James Bond book 7
The door at the back of the room opened. A woman in a black masculine-cut suit with a high coffee-coloured lace jabot stood in the doorway. She walked slowly, unselfconsciously down the room and stood behind the empty chair. Goldfinger had got to his feet. She examined him carefully and then ran her eyes round the table. She said a collective, bored ‘Hi’ and sat down. Mr Strap said ‘Hi Pussy,’ and the others, except Mr Springer who merely bowed, made careful sounds of welcome.
Goldfinger said, ‘Good afternoon, Miss Galore. We have just been through the formality of introductions. The agenda is before you, together with the fifteen-thousand-dollar gold bar I asked you to accept to meet the expense and inconvenience of attending this meeting.’
Miss Galore reached for her parcel and opened it. She weighed the gleaming yellow brick in her hand. She gave Goldfinger a direct, suspicious look. ‘All the way through?’
‘All the way through.’
Miss Galore held his eyes. She said ‘Pardon my asking’ with the curt tone of a hard woman shopper at the sales.
Bond liked the look of her. He felt the sexual challenge all beautiful Lesbians have for men. He was amused by the uncompromising attitude that said to Goldfinger and to the room, ‘All men are bastards and cheats. Don’t try any masculine hocus on me. I don’t go for it. I’m in a separate league.’ Bond thought she would be in her early thirties. She had pale, Rupert Brooke good looks with high cheekbones and a beautiful jawline. She had the only violet eyes Bond had ever seen.
commentary: Goldfinger is classic Bond. What I remembered about it before re-reading was 1) gilding a young woman’s body with gold paint 2) the plan to rob Fort Knox & 3) Pussy Galore, Bond Girl and Lesbian to be switched. So, 1) happens off-stage and is merely described; although bizarre and violent, it scarcely features; 2) & 3) The plan and the woman are both being introduced for the first time in the meeting described above – 75% of the way through the book.
The first sections are taken up with quite other things:
1) Reintroduction of a character from Casino Royale, Junius Du Pont. I had to check back but yes he did exist.
2) Introduction of Goldfinger, in a very memorable description:
He was wearing nothing but a yellow satin bikini slip, dark glasses and a pair of wide tin wings under his chin. The wings, which appeared to fit round his neck, stretched out across his shoulders and beyond them and then curved up slightly to rounded tips.--It sounds a lot like Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast:
3) A long section on the card game canasta, just like the baccarat in Casino Royale and the bridge game in Moonraker. Someone is cheating.
4) A long section on a golf game. Someone is cheating. This is the point at which I parted company with Fleming – when the book came out the accepted view was that he made the golf game riveting. I disagree. I skimmed it, because yes someone cheated, Bond will cheat back in order to win. Could have got through this in a page or two, but I expect golf fans love it. Had to look up a hundred-pound Nassau – it’s a kind of bet, and not the one Bond places with Goldfinger.
5) There’s a hilarious Bank of England operative sharing his gold expertise with Bond while looking after social welfare and HR:
I’ve just had the women’s hockey team thrown into my lap. As if I hadn’t got enough to do with the annual gymkhana coming on.6) A secretary called Miss Philby….
7) Bond’s golf clothes:
Bond changed his socks and put on the battered old pair of nailed Saxones. He took off the coat of his yellowing black and white hound’s-tooth suit and pulled on a faded black wind-cheater. Cigarettes? Lighter? He was ready to go.This contrasts with Goldfinger’s over-perfect golf outfit, but frankly sounds seedy and rather disreputable.
8) In the villains’ summit meeting the Unione Siciliano (presumably the Mafia) is represented by a Mr Solo – Fleming was soon afterwards to invent Napoleon Solo, the Man From UNCLE, for the 60s TV series.
9) Pussy Galore will later appear in the uniform of an airstewardess. Looking like this perhaps?
In my reading of the Bond books so far I have found some attitudes and phrases very much of their time: they look bad to modern eyes, but you can pass them over quickly. Unfortunately in this book we read about Bond’s view of gay people, and it is not a happy experience. The ‘sexual challenge’ above isn’t the half of it.
[She was] one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality’. As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.Pussy, above, is – of course – just ready to be converted by James Bond. It’s a pity – leaving a bad taste from what is otherwise a fun book.
The journalist Jon Ronson recreated Bond’s journey in an Aston Martin following Goldfinger through Europe – and wrote a most amusing article about it in the Guardian.
The woman in a suit is from an Yves Saint Laurent fashion show – of course.
The stewardess outfits are from the San Diego Air & Space Museum archives.