Tuesday, March 23, 2010

James Bond in South Africa

I recently wrote an article for The Sunday Times about a screenplay I uncovered of Ian Fleming's The Diamond Smugglers. This was a non-fiction book Fleming wrote after Diamonds Are Forever, in which he examined the illegal trade in gems around the world, and the efforts being made to stop it. Much of the book and the subsequent screenplay, by the Australian writer Jon Cleary, were set in South Africa, specifically the mysterious Skeleton Coast, a location that one can easily imagine being put to good use in a blockbuster action adventure.

I spent over two years researching The Diamond Smugglers, off and on, but before that I spent a long time researching something strangely similar: the 'lost' Bond novel Per Fine Ounce by the South African thriller-writer Geoffrey Jenkins. Don't rush to Wikipedia or even your Bond reference books: the fullest and most up-to-date information about this anywhere in the world is all in the article I'm attaching to this post, which I wrote for Issue #2 of the James Bond fan magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I also wrote a companion piece for the article, delving a little deeper into one aspect of it, for the James Bond website CommanderBond.net, and you can read that here. As all this was back in 2005/6, I think most people who were interested in buying the issue have probably done so by now, but if you would like a hard copy of this article, as well as all the others in the issue, I think you may still be able to buy a copy here - tell them I sent you! In the meantime, here's my article on Per Fine Ounce, first in text form with some different images, and then as it originally appeared in the magazine (click on the images and pages to enlarge them).

Gold Dust

In 1966, the first continuation Bond novel was commissioned. Not Colonel Sun: Per Fine Ounce. Jeremy Duns went looking for the one that got away

In the four decades since Ian Fleming’s death, a few snippets of information have cropped up that have both fascinated and frustrated Bond fans. One of these is the ‘lost novel’ Per Fine Ounce. A James Bond adventure written by a friend of Ian Fleming, the plot of which Fleming was aware of and may even have contributed to, officially commissioned but never published... Unsurprisingly, this book has become something of an Eldorado for Bond-lovers. So what was Per Fine Ounce, exactly?

Post-Fleming odyssey

After Ian Fleming’s death in 1964, British journalist John Pearson sat down to write a biography of the creator of James Bond. Pearson set about contacting as many people he could find who had known the novelist, asking for their recollections. On 6th June 1965, he wrote to Geoffrey Jenkins (below), a South African who had become friends with Fleming in the 1940s, when they had both worked at The Sunday Times.
Jenkins had returned to South Africa and become a thriller-writer – his first novel, A Twist Of Sand, published in 1959, sold three million copies worldwide.1 Fleming thought highly of it: “Geoffrey Jenkins has the supreme gift of originality,” he wrote in The Sunday Times. “A Twist of Sand is a literate, imaginative first novel in the tradition of high and original adventure”.2 In 1962, Fleming reviewed Jenkins’ third novel A Grue Of Ice, also for The Sunday Times. Comparing him favourably to John Buchan, Hammond Innes and Geoffrey Household, he concluded that Jenkins was “in the ranks of the great adventure writers”.3

It’s not surprising that Fleming was such an admirer of Jenkins’ work – in many ways it was similar to his own. This was noted by other publications: Books and Bookmen felt Jenkins’ style combined “the best of Nevil Shute and Ian Fleming”,4 while The Times Literary Supplement wrote: “Ian Fleming is Geoffrey Jenkins’ spiritual headmaster and Mr Jenkins stands in the not unenviable position of being Mr Fleming’s most brilliant pupil”.5 When he received Pearson’s first letter in 1965, Fleming’s pupil had four best-sellers under his belt – he would go on to write twelve more.

