James Bond Book 10
[narrator Viv Michel has fallen in love ‘with the idea of a motor scooter’]
The Vespa went like a bird and was as easy to drive as a bicycle. So I signed up for it, bought a leopard-skin cover for the seat and spare-wheel, racy-looking de luxe wheel-trims, a rear mirror, a luggage rack, white saddlebags that went beautifully with the silver finish of the body, a Perspex sports windscreen and a white crash helmet that made me feel like Pat Moss. The dealer gave me some good ideas about clothes, and I went to a store and bought white overalls with plenty of zips, some big goggles with soft fur round the edges and a rather dashing pair of lined black kid motor-cycling gloves…
[Later, when she is being held by the villains]
I put on my white overalls. Heaven knew they were impersonal enough, and I put my money into one of the pockets – just in case. Just in case of what? There would be no more escapes…
I felt his powerful arms round me, crushing me, and his face was against mine, kissing me brutally, while his hand went up to the zip at my neck and tore it right down to my waist. And then came the sharp sound of the buzzer at the front door, and everyone froze.
commentary: This is a most unusual entry in the series – Fleming obviously tried to do something completely different, to the confusion of his disconcerted fans. The whole book is narrated by a young woman, Viv, and there is no real spying content. She starts the book in an uneasy situation in a deserted motel in the Adirondacks – then looks back to see how she got to this point. And that is a rather sad story of a girl growing up in 50s London (she’s an orphan, a recurrent theme in Fleming), apparently privileged and very middle class, but not having the best time… there is the most dreadful story of being caught with her boyfriend in a box at a cinema. They are trying to have sex, and the manager interrupts, and embarrasses and humiliates them. Her next attempt at a love affair goes very wrong too. So she takes off for the USA:
I WAS RUNNING away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.- those are the opening lines, and very compelling I think.
She’s been working in a motel, and is left there as it closes for the winter. There is a tremendous storm and two villainous men, employed by the owner, turn up with all kinds of wickedness on their minds. Viv is terrified and reaches a low point at the end of the extract above. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the buzzer is being pressed by none other than James Bond, her first piece of luck.
The two of them spend the rest of the night trying to outwit the villains, and sharing their stories – he is on his way back from a short piece of department-related action.
And we’re going to need a second entry on this one…
Girl on a scooter is one of the beautiful James Jowers images of New York held at George Eastman House.
There is a woman demonstrating a white overall, and then another – who can it be? Why, it is the Queen! How surprising. It’s from 1958 and she was visiting a mine apparently.
Hot news - according to fashion arbiters at the Guardian, boilersuits are a hot property at the designer shows this year: Ian Fleming way ahead of the curve.