By Kingsley Amis as Robert Markham
UK book release this day in 1968
Kingsley Amis had written The James Bond Dossier and The Book of Bond as well as provide edits on The Man with the Golden Gun after Ian Fleming had died, so it did not seem all that fair fetched that Amis would be asked and readily accept the challenge of stepping in and continuing the James Bond story. Writing under the pseudonym Robert Markham, Colonel Sun was the first of many continuation Bond novels over the intervening decades. The UK publishing company Jonathan Cape released Amis book this day in 1968 with a cover contributed to artist Tom Adams, which is very much in the spirit of Salvador Dali’s painting titled Persistence of Memory (1931).
Ian Fleming Publications (at that time was Gildrose Productions) knew that the James Bond property was very profitable so they sought out a known author that they could commission to write a sequel. Having accepted the offer, Amis employed similar techniques that Fleming had used when writing his Bond novels. Amis drew from his travel experience by setting his story in Greece. He used the name of the boat he and his wife were on during their holiday, Bond Girl names came from friends and a family doctor becomes the doctor to Bond in an early chapter.
Amis pulled from Fleming’s prior to stories, settling on the concept of revenge. In the Fleming books, unless the movies, Bond has respect and admiration for M, which is interesting: apparently Amis did not like the character M, so in Colonel Sun, M is kidnapped. The villain, Colonel Sun Liang-tan is a nasty bit of work – a sadist and a torturer – and ushers in a new political power structure that sees Bond collaborating with the Russians, in opposition to the Chinese. Although the partnership structure has been modified, it is very similar to the dislike of the East expressed in Dr. No.
Colonel Sun did well financially and ranked very high in the bestseller lists at the time. Some critics welcomed the book and touted that Bond was back, however others were more critical and said Amis’ story paled in comparison with Fleming’s Bond stories. Even though the reviews were mixed the story was serialized in the Daily Express. The UK newspaper also ran it as a comic strip from 1969 – 1970. Titan Books, who has been reprinting those strips in omnibus volumes, reprinted this story in 2005.
Amis sought out opportunities to bring Colonel Sun to the silver screen, but ultimately was unsuccessful. That said, elements from his story have shown up in a few of the Eon Productions films. For example, the kidnapping of M happened in The World is Not Enough and Colonel Sun Liang-tan inspired Colonel Tan-Sun Moon in Die Another Day. And, Greece was used as a setting in For Your Eyes Only.
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