On 24th September 1965, Jenkins sent an eight-page type-written reply to Pearson, in which he recounted his memories of Fleming, who he had met while he was on Lord Kemsley’s Commonwealth Scholarship scheme:
“Later Lord Kemsley himself asked me to stay on and gave me a job in the Foreign Department, of which Fleming was the head.”
Jenkins relates how Fleming took him out to lunch early on in the job, he suspects out of duty, but that they quickly became friends: “In the next eighteen months or so he had introduced me to many leading London clubs.” According to Jenkins, Fleming was, unlike Bond, “essentially an introvert”; nevertheless, he was surprised, on meeting his old friend for lunch at The Caprice in London in 1961, when they had both become best-selling authors, that Fleming was full of doubts about his creation:
“Fleming was gloomy; publishing and film worries were in his mind; he was searching for a theme for his next Bond, which was due the following spring, nine months away. ‘I have created a monster,’ he told me. ‘I have written every permutation of sex and sadism, and still the public wants more? What shall I write about?’”
The result was The Spy Who Loved Me. But despite Fleming’s dark mood, something triggered off the old spark between the two:
“In a moment we were kicking around – in a light-hearted, gay mood, completely in contrast to that of a few minutes before – the idea of making Bond a necrophile. Both of us threw our ideas into the melting-pot as they were minted; scene after scene built up, each more hilarious than the last, each more censorious than the last, until we found that most of the afternoon was gone and that we were the only diners left, with waiters standing by in patient protest: something which had happened many times before in the Fleet Street days.”
In the next paragraph, Jenkins drops a bombshell. A few years before the Caprice lunch, he and Fleming had kicked around ideas about Bond altogether more seriously:
“I tried very hard to get him to come out to South Africa to write a James Bond set in this country. Twice he nearly came. I wrote him the outline of a plot which he thought had great possibilities (this was before A Twist of Sand) bringing in a secret/spy escape route through a magic lake named Fundudzi in the Northern Transvaal, towards Mozambique. ‘I must know how everything smells, tastes and looks for myself in South Africa,’ he wrote to me. ‘Without them, it is not for me.’ On both occasions when he decided to come and see for himself, something arose and he postponed it.”
Jenkins goes on to discuss Fleming’s views on writing thrillers: expertise was essential, and could almost over-rule the need for a decent plot (Fleming apparently felt his own plots were thin). Jenkins says that at one of their last meetings Fleming had told him that he felt success had sapped him of energy and creativity, and also reveals that the writer’s favourite city had been Hong Kong, on account of its vibrancy.

In his covering note for the letter, Jenkins asked Pearson if his Bond outline was in Fleming’s papers, as he seemed to have mislaid it. “It ran to about 25 pages of typescript, and [Fleming] was pretty keen on it.”

On 1st October 1965, Pearson replied, thanking Jenkins for his “splendid letter”, which he had enjoyed hugely – especially the idea of making Bond a necrophile: “he would have done it so well, too”. He added that he had found Jenkins’ Bond outline, and asked if he should send it to him. “Perhaps you should write it yourself now?”

Jenkins replied on 6th October 1965, saying that he would appreciate seeing the outline again:
“Ian was very keen on it, as I mentioned, and we discussed it verbally at length and made quite a few changes. I know what was in his mind for it and the approach he contemplated.”
He ends the letter by saying he will be in London in November – “perhaps we could meet?” The two men met up on 2nd November 1965; the next day, Pearson wrote to Jenkins:
“I did enjoy meeting you last night, although I meant to buy you the whisky. You must let me do so properly before you go back to the sun.
I hope that you write that book. Just reading your synopsis through I can understand why Ian got so excited about it, and you can’t possibly allow such magnificent material to go to waste. Gold bicycle chains and baobab wood coffins. What else can the Bond-lover ask for?
All best wishes,
John Pearson."
A Deal, Mr Jenkins?

Later that same November, Jenkins met with Charles Tyrrell of Glidrose Productions Limited, the corporate owners of the James Bond literary copyright and Bond film co-producer, Harry Saltzman, at Bucklersbury House in London to discuss the idea of him developing his outline into a book.6 Glidrose were already considering commissioning ‘continuation’ Bond novels,7 so they may have been intrigued by the idea that a friend of Fleming’s, and a best-selling thriller-writer to boot, had written a plot for a Bond novel that Fleming had apparently considered writing himself*. The fact that John Pearson had found the outline in Fleming’s papers proved Fleming had known about it – and had taken it seriously enough to keep it.

