Saturday, 30 May 2015

Some thoughts about Trigger Mortis

So we now know the title of Anthony Horowitz's highly anticipated James Bond novel: Trigger Mortis. The official announcement of the title earlier this week also brought more information about what we might expect in the novel. What have we gleaned?

Trigger Mortis is not a title that immediately appeals to me. It seems to me to be something that Ian Fleming might have devised for a chapter heading, or it might otherwise be more appropriate as the title of a Young Bond novel. In its favour, though, it does follow the Fleming-esque pattern of adapting a word or saying in the manner of Live and Let Die or You Only Live Twice. Trigger Mortis might also be a nod to 'Trigger Finger', Ian Fleming's original title for his short story, 'The Living Daylights'. I also note that 'The Trigger on the Finger' is the title of sixth chapter in Dr No. I expect Trigger Mortis will grow on me and will be a more memorable title than Solo or Devil May Care. Perhaps it's a very good choice after all.

What of the original material by Ian Fleming that is heralded on the cover of the book? We already knew that the book would feature ideas from 'Murder on Wheels', Fleming's treatment for an episode of a never-made James Bond TV series. In the treatment, Bond becomes involved in the world of motor racing as he investigates a Russian plot to sabotage Stirling Moss's race at the Nürburgring circuit. We know now that 'Murder on Wheels' will form the basis of the opening part of the novel and that the book is set in 1957. Additionally, the synopsis accompanying the US edition of the novel confirms that the setting of the motor racing will be the German Grand Prix (which was won by Juan Manuel Fangio). I must admit a little satisfaction on learning the year in which the book will be set, as I suggested back in October in an earlier blog post that Ian Fleming had the Formula One championships of 1957 or 1958 in mind when he prepared the treatment for 'Murder on Wheels'.

Confusingly, though, a set of postcards that had been released by Ian Fleming Publications to promote the book ahead of the title announcement pointed to 1959. One was an image of New York's Times Square, which showed a cinema marquee advertising the John Wayne film, The Horse Soldiers, which was released in 1959. Another postcard was of the Nürburgring. The car shown is, if my identification is correct, a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, and what's more, it could well be the very vehicle driven by Olivier Gendebien in the Nürburgring 1000km in 1959. Whether these images were meant as deliberate red herrings or should be put down to artistic licence is uncertain.

Incidentally, the 1957 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring took place on the 4th August, while Trigger Mortis begins two weeks after the final event of Goldfinger, which John Griswold in his Annotations and Chronologies dates to 6th June. This gives James Bond a good few weeks with Pussy Galore at start of the book. Much has been made in the media of the promised reappearance of Pussy Galore, last seen in Goldfinger with James Bond on a weathership off the coast of Canada. The reference to the heroine of an earlier adventure is nothing new; Ian Fleming did it himself, for instance in From Russia, with Love, when M asks Bond about his relationship with Tiffany Case, who we saw in the previous adventure, Diamonds are Forever. However, as The Spy Command blog reminds us, this will be the first time that the heroine of an earlier novel will have a 'speaking part'.

As for the main plot, we learnt this week that the novel “places Bond in the middle of the Soviet-American Space Race as the United States prepares for a critical rocket launch.” The year 1957 was a significant time in the Space Race, as it saw the US and the USSR compete to launch artificial satellites for the first time; indeed the Space Race began with the announcement in 1955 by the US of its intention to launch a satellite. In the event, the Soviet Union beat the US to it by launching Sputnik 1 in October 1957. The attempt by the US to launch a satellite in December that year failed, though the US was successful with its second attempt in January 1958.

With its Fleming-derived action from the motor racing circuit, the reappearance of a familiar face, and its backdrop of the start of the Space Race, Trigger Mortis promises to be a very exciting James Bond novel. The 8th September, when the book will be published, can't come soon enough.


  1. It'll be interesting to see which of our speculations turn out to be correct, EB. I too thought the title a little lame when I first saw it, but I'm thinking it may be a line spoken by a character in the book, rather than Bond delivering some pithy one-liner;
    "How did he die, Bond?"
    "Trigger mortis."
    And I too thought that it sounded like a Fleming chapter heading along the lines of "Slay It With Flowers" or "He Disagreed With Something That Ate Him". Hell, I'm guilty myself of calling one of my Bond fan fictions "Women of Mass Destruction".
    At any rate, nothing to really do now except wait until September. I don't want to speculate too much. I thought the title "Skyfall" was a reference to a failed mission when I first saw the trailer, so I don't plan on making too many guesses. Although, I do wonder if the 'Korean villain hell-bent on revenge" in TM will be related to OddJob. But even as I wrote that line, it sounded a little too predictable.
    Wait and see, I suppose.

    1. I like your suggestion that the title might be uttered by a character in the book - a bit like Bond saying that he 'scared the living daylights out of her'. As for the Oddjob-related Korean villain, well, it would seem strange to have Korean villains in a book that follows directly from Goldfinger and not at least refer to Oddjob. We'll see. It's fun speculating (and I certainly do a lot of that ahead of every new Bond book or film), but the finished products do tend to be rather different. I'm with you - best to just wait now until the book's published.

      By the way, despite being very well aware of Fleming's Hoagy Carmichael reference and having a copy of Mike Grell's Permission to Die, I'd never noticed that Grell based his Bond on Carmichael. Thanks for including those images in your recent post. Very interesting.

  2. Great post. There are shades of Dr. No toppling rockets in there too.

    1. Yes, you're right. While the rockets concerned are missiles, rather than space rockets, one has to wonder whether Fleming had the nascent Space Race in mind when he described them.

  3. What a great post - I'm very excited about the launch and new that Horowitz has him back in a Bentley, I hope that we have a 'special Bentley' edition for the launch.
    I just love the 'Casino Royale' Bentley edition. It's the best thing in my collection.


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