Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Another James Bond pastiche by Sebastian Faulks

An edition of Radio 4’s literary quiz, The Write Stuff, recently broadcast on Radio 4 Extra, was of particular interest to Bond fans, as it featured Ian Fleming as its author of the week. Following the typical format of the programme, listeners were treated to the panellists’ favourite Fleming quotations, a quick-fire quiz round all about Fleming, and, at the end of the programme, the panellists having been tasked with concocting literary passages written in the style of the author, the resulting four pastiches. 

The quotations were taken from the novels From Russia, with Love, You Only Live Twice, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and a 1962 interview with Fleming in The New Yorker. I’m glad to report that I scored full marks on the quiz round. Unsurprisingly, team captain Sebastian Faulks had no difficulty either. 

As for the pastiches, the panellists had to imagine that James Bond had been turned down by the Secret Service and had resorted to a different career. For Sebastian Faulks, this was familiar territory, having already written a Bond pastiche, which imagined Bond shopping in a supermarket, in an earlier series. For his second effort (well, third, if you count Devil May Care), Faulks imagined Bond as a plumber, sent to fix the blocked sink of one Miss Sapho Crumpet and discovering the presence of a rival firm going by the name of SPECTRE – Surbiton Plumbing, Electrical, Carpentry and Roofing Experts.
 
Pistache, Faulks' 2006 collection of pastiches from The Write Stuff

Fellow panellist Mark Billingham imagined that Bond had turned to hairdressing (licensed to cut, style and blow-dry) in a pastiche that ended with a neat play on Goldfinger’s most famous line (‘No, Mr Bond, I expect you to dye’!). Natalie Haynes presented Bond as a dentist (‘Doctor? No, dentist’, Bond says to a patient), who has a licence to drill and works with a hygienist called Flossy Galore. In the final pastiche, John Walsh returned Bond to his roots, imagining Bond as an ornithologist. 

This was clever stuff, and all the pastiches were fun, but what’s interesting is that all drew, perhaps a little unimaginatively, on the Bond films of the 1960s. In three of the pastiches, dialogue by Bond was delivered in a Sean Connery-style accent, and the efforts variously referenced Dr No, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. Clearly, the memes of the early Bond films remain influential, more so, perhaps, than later entries.

At the time of writing, the Fleming edition of The Write Stuff is on the BBC’s iPlayer Radio, but not for long!

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