Jenkins’ ideas certainly sound like promising material for a Bond adventure. Fundudzi is a real lake in the Zoutpansberg Region of South Africa; hidden in a valley, locals believe it is sacred and enchanted. A white crocodile and a huge python are said to live in the lake, guarding its ancestral spirits. Jenkins’ 1973 novel A Cleft Of Stars is set in the region:
“It is primarily the home of the grotesque baobab trees, whose bulbous, purple-hued trunks reel across the arid landscape like an army of drunken Falstaffs, blown and dropsied with stored water…”8
Baobab trees are also seen as sacred in many parts of Africa, and are sometimes used as coffins: the bodies of important individuals are placed in a hollowed-out baobab trunk to symbolise the communion between the forces of the plant gods and the body of the deceased.9

Precisely what Jenkins had planned for the baobab coffins and gold bicycle chains is a mystery, but his pitch must have worked: Jenkins felt that Tyrrell and Saltzman were both very keen on the idea.10

Negotiations over the contract took months. Jenkins wanted his regular publisher Collins, rather than Cape, the Bond books’ usual home; and Fleming’s widow, Ann, became perturbed about the issue of “the original copyright” – “whatever that means,” Jenkins wrote.11

On 12th May 1966, Glidrose cabled Jenkins to tell him that they had agreed to grant him permission to write the book, and would get the contract drawn up with his London solicitors, Harbottle and Lewis.12 However, it wasn’t until 24th August 1966 that Harbottle and Lewis sent Jenkins a contract – and even this looks like it was not the final version. The covering letter mentions that Glidrose were making noises about adding a clause stating that Jenkins would not be entitled to profits from merchandising related to any film of his novel. The contract in Jenkins’ papers is undated and unsigned, but does contain such a clause. It seems likely that in the autumn of 1966, Glidrose and Jenkins’ solicitors wrangled over the small print. The contract we have states that Jenkins would be paid £5,000 on signing the contract and £5,000 on publication of the novel. He would also be entitled to half of Glidrose’s 2.5-percent share of global profits of any film or serial adaptation (excepting merchandising). He had six months to write the manuscript, which had to be at least 65,000 words long. He was to send four copies of the finished draft to Glidrose, but there was a clause giving them the right to refuse to publish if they saw fit.

Enter Amis

Jenkins was not the only iron Glidrose had in the fire, however: Kingsley Amis was approached at least five months before Jenkins was sent his contract. Alarmed by several attempts to publish unlicensed Bond novels, the estate had decided to enter the fray by commissioning an official new Bond writer, and Amis was one of the authors under consideration.13 He was an obvious candidate: as well as being one of Britain’s most respected novelists, Amis was a self-confessed "Fleming addict".14 Since Fleming’s death, he had proof-read The Man With The Golden Gun (15) and published two books about Bond (The James Bond Dossier and Every Man His Own 007, the latter under the pseudonym Bill Tanner).

Ann Fleming was “violently against” the idea of a continuation novel, and of Amis writing it, but Ian’s eldest brother and Glidrose director Peter Fleming (left) was in favour and he eventually won her round.16 On March 15th, 1966, he wrote a letter to her that concluded:
“As you know, I was originally less than lukewarm towards the idea of a Continuation Bond; but, having seen more of the ramifications and repercussions of this extraordinary market, I now feel strongly that the right thing to do is to tell Kingsley Amis to go ahead.”17
According to Peter Fleming’s biographer Duff Hart-Davis, Glidrose were “forced” to commission Jenkins as he had “claimed in a letter to the board that his would be the only true continuation, because he had written the outline of the plot (set in South Africa) at Ian’s request, and Ian had seen it and ‘indeed was most enthusiastic about it.’”18

This suggests that Jenkins may have been aware he was not the only writer being considered. It seems he became impatient with the amount of time it was taking for permission to be granted him, and told Glidrose he would write the book anyway. As Jenkins had letters from Fleming’s biographer praising his synopsis and confirming that it had been in Fleming’s possession, he might have been much harder to stop than the pirates the continuation idea was meant to suppress. Perhaps for this reason, Glidrose granted him permission to write the book, but kept the right to refuse publication.

Licence Revoked

When Jenkins submitted Per Fine Ounce – probably in early 1967 – they exercised that right of refusal. Despite an exhaustive search of Jenkins’ papers with the help of his son David, a small army of archivists and even a psychic, nothing of the final draft of Per Fine Ounce has yet been discovered. Four pages of an earlier draft of the novel have come to light, however.

