Sunday, 17 May 2015

Shaman Bond: Simon R Green's tribute to the James Bond books

Simon R Green is a British writer responsible for an impressive number of fantasy and science fiction novels. He is well known for the Deathstalker series and Hawk and Fisher series, and, incidentally, wrote the novelisation of the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). One of his more recent set of novels is the Secret History series, which follows the adventures of Edwin Drood, also known as Shaman Bond, who, with others in his family, protects the world from supernatural and magical threats. The main character's name is not the only allusion to James Bond.

The first novel, published in 2007, was The Man with the Golden Torc, an obvious play on the title of Fleming's thirteenth book, The Man with the Golden Gun. A new novel in the series has appeared every year since, each one with a title based on the names of Fleming's novels or short stories. Daemons Are Forever was published in 2008, and was followed by The Spy Who Haunted Me (2009), which in turn was followed by From Hell with Love (2010). Then there was For Heaven's Eyes Only (2011), Live and Let Drood (2012), and Casino Infernale (2013). The last published novel was Property of a Lady Faire (2014), but From a Drood to a Kill is out in June 2015.

The last two titles indicate that the allusions are not necessarily to the Bond film series, but to Ian Fleming's work; 'The Property of a Lady' (published in 1966 in the Octopussy collection) has not yet been used as a film title, while 'From a View to a Kill' (published in For Your Eyes Only (1962)) was shortened for the film to A View To A Kill.

Remarkably, foreign-language publishers have retained – or in some cases reintroduced – the Bond link in their editions of the Secret History series. In France, for example, the second book in the series was published as Les Démons sont éternels, the French title of Diamonds Are Forever being Les Diamants sont Eternels.

In Germany, the first novel in the series, The Man with the Golden Torc, was published in 2010 under the title Wächter der Menschheit, while the second, Daemons are Forever, was published as Krieg der Wächter (2010). While these do not derive from any Bond title, the third novel saw a return to the Bond-inspired title: Der Spion, der mich jagte (2010), literally 'The spy who hunted me', and a derivation of the German title of The Spy Who Loved Me.

Since then, all German titles in the series have been based on Bond titles: Liebesgrüße aus der Hölle (From Russia, with Love, or Liebesgrüße aus Moskau, as it was in Germany), Sterben und leben lassen (Live and Let Die, or Leben und lassen Sterben), and Casino Infernal (Casino Royale just about everywhere, including Germany).

Curiously, book 5 in the series, For Heaven's Eyes Only, was not given a title based on In tödlicher Mission (For Your Eyes Only), but Ein Quantum Tod, which derives from the German title of the film Quantum of Solace (Ein Quantum Trost); the German title of the short story was originally 'Ein Minimum An Trost'. It is also notable that the first two novels have since been republished with Bond-like titles to match: Der Mann mit dem Goldenen Torques (based on Der Mann mit dem Goldenen Colt, the title that was used for the film of The Man With the Golden Gun and later adopted as the title of the novel), and Dämonenfieber (based on Diamantenfieber, the German name for Diamonds Are Forever).

The German editions have an additional Bond reference. Some of the cover artwork uses the James Bond gunbarrel image as well as other Bondian imagery (the cover art for Sterben und leben lassen, for example, includes a figure resembling Baron Samedi from the film of Live and Let Die).

The influence of James Bond is self-evident in the name of the main character in Simon R Green's Secret History series and the titles of the books. Whereas Simon R Green has turned to Fleming's work for inspiration – as seen in the use of short story titles not used for the films – the German editions have drawn more squarely on the films, as shown by the use of Ein Quantum Trost, and the use of Bondian iconography from the film series.

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