of my favourite actors and I love his Shakespeare work. Because of this I was obviously looking forward to this version. I was not disappointed. The drama and tension Branagh’s voice brings compliments the story perfectly and really brings the characters alive.
In all the Man with the Golden Gun is a good Bond book. The best in my opinion? No, to earn this title I think that the Bond girl character would have to improve and the Villain’s plan be explained more. I finished the book still not fully knowing why Scaramanga needed to be stopped. On the whole though this is a good solid classic Bond book that rightly deserves a place in the series and was certainly unjustly covered in the film of the same name. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in the book listens to the Branagh audio version. I will be reviewing my least favourite conventional Bond novel, You Only Live Twice
This is Frontline Armchair signing off.