The pages are numbered 86, 87, 88 and 89. Each contains numerous handwritten corrections and additions in the margin, and has one faint diagonal pencil mark through it. Jenkins may have later decided to abandon the scene, or end it differently, or (perhaps most likely) the pages were simply typed up again with all the corrections added, a clean proof to be copied and sent to Glidrose.

The scene takes place in M’s office. Present are M, Bond and a financier called Sir Benjamin. Page 86 starts in the middle of a discussion between the three men:
‘“Expensive powder-puff – £137 millions,” said M.

Bond argued on. “This gas cylinder business wasn’t big enough to kill the pound. It was bound to be discovered. I say it was meant to be discovered…”’
In the first page and a half, Bond argues that an incident with some gas cylinders that M and Sir Benjamin feel was designed to knock the rate of the pound was merely a smokescreen, and that some gold flights from South Africa are someone’s or some organisation’s real target. Sir Benjamin admits that if the gold flights were downed, it would “send sterling for the count”. Much discussion ensues about these gold flights, which are due to travel from Luanda to London via Angola and Las Palmas, helped along by CIA surveillance, American fighter planes from their base on Ascension Island and nuclear subs carrying surface-to-air missiles. ‘“Finger-on-the-tit stuff,”’ Bond murmurs.

Bond wants to return to South Africa (where, it seems, the cylinder incident took place), and have another look at the situation. M thinks this would be a waste his time, and refuses to authorise it – it’s “outside the province of the 00 Section”. Then it really heats up:
‘Bond stood up, looking down from across the desk into the old sailor’s face. “I’m sorry, sir.”

M put down his pipe. “Sorry about what, 007?” The voice was ominous.

“In just over two months, this department won’t exist,” he said. As he did so, he regretted the pain he saw in the face of the man whom he admired above anyone he knew. “You recalled me because the Treasury wanted help. Fair enough. But do you think you’ll get any more than an appreciative minute for today’s discovery? Do you really think they’ll reprieve your department because of a couple of piddling things like soda-water syphon cylinders?”
“I am ordering you, 007.” Bond heard the sharp intake of breath from Sir Benjamin behind him.
“And I,” said Bond, “Am – for once – refusing that order…”’
Bond uses an extended gambling metaphor to argue his case – there are references to chemin de fer, and “the click of the chips, the silver chandeliers and the quiet monotones of the croupiers” - and concludes: “It’s the man who has the nerve to climb in when the Casino tries to keep him away who breaks the bank”. M says that Bond has done that many times in the past and Bond says yes, he has – “But I did it for your department.” When Sir Benjamin asks Bond if he intends to back no more than a hunch, Bond replies: “To the point of resigning.”

As the excerpt – and the chapter – ends, a VC10 takes off to South Africa and we learn that “James Bond, for the first time, was going on a mission without the blessing of M.”

The scene itself is expository – the usual Bond and M in the office set-up – and such scenes are rarely exciting. However, it’s clear from these pages that Jenkins knew Bond. This wasn’t just a friend of Ian Fleming’s who wrote thrillers – he was clearly a Bond aficionado. This is evident in Bond’s voice, the descriptions of M, and the general atmosphere. Aside from a few typos and the odd clumsy phrase, it feels like it could be an excerpt from a Fleming Bond novel. It is also ahead of its time: at least 14 years before John Gardner's Licence Renewed, Jenkins had the idea of disbanding the Double 0 Section, and 22 years before the film Licence to Kill, Bond went rogue.

The plot thickens

So why was the book rejected? According to Peter Janson-Smith, Ian Fleming’s literary agent and former chairman of Glidrose, Per Fine Ounce was rejected on the grounds that it wasn’t up to par. “Frankly, I thought it was extraordinarily badly written.”19

This seems at odds with the standard of the four draft pages and the four best-sellers Jenkins had published before 1966, two of which Ian Fleming had praised highly. “There was a rumour going round that Jenkins was very good at creating plots but wasn't much of a writer, and that he had an editor at Collins who wrote his books up,” said Janson-Smith. “When I read his Bond story, I could believe that rumour. It just wasn't good enough.”

