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Literature / The Man with the Golden Gun

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The thirteenth James Bond book by Ian Fleming, published in 1965 after his death; Fleming only got it to draft stage. Kingsley Amis was rumoured at the time to have tidied it up - in fact, Fleming's publisher had him look over it for feedback, but ultimately chose not to take any of his suggestions. For that reason it's the most bare-bones Bond novel, with far less of the kind of detail Fleming would usually insert in his second draft, and there are a number of minor continuity errors.

A year after his disappearance in the ending of the last book, Bond returns to England and makes contact with MI-6. Unfortunately, he has been brainwashed to be an assassin for the Soviet Union, and he tries to kill M. This fails, and after his recovery, Bond must prove his worth to the Secret Service by being tasked to take down one Francisco Scaramanga, a Professional Killer who is responsible for the deaths of many of Bond's fellow agents.

The story became the basis for the ninth James Bond film.

This novel has the examples of:

  • Antagonist Title: The Man With the Golden Gun is one of the nicknames that Scaramanga has accumulated over the years, and he introduces himself as such to Bond, who feigns ignorance.
  • Big Bad: Francisco Scaramanga.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Scaramanga got one of his nicknames from the gold plated .45 Peacemaker revolver that he carries. He also has a gilded derringer hidden on him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: M gets this treatment from the Soviet Union's newest assassin, James Bond. He wastes time spouting the propaganda installed in his head.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Bond starts out this way thanks to a year-long stay in Russia, and returns to London in order to carry out his handlers' mission of killing M.
  • Chained to a Railway: During Scaramanga's joyride for his guests in the railway, he tricks Bond into action by pointing out a doll on a railway, and claiming that it is Mary Goodnight.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One that ends up being so wasted as to make the reader question why it occurs. Late in the book, Bond tries to give himself an edge by secretly removing one of the rounds from Scaramanga's gun so that his first trigger pull will fall on an empty chamber (a trick similar to what Billy the Kid used to avoid murder). In the next chapter, Scaramanga uses his first shot to signal his train and is only briefly perplexed by the missing round. However, there's no mention of reloading and yet Scaramanga fires 6 shots in quick succession later, which has led to some (including William Boyd, in his introduction) missing the brief sentence indicating a dry fire and mistakenly claiming a plot hole that Fleming missed in his failing health.
  • Circus Brat: Scaramanga's parents were circus performers, and he worked both as a trick shot and an animal caretaker as a kid. His Start of Darkness happened when he shot a policeman for killing his favorite elephant when it went on a rampage.
  • Compensating for Something: M reads a psychiatric report on Scaramanga speculating that he uses a big gun because of his ambiguous sexuality.
  • Continuity Nod: After he arrives into Jamaica, Bond reminisces about his adventures in Dr. No, and wonders how Honeychile Ryder is doing (last he heard she'd married a nice doctor and had two kids). (Though Bond remembers her last name as "Wilder," possibly due to an error by Fleming.)
    • During his interrogation by the Soft Man, Bond is asked about Maria Freudenstein (mis-identified here as "Freudenstadt"), a character who figures prominently in the earlier short story "The Property of a Lady" and who is now dead.
    • He later tries to kill M using a child's water pistol filled with cyanide, an assassination method he had been reading about in "The Property of a Lady."
  • Contrived Coincidence: Kingsley Amis felt Bond's running into Scaramanga at Tiffy's brothel was contrived even by Fleming's standards, along with Scaramanga hiring him as a security man when he doesn't know him and, it transpires, doesn't need him either. Some put it down to the "first draft" nature of the manuscript, as with the Chekhov's Gun mentioned above.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Remembering how his predecessor died (shot at his desk by a rogue agent), M has a sheet of bulletproof glass installed in his office ceiling, ready to drop down if he presses a button under the arm of his chair. It saves his life when Bond tries to squirt him with cyanide.
