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No One Knows Who Wrote This James Bond Novel

When Ian Fleming died of a heart attack at the age of 56 in 1964, he had completed 12 full-length novels and a number of short stories featuring his marquee superspy James Bond. The author had also lived to see two wildly successful film adaptations of his work—Dr. No and From Russia with Love—make Bond an international phenomenon, with a third (Goldfinger) released just a month after his death.

While the Bond movies were expected to continue indefinitely, no one at Glidrose Productions—the company Fleming had purchased to handle the literary rights to his creation for business purposes—was exactly sure how to proceed with his adventures on the printed page. Only one proper novel, 1968’s Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis, was released in the years immediately following Fleming’s death. It seemed too monumental a task to follow a writer who was virtually as famous as Bond himself.

Glidrose, however, had an alternative: In 1966, they commissioned a novel that would be centered around Bond’s nephew, a boy of boarding school age who would become embroiled in a plot to steal gold. Jonathan Cape, the publishing house that had acquired Fleming’s first book, Casino Royale, would distribute it.

003½: The Adventures of James Bond Junior was in every way an “official” Bond title, but no one would ever step forward to claim credit for it, even after one critic declared it a “far better” effort than Fleming’s own. Glidrose attributed the work to the pen name "R. D. Mascott" and swore its employees to secrecy, rebuffing every attempt to uncover his identity.

For Bond fans, what started as a passing bit of trivia grew into a literary forensics cold case. Who was Mascott, and why were people so committed to keeping his secret?

There was little doubt the Bond movie franchise would outlive Fleming. By 1966, four films starring Sean Connery had been produced, with a fifth—You Only Live Twice—in production. EON, the company with the screen rights to the character, began flirting with ideas for a televised spin-off series, including one featuring a juvenile version of the spy.

At the same time, Glidrose was preparing for life after Fleming produced his last typewritten page. Geoffrey Jenkins was commissioned to write a Bond novel set in South Africa: it was rejected. Afterward, author and Bond admirer Kingsley Amis agreed to write a follow-up novel under the pseudonym “Richard Markham,” which was intended to be a catch-all name for future writers. At roughly the same time, the company commissioned a work-for-hire assignment that may have been tied to EON’s announced plans for a “young Bond” iteration. When 003½ was released in October 1967, ads promised that it would feature material to be used for “a series of television films.”

The “Junior” in the title is somewhat misleading, as the character in the book was the son of David Bond, brother of James. As a teenager returning home from boarding school, James Jr. stumbles across a gang of gold robbers and works to expose them. His famous uncle is off on more important business, sending a letter to his nephew with the gift of a tactical knife. In the end, the budding young spy’s intelligence work is credited to adults who proved worthless in the investigation.

The book was published in the UK and in the U.S., where Random House made note of the fact that Mascott was a pseudonym for a “well-known” British author. Because it didn’t hold any substantial appeal for readers of Bond’s more mature adventures, and because children didn’t seem to take to a neutered version of a mercenary character already popular in toys and board games, 003½ slipped into relative obscurity.

When Glidrose published Colonel Sun just a few months later, it wasn’t long before Amis admitted to being the author behind the Markham pseudonym. No one, however, declared credit for the Bond novel that preceded it. As Bond’s fan base grew, with every bit of arcane trivia chased down for accuracy, it became a glaring omission in the canon. 

Suspicion was first directed at Amis, since he had proven a willingness to fill Fleming’s shoes. Their writing styles were dissimilar, however. Roald Dahl also became a suspect: the author doubled as a screenwriter and was working on the 1967 Bond film, You Only Live Twice, at the time, putting him in proximity to the Bond rights holders. Both Dahl and Mascott had described the “currants” of the eyes, a peculiar term, and dwelled on topics like hunting and shoplifting. Dahl, who died in 1990, never corroborated the theory, and his estate was unable to unearth any documentation that could prove it. 

In 2001, the fan site 007Forever.com ran a highly detailed dissection of the case. (Fittingly, it didn’t include a byline.) After examining the Dahl and Amis theories and dismissing the notion that a Fleming relative was responsible, it zeroed in on naming novelist Arthur Calder-Marshall as the perpetrator.

Calder-Marshall had written several books (The Scarlet Boy, The Fair to Middling) while trying his hand in Hollywood during the 1930s. He was also a colleague of Graham Carleton Greene, who was running Jonathan Cape publishing at the time. The author of the theory made some rather tenuous connections, including both Calder-Marshall and Mascott using “ha, ha!” liberally in prose and being partial to the phrase “furious barking.”

"There are also plot similarities," the site observed. "Scenes involving elderly housemaids—Mrs. Ambrose in The Scarlet Boy, and Mrs. Raggles in James Bond Junior—are fairly similar. Both books hinge on purchasing a nearby house and the strange goings-on there. Both books feature a troubled female child who draws, and moreover, what she draws is a crucial plot point that resolves each story's central mystery. Both books feature scenes between children high up in trees; and in both books, the troubled girls' puppies are killed."

The site’s attempts to shake confirmation out of EON, Glidrose, or Jonathan Cape, however, proved futile. If Calder-Marshall was the author, no one was talking.

"I don't quite see why this matter would be of interest around the release of Spectre." That's courtesy of Ian Fleming Publications (formerly Glidrose) managing director Corrine Turner, who artfully dodged the Mascott question posed to her by mental_floss. "If you are looking for a story that has a link to the film, you might take a look at the article about Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis ..."

Why is there such a commitment to preserve the Mascott alias for what amounted to a fairly inconsequential footnote in the Bond franchise? 003½ produced nothing beyond a spurt of James Bond Junior toys and a cartoon series in 1991, otherwise exhibiting no relevance to the future of the character. (Young Bond, a series by author Charlie Higson that began in 2005, bore no relation to the Mascott novel.) 

It’s possible the author was apprehensive about following in Fleming’s footsteps and had a contractual guarantee that he or she would remain anonymous. (Anne Fleming, Ian's widow, had harsh words for Amis when he wrote Colonel Sun.) Another fan theory put forward the notion that Harry Saltzman, a producer with EON who would go on to have a contentious relationship with EON’s Albert Broccoli, was planting the seeds for a young Bond franchise he could call his own.  

Calder-Marshall, who died in 1992, never mentioned the title, though it’s possible he was never asked about it. Oddly, his actress daughter, Anna, got her big break in 1969 when she starred opposite Sean Connery in a televised play, Male of the Species. In 1971, she also co-starred with future Bond Timothy Dalton in an adaptation of Wuthering Heights.             

003½ persists as a curious footnote in the Bond canon. Why the Fleming estate insists on keeping the author’s identity a secret remains, like most everything else in the spy’s dossier, classified information.

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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      Design
      Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

      "This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

      A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

      The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

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