On Her Majesty's Secret Service
James Bond Book 11
LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[James Bond meets his host for the first time at Piz Gloria]
‘Now, shall we settle down here' – the Count waved towards his desk - 'or shall we go outside? You see' - he gestured at his brown body -' I am a heliotrope, a sun-worshipper. So much so that I have had to have these lenses devised for me. Otherwise, the ultraviolet rays, at this altitude...' He left the phrase unfinished.
'I haven't seen that kind of lens before. After all, I can leave the books here and fetch them if we need them for reference. I have the case pretty clear in my mind. And' -Bond smiled chummily - 'it would be nice to go back to the fog with something of a sunburn.'
Bond had equipped himself at Lillywhites with clothing he thought would be both appropriate and sensible. He had avoided the modern elasticized vorlage trousers and had chosen the more comfortable but old-fashioned type of ski-trouser in a smooth cloth. Above these he wore an aged black wind-cheater that he used for golf, over his usual white sea-island cotton shirt. He had wisely reinforced this outfit with long and ugly cotton and wool pants and vests. He had conspicuously brand-new ski-boots with powerful ankle-straps. He said, 'Then I'd better take off my sweater.' He did so and followed the Count out on to the veranda.
The Count lay back again in his upholstered aluminium chaise-longue. Bond drew up a light chair made of similar materials. He placed it also facing the sun, but at an angle so that he could watch the Count's face.
commentary: Following on from the first entry on this book on Friday.
‘Vorlage’ is a mode of skiing,(‘leaning forward from the ankles usually without lifting the heels from the skis’), and vorlage trousers, apparently, had tapered legs and elastic under the foot.
Bond fans have picked this description of Bond clothes apart – where did the sweater come from? People have tried to do a linkup, but really – a windcheater is not a sweater, and a zip top jersey is not the same thing as a jacket.
I think by this time Fleming was rather tired and in ill-health, and was so successful that people didn’t edit him enough – in the engrossing collection of his letters there are endless mentions of line edits, but on one page alone of this book there is
The shock of the wind-horn’s scream had automatically cut out ‘George’.With absolutely no indication of who or what George is, and also this:
It was then… that it happenedThe worst kind of thrillerese, along with the later
Absolute certitude that this was going to be a night to remember.When he’s planning his activities in the chalet, he mentions a female co-conspirator before he has actually recruited her – I think the line might be a mistake.
And there are far, far too many exclamation marks.
But still – what a great book.
I was thinking about the differences between Bond and his competitors. I love Len Deighton’s books, and from a distance his books can look similar to Fleming’s, but close up you would never mistake them for each other. (And I say this from a given that I like both authors very much.) Deighton, btw, says that Fleming was very kind and gracious with him – although Fleming did have his doubts about the Harry-Palmer-style hero.
On the opening page of OHMSS, a beach is described as ‘the longest beach in the north of France’: now, this is an imaginary town, Fleming made it up for Casino Royale and moved it slightly for this book, so why bother with the boast? But it’s such a Fleming-ish line – something is the best, and now you know all about it: it’s informative you see. Then, Deighton and Le Carre are always full of tradecraft, those little ways and means that spies get on with their investigations – Bond doesn’t bother with that (it’s surprising he wasn’t killed years ago), and at most leaves traps to see if his room has been searched (which we already know about from Enid Blyton, thanks) and in this book uses his urine as invisible ink (Enid Blyton used orange juice).
We find out that Bond abhors shoelaces, and that the Loire is his favourite river. We get some info on M’s private life and finances, and we are told that he has a great dislike of beatniks, and there is a nice mention of Nero Wolfe.
It is boastful, and informative, and really rather endearing.
The warm underwear is from an advert from the NYPL, much earlier than the date of the book. Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon jumps out of bed and puts on his union suit – great favourite blogpost.
The ski outfit, from the NYPL, is a French fashion plate, and is from 1921, but much smarter than Bond’s shabby-sounding clothes. I already complained about them in the entry on Goldfinger, where – at least there is consistency – he wore them for golf. ‘…Sounds seedy and rather disreputable’ I said. Yes.
The four ski-ers are from a Lillywhites catalogue – trying out the dry ski slope. I really DON’T think this venerable UK company would have supplied Bond with a nasty windcheater.