Trigger Mortis

Trigger Mortis is the latest James Bond novel, published in 2015, and picked up in paperback by me in Singapore at the tail end of 2016.

It’s got: (and at least some of these are problematic, unless you lived under a rock/hated feminism/assumed anyone not 100% heterosexual and male and British is clearly some sort of freak)

  • Rockets!
  • Car races!
  • Lesbians!
  • Gold paint!
  • Evil Russians!
  • Evil Koreans!
  • A man choosing a woman’s food for her at dinner!

I read Goldfinger (which Trigger Mortis is a sequel to, in the same way that Rogue One is a prequel to Star Wars) when I was a small boy, and that was my first encounter with the word ‘lesbian’. Pussy Galore is the leader of a New York lesbian gang called the Cement Mixers, and I had no idea what that word meant. I probably assumed it was some sort of criminal. You know, you have gangs of pickpockets, or bank robbers, or lesbians, or whatever. I was too naive even to think that Pussy Galore might be from a Greek island.

Anyway, Trigger Mortis is at once a homage to and a riposte to Goldfinger. It stars with Pussy Galore hanging around in Bond’s Chelsea flat, gradually feeling less and less welcome, until Bond has to go off and get driving lessons so he can take part in a race in the Nurburgring. Then she gets abducted and almost killed by being covered in gold paint, before she and Bond’s driving instructor head off together, leaving Bond seething and confused, rather than in whatever one-handed Sapphic fantasy Fleming might have banged out on his typewriter. Given Bond ‘cured’ Galore at the end of Goldfinger, it’s nice to see that his Incredible Heterosexual Reprogramming Prowess isn’t quite as effective as he and his creator may have assumed.

There’s a evil Korean who forces henchmen (and other victims) to choose the means of their own demise. There’s a feisty female (with buttocks “like a child’s”) with a ludicrous name (Jeopardy Lane outstrips even Pussy Galore for sheer daftness) and there’s a series of bureaucrats who get their comeuppance when they fail to believe Our Man Bond. Oh, and there’s Nazi rocket scientists, grisly deaths and a fight on an underground train.

It’s not a great piece of literature, but it was never designed to be as such. I wonder if you could read it unironically, as a return to ‘how Bond should be’; I think it might disappoint lovers of the original, because I don’t recall him slapping sense into any hysteric woman (Bond actually gets rescued by Jeopardy Lane), and there’s even mention of Bond’s cigarettes being bad for his health. On the other hand, he still gets to drive flat out across England the morning after half a bottle of whisky, so Fleming’s belief in his alter-ego’s ability to drink prodigious amounts of booze without ill-effect is followed carefully. The Evil Korean has the less intimidating name of Jason (what’s next – an evil Russian called Derek?) although he has a good monologue while explaining the reasons for his Evil Scheme. And the story ties up loose ends nicely at the end, although that does feel a little desperate – now, I think I prefer the ending of From Russia With Love, where Fleming had a good go at bumping Bond off. Was this book designed for old fogeys who think Sean Connery was the greatest? Or for knowing ironists? Who’s to say? Is it better to write these things ironically, or to believe them sincerely?


2 responses to “Trigger Mortis”

  1. Have never read a Bond novel, but can honestly say that last few Bond movies have been so predictable and formulaic (and I find Daniel Craig lacking in any real personality) that I literally couldn’t even be bothered to properly read this post. Of all the words you listed, only one stood out – lesbians. I have no idea why ..

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