Sunday, 19 July 2015

Bond Strikes Camp - again

James Bond parodies – I'm thinking here exclusively of the short stories in magazines and newspapers – tend to explore similar themes. There are those that imagine Bond as an ageing spy, such as Alan Coren's 'Doctor No Will See You Now', which appeared in Punch in 1978, or 'The Scarlet Letter', which was written by Adrian Turner and was included in his 1998 book about Goldfinger.

Then there are the parodies that put the Bond of the 1950s and '60s in the modern world, among them 'For You Mr Bond It's PC Galore', which was published in the Sunday Times in 2006, and 'Martini's Old Hat, Mr Bond. Fancy a Bacardi Breezer?', a piece by Martin Samuel that appeared in the Daily Mail in 2012.

One of the best known parodies is 'Bond Strikes Camp', by Cyril Connelly. In the story, which first appeared in the London Magazine in 1963, M persuades Bond to dress in drag in order to effect a honey trap, but actually takes the role of the target so that he can be picked up by Bond. Another parody in the same camp, as it were, is 'The Spy who Minced in from the Cold' by Stanley Reynolds, which was published in Punch in 1975. The piece took as its starting point an assertion by historian A J P Taylor that Britain's best agents were specially-recruited homosexuals, and consequently re-imagined Bond – and M – as gay.

 
A page from Punch, 30th July 1975
Disregarding its stereotypical attitudes, the parody shares with most other parodies a number of standard Bondian tropes or memes. There is, for example, Bond's exactness about drinks. “Bond always stipulated Perrier” in his Americanos, and that Bond felt that “a Negroni with Gordon's was the only way to serve it.” (Neither in fact exaggerates Bond's fastidiousness, as both are taken direct from the pages of Fleming.) The story similarly pokes fun at Bond's (and Fleming's) attention to food, as we read about crayfish tails with rice and a cream and dill sauce, a foot of garlic sausage, boeuf Stroganoff, saddle of roebuck with a smitane sauce, and a poisoned Weisswurst (the last used by Bond to kill a Smersh agent).

Reynolds' story also parodies Fleming's use of brand names and detailed descriptions of clothing. Bond wears “Tricker's boots; 9½ A,” and “Egyptian cotton shirts”, while CIA agent Fanny Devine (obviously a nod to Pussy Galore) wears “hot pants, pre-shrunk blue denim with fashionably ragged edges, £7.99 at better boutiques everywhere.”

Then there are allusions to Bondian locations. The line, “St Germain, on the N184 near the junction of the N307 to St Nom and the D98 which Bond always took to avoid the heavy traffic on the Paris-Nantes and Versailles autoroutes,” evokes the French settings of Casino Royale, Goldfinger and 'From a View to a Kill', as well as Fleming's intimate, almost obsessive, knowledge about routes, while the exciting Swiss location and events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service are referenced by Bond recalling “the Gloria Express bob-run.” (This last reference shows just how rapidly snowy landscapes had become closely associated with James Bond, even after a single snow-set novel and film.)

The story ends with M threatening to remove Bond's licence to kill if Bond shows up at the Liza Minnelli Look Alike Contest with the same sort of rhinestone choker that M's planning on wearing. Despite its outdated viewpoints and descriptions, Stanley Reynolds' pastiche treads what would become well-worn ground, but also demonstrates the author's familiarity with the Bond novels. It is perhaps a measure of the success of the Bond novels and films that, forty years on, parodies are still being written and sending up the same tropes.

3 comments:

  1. I've often read about Cyril Connolly's famous (or infamous) story. However, Adrian Turner's short piece, from his book on "Goldfinger", about a retired Bond living in Jamaica was brilliant. I also recall a short piece about somebody going to interview Bond at a nursing home for elderly spies, but I can't remember if it was written by an established author or if it was a fan fiction. Even Moneypenny makes an appearance in that one. It was very good.

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    1. A story about Bond at a nursing home rings a bell. Can't remember off hand, though. There are quite a few parodies out there - including some of the continuation novels, naming no names!

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  2. Yes. Fingers crossed for Horowitz's book in a few months.

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