The Man With The Golden Gun

Ian Fleming’s last full-length novel was published the year after his death. As was his custom he wrote the first draft while in Jamaica but cut down on his daily word count because of increasing ill health.

The Man With The Golden Gun Cover

Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date:
 1st April 1965
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Richard Chopping

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The novel had yet to go through Fleming’s usual rewriting and editing process during which much of the detail would be added. And before he died, Fleming had raised concerns about the quality of what he had written. When it was examined after his death, the story was found to be lacking.

Prior to publication the manuscript of  The Man With The Golden Gun handed to Kingsley Amis for his opinion. Amis’s theory was that a substantial portion of the book had been removed by the author, rendering the character of Scaramanga, the villain, to be little more than an outline. However, there is no evidence that Amis amended the manuscript in any significant way, as has been sometimes claimed.

The Man With The Golden Gun starts with James Bond returning to London after going missing at the end of You Only Live Twice, and now presumed dead. Suffering from amnesia, he had gone to Vladivostok, where he was captured and brainwashed to kill M. After being deprogrammed, Bond is sent to the Caribbean to kill Francisco Scaramanaga, AKA the man with the golden gun.

What we say

The opening is another departure for Fleming and is effective at setting up where Bond’s head is at. After being deprogrammed he is very much himself again, although watching his intake of drink and cigarettes. The plot is fairly low key, with Bond sent to the Caribbean to track down Scaramanga and kill him. Luckily it turns out that he is in Jamaica and despite his ill health, Fleming’s love for Jamaica shines through.

After tracking the gangster down, Bond finds himself employed by him as he hosts a shareholders’ meeting with numerous gangs as well as the Bond’s old rivals, the KGB. While the plot lacks the high stakes of some of the other books, The Man With The Golden Gun still has numerous memorable scenes and, like Diamonds Are Forever, features a private railway.

Friends & foes

Mary Goodnight is a loyal and resourceful member of the British Secret Service who serves as Bond’s trusted ally throughout The Man with the Golden Gun, providing him with critical intelligence and support.

Felix Leiter has once again been recalled by the CIA and is working at the Thunderbird hotel as “Mr Travis” for the manager, Nick Nicholson, also CIA. After making contact with Bond, Leiter offers his assistance and expertise to Bond, reinforcing their long running friendship.

Francisco Scaramanga is a notorious assassin and Bond’s primary enemy. The eponymous antagonist of the novel is a highly skilled marksman with a reputation for ruthlessness, posing a significant threat to Bond and his mission.


After Bond’s thwarted assassination attempt, M heads to Blades for his “usual meagre luncheon” of grilled Dover sole followed by Stilton. Unusually though he orders a bottle of “the Infuriator”, which we were first introduced to in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s an Algerian red that is stocked specifically for M and not on the club’s  wine list.

Weeks later, after his Russian brainwashing has been undone, Bond is in the Caribbean in search of Scaramanga. While awaiting a connecting flight in Jamaica, he learns the hitman is on the island and calls the local Secret Service office to arrange a few things. He is surprised and delighted when Mary Goodnight answers the phone and invites her to dinner that night at Morgan’s Harbour.

Bond has a double Walker’s deluxe bourbon on the rocks at the bar of his hotel and watches the pelicans diving for fish. He’s taking it easy after the shock treatment and cut down on alcohol and cigarettes, so when he orders another drink, it is with a water chaser. When Bond asks the owner to put aside two lobsters, he volunteers to put a bottle of champagne on ice too. The lobsters are to be served broiled with melted butter and a pot of foie gras.

Goodnight orders daiquiri when she arrives, while Bond guiltily goes for another bourbon. Although rationing his drink, Bond decides the champagne they have with their meal doesn’t count.

The following day Bond drives to Savanna la Mar, where he is hoping to encounter Scaramanga at a house of ill repute located at 3½ Love Lane. He goes into the the Dreamland Café, which is attached to the brothel, and orders a Red Stripe from Tilly, the girl managing the establishment. While feeding ginger cakes to her two “kling-klings” – Jamaican grackles – Scaramanga walks in. A clearly nervous Tilly tells Bond to keep his mouth shut around the hitman, and offers him another beer. When Scaramanga shoots the two birds head with his “gold-plated, long-barrelled, single-action Colt .45” Tiffy grabs Bond’s empty bottle and hurls it at Scaramanga. Bond empties his glass.