Jenkins was a close friend of his publisher Sir Billy Collins, and sometimes took advice on small points from him (in much the same way Fleming did from William Plomer), but there is no evidence in Jenkins’ notes, correspondence or drafts that Collins or anyone else was effectively writing his books on his behalf. Even if the rumour were true, Jenkins’ previous books had all been best-sellers: did nobody consider editing Per Fine Ounce in the same way? Janson-Smith said he felt no editing could have saved the novel, but added: “Possibly we were a little stricter with [continuation novels] in those days.”

Janson-Smith had a vague recollection that the book had had “something to do with gold” – and that the plot had been “rather good”. He said Ann Fleming had not been involved in its rejection – “she played no part in editorial decisions”. And he had one other twist to the tale: he didn’t believe that Glidrose (or Ian Fleming Publications, as the company is now called) would still have a copy of the book. “They would have returned it to him,” he said firmly. This was because of the problem of plagiarism. Even while Fleming was alive, unsolicited typescripts had poured in to Glidrose – the standard practice was to return them, for fear of being sued later. As Glidrose didn’t think Jenkins’ novel was good enough to publish, Janson-Smith suggested, they would have no reason to keep it – and good reason to send it back, to help ensure that Jenkins didn’t sue them for any similarities in any subsequent continuations. “They would have sent a note saying the story was his to use again, but he just wouldn't be able to use Bond, M and so on.”

Indeed, the version of the contract Glidrose sent Jenkins that is now stored in his papers included just such a clause:
”If the New Bond Book offered by Glidrose for publication hereunder is rejected by Glidrose nothing herein contained shall prevent Geoffrey Jenkins from using elsewhere any part or the whole of the plot of such rejected New Bond Book and any of the characters appearing therein other than James Bond and the Bond characters.”
It seems likely that Jenkins would have wanted to take Glidrose up on this. Writing a novel is no easy business, and why waste a plot you have already worked out? Many of Jenkins’ books have similarities to and echoes of Fleming’s work – could one of them be a reworked Per Fine Ounce? John Pearson was, unfortunately, unable to remember anything specific about the book, and had no firm memories of his correspondence and meeting with Jenkins in 1965.20

Some writers have speculated that the plot was about diamond-smuggling.21 This is possible but, in the draft pages at least, it is about gold. Added to this are Jenkins’ references to gold bicycle chains, Peter Janson-Smith’s vague memory of “something to do with gold”, and that “per fine ounce” is a common abbreviation of “per Troy fine ounce”, the standard unit of weight for gold. The standard unit of weight for diamonds is the carat. (Carats are also used for gold, as in “24 carats”; this refers to the proportion of gold in an alloy, rather than the weight, and is now spelled “karat” in some countries to avoid confusion.)22

Jenkins’ 1983 novel The Unripe Gold is about another precious metal: iridium. Set in the diamond mining town of Oranjemund in south-west Africa, it features a crazed German scientist who has discovered a ton of the extremely rare metal, which he intends to use to tip the balance of the Cold War. As in Fleming's Thunderball, a group of terrorists masquerade as prospectors. The town is protected by a Major Rive, the head of a security service employed by Consolidated Diamond Mines.23 As a terrorist approaches the town’s perimeter fence, the guard on duty mistakes him for Rive:
“What was bugging him tonight? Sneezer asked himself. Maybe one of his hunches – and no one could deny that on a famous occasion Major Rive’s hunch had paid off when there had been a James Bond attempt to land a plane upcoast and fly out a parcel of stolen diamonds.”24
[Editorial note May 3 2010: This seems to be a reference to an incident described by Ian Fleming in The Diamond Smugglers, which was also used as the basis for the pretitles sequence of a screenplay adaptation of that book by the Australian writer Jon Cleary in 1964. See my article in The Sunday Times of March 7 2010. JD]

In several of Jenkins’ novels, the protagonists are ruthless Brits with naval backgrounds. A Cleft Of Stars’ Guy Bowker has had commando training and served in the Royal Navy in World War Two, while Ian Ogilvie, the hero of The Watering Place of Good Peace (1960), is a Scot who was crippled by a shark, also while in the Royal Navy. He joins an organisation constructing anti-shark barriers “a fast car, a pretty girl, and half a dozen drinks” after his accident.25

The clearest echo of Bond, however, is Geoffrey Peace, the debonair and cruel-mouthed hero of A Twist Of Sand (1959) and Hunter-Killer (1966). The latter was the first novel Jenkins wrote after Fleming’s death, and includes a wry and touching tribute to his old friend. Published a year before the release of the film You Only Live Twice, the book opens with a scuba-suited Peace being buried at sea with full naval honours in the Seychelles, following a heart attack. The event is witnessed by John Garland (note the reversed initials), an old friend of Peace’s who disapproves of the glare of publicity the burial is receiving, and is saddened that his friend died in a way unfitting for someone who had lived such an adventurous life.

