Original cover of Ian Fleming's “The Man with the Golden Gun” which was published by Jonathan Cape on April 1st 1965, 55 years ago this month. Art: Richard Chopping (1917-2008).
It has become an annual delight to discover the production of yet another of the James Bond novels by the BBC Radio Drama department. To be more accurate, the stories of Ian Fleming’s foreign intelligence agent are produced by the husband and wife team of Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres for the BBC.
This adaptation, again by Archie Scottney, is The Man With The Golden Gun. This Fleming work was published after his death and received rather lukewarm reviews. It is the novel which followed You Only Live Twice, where Bond avenged the death of his wife Tracy by killing his arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Japan.
But Bond was injured while escaping from the wrecking of Blofeld’s castle. And as he did not report back after his mission, the government declared him to be ‘Missing in Action’; presumed dead. His obituary was in fact published in the London Times. Bond had in fact survived but became afflicted by amnesia, a condition that persisted after he regained his physical health while living as a Japanese fisherman. You Only Live Twice ended with a glimmer of memory recovered: Bond’s coming across the city of Vladivostok in a newspaper triggers a yearning to go to Russia, a country with which he thinks his forgotten life history was intimately involved.
The Man With The Golden Gun takes up the story. Bond is eventually discovered and apprehended by the Soviet Secret Service which brainwashes him and programmed him to assassinate his boss, M, who in the novel has his identity revealed for the first time as Admiral Sir Miles Messervy.
Once the plot is foiled, Bond is rehabilitated and rather than face criminal charges of treason and attempted murder is, to use the words of M, “thrown back” at the Soviets by assigning him the task of neutralising Francisco Scaramanga, a fast drawing gunman who is a contract killer for his Soviet masters, and who is embarked on a nefarious enterprise involving the pro-Soviet regime of Fidel Castro which is trying to muscle out its Caribbean competitors in the sugar cane market.
Toby Stephens plays Bond in his ninth outing.
“The Man With the Golden Gun” was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, March 14th 2020.
Director: Martin Jarvis
Producer: Rosalind Ayres
Adaptor: Archie Scottney
© Adeyinka Makinde