Initially Scaramanga suspects Bond of being a policeman, but he calms down when Bond explains that he works in private security and asks Tiffy to bring them more beer. When she brings it Scaramanga gives her a $100 bill to buy new birds. And soon Bond is hired by Scaramanga to act as security during a “shareholders meeting” at the Thunderbird Hotel in Negril under his cover name, Mark Hazard.

Soon after arriving at the hotel Bond orders a bottle of Walker’s deluxe bourbon with three glasses and ice, along with eggs Benedict to be delivered at 9 pm. By the time he has showered the bourbon has arrived – “The best drink in the day is just before the first one (the Red Stripe didn’t count)”, Fleming tells us. Bond pours three fingers of bourbon over ice then sits by the open window and swallows the drink in “two long draughts”. He refills his glass with more ice for a weaker drink with which to think about his mission. The reason for asking for three glasses to be delivered to his room? Prior to bed, Bond balances the glasses on his upended suitcase just inside the door to wake him in case anyone enters during the night.

Arriving in the hotel bar the following day around noon, most of the “shareholders” drink champagne. The bar is “a mock-English public-house saloon bar” with silver tankards and decorated with hunting prints and brass accessories. Bond is introduced to everyone and instructed to “pass round the canapes”. He has a pink gin made with Beefeater and “plenty of bitters” and talks to a certain Mr Hendriks. Bond pegs the Schweppes Bitter Lemon-drinking Hendriks as a KGB agent and not a Dutch businessman as he claims.

Scaramanga instructs Bond to remain outside the conference room and make sure no one enters during his meeting with the six “shareholders”. Bond locks both the door of the conference room and the one leading to the lobby, then uses a champagne glass to eavesdrop on the meeting. When he hears movement he quickly moves his chair away from the door and pretends to sip from the glass.

After Scaramanga re-enters the meeting, Bond hears Hendriks telling them about a British secret agent “that is called James Bond that is looking for [Scaramanga] in this territory”. When Bond hears the meeting breaking for lunch, he tops up his glass. “Okay, fellow. I guess that’s enough of the house champagne”, Scaramanga tells him when he emerges.

Returning to his room after lunch, Bond has two “heavy slugs of bourbon”, a cold shower and a nap. Dinner turns out to be “less stuffy than luncheon” and all but Hendriks and Scaramanga are pretty drunk. He notices they all seem to be avoiding him after being “dealt the death card by the boss”. The meal is “the conventional ‘expensive’ dinner of a cruise ship” –  “desiccated” smoked salmon with a thimbleful of black caviar, fillets of some native fish in a cream sauce, poulet suprême (“a badly roasted broiler with a thick gravy”), and bombe surprise for dessert.

When Bond decides to go to bed Scaramanga tells him “make it go better” if he’s bored. Borrowing Scaramanga’s golden gun, he shoots a decorative pineapple off the singer’s head. Afterwards he hands her a hundred dollar bill.  He tells then band leader “I’ll be sending plenty of rum over to loosen things up”, adding “Smoke weed if you like. We’re private here”. After that the party seems to get going.

The next day Felix Leiter, working undercover at the hotel, tells Bond about a call taken by Hendriks that the CIA had listened in on. Leiter tells Bond that his name and number were mentioned repeatedly during the call. Afterwards goes to his room for a “strong nip of straight bourbon”.

Later Bond is creeping through the mangroves looking for Scaramanga. He is tired and thirsty, and his shoulder is throbbing from a gunshot wound and Leiter is lying injured with a broken leg. Bond daydreams deliriously of “great dishes of cold lobster salad, cold meat cuts. And mounds of fruit – pineapple and such[..] And there would be drink! Champagne in frosted silver coolers, rum punches, Tom Collinses, whisky sours, and, of course, great beakers of iced water” – and of Scaramanga “offering Bond just one more goblet of iced champagne”!

Waking in hospital after lying unconscious for a week, Bond receives a cable from M telling him he has been offered a knighthood. He declines it – he values his privacy too much – and thinks about sharing stories over Cockburn ’12 at the annual Secret Service old boys club meetup, the only time he wears his CMG.

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David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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