Garland watches the steel coffin being fired from a British destroyer's depth-charge mortar in the company of Peace’s former boss, the Director of Naval Intelligence. Ian Fleming, of course, had been personal assistant to the DNI in World War Two. Jenkins couldn’t bring back his friend in reality, but he could in fiction, and he does so in Fleming’s own style: in the next scene Peace appears, alive and well, and wryly asks Garland to fix him a drink. Over an elaborate meal, the burial is revealed to be a hoax by the DNI to persuade the CIA and others that Peace is dead so he can embark on a secret mission involving the launch of a missile into space. Later in the novel, Peace introduces himself as “Peace – Commander Geoffrey Peace”.26

Jenkins’ novels often feature tough men scrabbling for a prize across harsh terrain – in Africa, the ocean or, particularly effectively in A Grue Of Ice (1962), Antarctica. None, however, feature Lake Fundudzi, gold flights, attempts to kill the pound or gas cylinders. Of them all, I think A Cleft Of Stars gives the best sense of what a Jenkins Bond novel might have been like. It shares an antecedent with Diamonds Are Forever: both books owe a debt to John Buchan’s 1910 adventure Prester John, which concerns the tracking down of an illicit diamond pipeline in Africa. A Cleft Of Stars, which involves both diamonds and gold, is set in precisely the same region of South Africa as Jenkins’ Bond outline from the ’50s; the main character even spends some time hiding out in a hollowed-out baobab tree. It’s a superb thriller: the descriptions of landscape and physical discomfort – Jenkins’ trademarks – are exceptionally vivid and well drawn, and the tension builds to a highly Bond-like conclusion. Like many of Jenkins’ novels, it would make a terrific film.

Jenkins was attracted to many of the same subjects as Fleming. Natural oddities abound in his work, as in A Twist of Sand, in which two characters see a ‘double-sun’, a phenomenon that had been recorded by meteorologists in 1957. He was fascinated by real-life mysteries: Scend of The Sea involves the search for the Waratah, a ship that sank without trace in 1909. Jenkins’ villains also feel of the same stamp as Fleming’s: A Cleft Of Stars’ Doctor Manfred von Praeger keeps a hyena for a pet, while in A Grue Of Ice, Carl Pirow is called The Man With The Immaculate Hand on account of an uncanny ability to imitate the fist of any ship’s radio transmission. Jenkins’ novels were meticulously researched, and packed with just the kind of schemes and scrapes Fleming loved. Fleming was right – Jenkins was a great adventure writer.

How to square that assessment with Glidrose’s decision not to publish? Times, and attitudes, change: due to the enormous cultural influence of Fleming’s creation, it’s easy to forget that his novels were unusually digressive, leisurely and stylised in comparison to other thrillers of the time. Geoffrey Jenkins wrote straightforward adventure novels, sometimes short on style but always long on atmosphere and suspense. In the immediate wake of Fleming’s death, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Glidrose weren’t keen – especially as a writer of the literary stature of Kingsley Amis was also interested in tackling Bond.

Final draft

We don’t know how Jenkins reacted to Per Fine Ounce’s rejection - his son says he was very much “a closed shop” when it came to his professional life. Jenkins continued to write best-sellers, though, and the film world soon spotted his potential: A Twist of Sand was released by United Artists in 1968, directed by Don Chaffey (pictured). Richard Johnson – who had been Terence Young’s favourite to play James Bond (27) - starred as Commander Geoffrey Peace, alongside Honor Blackman and Guy Doleman. Geoffrey Jenkins died in 2001, aged 81.