  • Dirty Communists: One of Scaramanga's guests is a man named Hendriks, a KGB agent with whom he discusses his plans for Jamaica.
  • Electric Torture: Bond gets electroshock therapy as a deprogramming method for his brainwashing. Ultimately subverted by the addition of sodium pentothal, which allowed Bond to sleep through the process. Bond implies that this was added only fairly recently.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: When Scaramanga was still a circus brat, his elephant friend went on an amok run, and was shot by a policeman. Scaramanga then killed his first man by shooting the policeman.
  • Floral Theme Naming: Tiffy tells Bond that she is the youngest of six girls. Her mother named them all after flowers; Violet, Rose, Cherry, Pansy, and Lily. When Tiffy was born she couldn't think of another flower related name so she dubbed her "Artificial".
  • The Gunslinger: Scaramanga occasionally shows off by shooting birds and twirling his gun.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: As Bond finally has Scaramanga at his mercy, he pleads him to let him have his last prayers, which Bond does. Once he finishes, he pulls out a Derringer and shoots Bond with it. Bond quickly kills Scaramanga, but the shot puts him in the hospital.
  • The Infiltration: Thanks to finding a letter addressed to Scaramanga at the airport, Bond is able to meet him in a brothel and he ends up being hired to be his assistant to a meeting between him and some gangsters in a hotel under construction.
  • Knee-capping: It is mentioned that Scaramanga shot agent 098 through both knees, forcing him to retire from the Secret Service. He shot another one through the knees and elbows, then made the man crawl and kiss his boots before finishing him off.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Bond, while working for Scaramanga under an assumed name, introduces himself as "Hazard. Mark Hazard."
  • Obstacle Exposition: After Bond makes his presence known in England, the novel then starts detailing the inner workings of how MI-6 deals with members of the public trying to gain access to it.
  • Poisoned Weapons: The bullet in Scaramanga's golden derringer is coated with snake venom.
  • Red Right Hand: Scaramanga has a third nipple. The condition's mythic relation to sexual virility is brought up in a file on him, and he lives up to it.
  • Shout-Out: Felix Leiter at one point refers to blowing up a railroad bridge as "re-enactment of The Bridge on the River Kwai".
  • Silver Bullet: Scaramanga loads his golden revolver with dum-dum bullets having a gold core and silver jacket.
  • Take That!: Francisco Scaramanga was named after George Scaramanga, toward whom Fleming had a strong dislike during his years in Eton.
  • Take That, Audience!: Pulp adventure novels like the James Bond stories had (and have) a strong appeal to veterans and gun owners. The psychological profile of Scaramanga basically says, "If you're a gun enthusiast, even a target shooter, you've got a penis problem."
  • Triple Nipple: The dossier on Scaramanga indicates that he has one. Unlike in the movie, this does not have even the tiniest degree of effect on the plot.
  • Tuckerization:
    • Commander Ross, the Station Chief in Jamaica, was named after Alan Ross, the editor of The London Magazine, who provided Fleming with details about the effects of the electroshock therapy that Bond goes through.
    • Fleming used the name of the secretary of the Royal St George's Golf Club, Mark Nicholson, for the CIA representative at the hotel.
    • Tony Hugill, the sugar planter mentioned in the novel, was named after a member of Fleming's 30 AU unit who managed the Tate & Lyle plantations in the West Indies after the war.
  • Undignified Death: When Bond confronts Scaramanga, he accuses him of having forced one of his wounded victims to crawl over and kiss his boots before he'd finish him off.note 
  • Villainous Crush: Kingsley Amis felt that Scaramanga implausibly hiring Bond might make more sense if he was attracted to him, but it was not the sort of thing Fleming would have written. It does introduce an interesting psychosexual element to their relationship if read with that in mind, though, especially since the intimations of Depraved Bisexual are never really followed-up on otherwise.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Tiffy's actual first name is 'Artifical', because her mother was going with Floral Theme Naming, and couldn't think of another flower name when Tiffy was born.
  • William Telling: Scaramanga orders Bond to liven up the festivities after the criminal meeting. Bond then asks to borrow his golden gun, and shows off his aiming skills by shooting a pineapple worn by a singer on her head.