Could Per Fine Ounce have been a cracking Bond adventure? Jenkins’ published novels and the four draft pages strongly suggest it might have been – but it may also have needed a sensitive editor to bring in some of Fleming’s literary flair, an idea that would probably not have been attractive at the time. We may never know. David Jenkins is mystified as to why the manuscript of Per Fine Ounce is not in his father’s papers: “My dad kept everything.” Indeed, his papers include notes and drafts of all his novels, newspaper clippings, maps, pamphlets, publicity material, photographs, invitations to award ceremonies and hundreds of letters – even correspondence regarding a desk he commissioned. But, aside from the four draft pages, nothing more about Bond or Ian Fleming. We only have Geoffrey Jenkins’ word that Ian Fleming approved of his story and contributed his own ideas to it – without the correspondence between the two men, it is impossible to gauge the exact extent of their collaboration, beyond the fact that Fleming had the outline. It may be that Jenkins destroyed the manuscript of Per Fine Ounce, or kept that and all his other Bond-related material in some place as yet unknown. For the moment, the search has been called off.

John Pearson’s The Life Of Ian Fleming was published in 1966. The book ended with Fleming’s death, making no mention of Per Fine Ounce. In his initial letter to Geoffrey Jenkins of 6th June 1965, Pearson had said his deadline for the book was Christmas of that year – as Jenkins did not get the go-ahead for his novel until August 1966 at the earliest, it may be that Pearson decided not to mention the book in case it did not pan out (as, indeed, it did not). In the introduction to the 2003 reprinting of the biography, Pearson wrote that some new information had come to light since 1966, but that on balance he stood by his original assessment.28

By May 1967, Amis had finished writing Colonel Sun (cartoon, left, is from the May 3 1967 issue of Punch, responding to the official announcement that Amis would write a Bond adventure).29 The book was published the following year, and James Bond continuation novels have continued in some form since. But one can always wonder about what might have been. Jenkins’ novels are all out of print now, but are easily found in second-hand bookstores and online. Why not try a couple – and then imagine the same author, who knew Fleming and his books well, writing a book about James Bond on a mission in South Africa, having handed in his resignation to M... And who knows? Perhaps, at the bottom of a drawer somewhere, this lost piece of Bond history is gathering dust – Eldorado may just be waiting to be discovered.

With many thanks to: Dave Jenkins and family, Cecilia Blight and Ann Torlesse of the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa, Maria Morelli and Michael Lynch of Boston University, Rebecca Cape at The Lilly Library, Indiana University, John Pearson, Peter Janson-Smith and Evan Willnow.

For more information about Geoffrey Jenkins, and a full list of his work, see http://www.geoffrey-jenkins.co.za/.


1. Master of the adventure yarn passes on, Daily Dispatch, South Africa, 15.11.2001.
2. http://www.geoffrey-jenkins.co.za/
3. Front and back covers of the 1966 Fontana edition.
4. Quoted in the back pages of several Jenkins novels: see, for example, p223, Fontana, 1975.
5. John Pearson begun his first letter to Geoffrey Jenkins (6.6.1965): ‘Dear Mr Jenkins, I worked with Ian at Kemsley’s some time after you, and so made contact with the same spiritual headmaster, but never with the depth and success you seem to have done…’ In his reply of 24.09.1965, Jenkins quoted the part of the TLS review reproduced here.
6, 10, 11. Letter to Stanley Gorrie (Jenkins’ accountant), 22.03.1966. Jenkins refers to the novel as Per Fine Ounce in this letter.
7, 13, 16, 17, 18. pp374-5, Peter Fleming: A Biography by Duff Hart Davis, Oxford University Press, 1987.
8. p20 A Cleft Of Stars, Fontana, 1975.
9. p170 Sacred Trees by Nathaniel Altman, Sterling, 2000.
12. Letter to Stanley Gorrie, 13.05.1965.
14. Letter from Amis to Victor Gollancz on 1.05.1964, p677 The Letters of Kingsley Amis edited by Zachary Leader, Miramax Books, 2001.
15. It has been rumoured that Amis wrote or rewrote parts of this novel, but his letter to Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape of 05.10.1964 (pp685-6, Leader) makes it clear he was simply asked to proof-read it.
19. This and subsequent quotes from interview with Janson-Smith, 25.02.2005.
20. Interviews with Pearson, 25.02.2005 and 28.08.2005.
21. For example, p433 The Bond Files by Anthony Lane and Paul Simpson, 3rd Edition, 2002, Virgin Books. One possible reason for the confusion might be that the only two books Fleming wrote that featured Africa were Diamonds Are Forever and The Diamond Smugglers.
22. p104 Precious Stones by Max Bauer, Dover, 1968, and p21 CRC Handbook of Materials Science edited by Charles T Lynch, 1988.
23. A similar job to Percy Sillitoe’s for De Beers, both in real life and in Diamonds Are Forever.
24. p212 The Unripe Gold, Fontana, 1973.
25. p25 The Watering Place of Good Peace, Fontana, 1974.
26. p86 Hunter-Killer, Fontana, 1973.
27. Dana Broccoli interview on Inside Dr No, written and directed by John Cork, 2000.
28. p8, Introduction, The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson, Aurum Press, 2003.
29. Amis letter to Philip Larkin, 21.05.1967, p712 Leader.

* This sentence read as follows in the original KKBB article in 2005 (reproduced below): 'Glidrose were already considering commissioning ‘continuation’ Bond novels, so a friend of Fleming’s, and a best-selling thriller-writer to boot, appearing with a plot that Fleming had apparently considered writing himself must have seemed like a gift.' I amended it in this version on July 5 2010, because there is no evidence that it 'must' have seemed like a gift to Glidrose. My thanks to John Cork for pointing this out.

The Jenkins sweep
What might the rest of Per Fine Ounce have been like? Here’s a small flavour of ‘Fleming-esque’ passages from Geoffrey Jenkins’ novels:

‘I looked at her, the face framed by the black leather helmet and its intercom wires. The eyes were the strangest and most beautiful I had ever seen. They were the colour of the sea, I thought. Later, I knew they were not. Like the South African flower which has no colour in itself, but takes its turquoise from the refraction of white light within its own heart, so hers reflected what she was seeing – the sea, and the angry storm. Her pupils were like the central spot of that same strange flower, almost green-black by virtue of some other intriguing juxtaposition of fabric and light.’
From A Grue Of Ice (1962)

‘Deeply keeled serried lines of enormous dunes, some of them a thousand feet high, ran north-eastwards in an eccentric, rock-ribbed agglomeration… Under the vertical eye-glare of the sun the enclaves and divides of the dunes were indistinguishable from their doppelganger shadows, eaten away as canker devours the pearly-white mouth of the puff adder.’
From The River of Diamonds (1964)

‘The varra-varra was served with a beurre vert in tiny flat wicker baskets on a bed of fern-like langue de vache: the turtle steaks were sweated in butter with a thickish sauce of coconut flour flavoured with sherry. The wine was a favourite of Peace’s, a superb South African Bellingham Grand Crû served in an “ice bucket” made from the famous double coconut-shells of the Seychelles…’
From Hunter-Killer (1966)

‘I did not spot the whip-like tail and clutching claws until they were within six inches of my face. A four-inch scorpion reached out inquiringly and its pincers caressed my cheek. They felt closer, more inquisitively, and I could not suppress a shiver. The sting whipped to the ready in a tight arc while I held my breath to deaden all movement, for I knew that when it struck I would not be able to resist the agony, which would jerk my head back and the movement would be seen.’
From A Cleft Of Stars (1973)

‘They lay in the deep concealing shadow of the parade-ground wall. On the other side of it, four naval versions of Reutemann’s Ka-25 stood on the helipad with men pumping fuel into them. Reutemann’s own machine was parked to one side, the ugly twin Shvak cannon projecting from the nose turret like menacing antennae. Four trucks, each with a distinctive grey-white boulder of iridium, stood waiting for the aircraft to be serviced.
The final phase of Operation Rainbow was about to begin…’
From The Unripe Gold (1983)


  1. Honestly , the best article ever printed in that publication. Simply riveting

  2. Thanks very much, Kevin. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Hi there. Great article you have written, but I cannot seem to enlarge the first page. Are you able to help out please?

  4. Thanks. How very odd. It worked before. I'm a bit busy now, but I'll rescan that page when get a moment and put it back up.

  5. Thanks for your kind attention, Jeremy. :>)

  6. Works like a dream.

    Thanks muchly, Jeremy.