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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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An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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12 Smart Book Ideas for Everyone in Your Life
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Books make the perfect gift: they're durable, transportable, and they promise some (hopefully) quality alone time. But what do you get the aunt who loves mystery novels if you're not familiar with the genre? Or the nephew who devours travelogues and goes backpacking around the world? Look no further—we've got them covered, plus 10 other very specific categories.

1. FOR THE VINTAGE COOKBOOK LOVER: LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THE RECIPES: THE LIFE, ART, AND COOKBOOK OF CIPE PINELES, EDITED BY SARAH RICH,‎ WENDY MACNAUGHTON, DEBBIE MILLMAN, AND MARIA POPOVA; $27

Book cover for Leave Me Alone With the Recipes
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Author Sarah Rich and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton fell in love with the work of Cipe Pineles, the first female art director at Condé Nast, after discovering her recipes at a San Francisco antiquarian book fair. Filled with vibrantly colored illustrations, Leave Me Alone With the Recipes shows the joyful spirit and homespun flair that made Pineles’s work so influential. Alongside the recipes, the book includes contributions from luminaries in the worlds of food and illustration, including artist Maira Kalman and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings renown.

Find It: Amazon

2. FOR ANYONE HAVING SURGERY THIS YEAR: THE BUTCHERING ART: JOSEPH LISTER’S QUEST TO TRANSFORM THE GRISLY WORLD OF VICTORIAN MEDICINE BY LINDSEY FITZHARRIS; $27

Cover of The Butchering Art
Amazon

Back in the bad old days of medicine, a consistently blood-soaked apron was a sign of pride. Surgeons rarely washed them—or their hands, or their operating tools. Joseph Lister, the somewhat reluctant hero of Lindsey Fitzharris's new book The Butchering Art, was the genius who convinced the medical world that germs were not only real but a major cause of mortality in their hospitals. With an eye for vivid details and the colorful characters of 19th century medicine, Fitzharris has crafted a book that will make you thank Lister for his foresight—and make you glad you weren't alive back then.

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3. FOR THE GENEALOGY OBSESSIVE: IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE BY A.J. JACOBS; $27

Cover of Its All Relative
Simon & Schuster

What constitutes a "family"? In his latest book, A.J. Jacobs (famed for lifestyle experiments like trying to live an entire year in accordance with the Bible) delves into the world of genetics and genealogy to try and orchestrate the world's largest family reunion. With his trademark humor and insight, he ends up exploring the interconnectedness of all of humankind.

Find It: Amazon

4. FOR THE SOCIALLY AWARE YOUNG ADULT: THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS; $18

Cover of The Hate U Give
Amazon

Already caught between the conflicting worlds of the poor neighborhood where she lives and her fancy prep school, 16-year-old Starr Carter finds herself in the middle of a tragedy when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. As his death becomes a national flashpoint, it becomes clear that she may be the only person alive who can explain what really happened that night. Angie Thomas's writing has earned praise for being gut-wrenching, searing, and deftly crafted; Publishers Weekly called the book "heartbreakingly topical."

Find It: Amazon

5. FOR FANS OF PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL: THE WARS OF THE ROOSEVELTS: THE RUTHLESS RISE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST POLITICAL FAMILY BY WILLIAM J. MANN; $35

You might think you know the Roosevelts, but historian William J. Mann looks beyond the well-worn stories to expose the bitter rivalries that drove its most famous members' quest for power. Along the way, he examines the Roosevelts who were kept away from the limelight, and the secrets they hold—all told in dramatic style.

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6. FOR THE INTREPID TRAVELER: ATLAS OBSCURA: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S HIDDEN WONDERS, BY JOSHIA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON; $35

The book cover for Atlas Obscura's book
Amazon.com

An amusement park in a salt mine? Check. A tree so big it has its own pub? Check. A giant hole that's been spouting flames for 40 years? Check. This guidebook is a compendium of the world's strangest and most wonderful places, and it's guaranteed to inspire some serious wanderlust, especially in more adventurous travelers. For the complete experience, you can also get an awesome wall calendar featuring destinations from the book designed as vintage travel posters; there's a page-a-day desk calendar and explorers' journal too.

Find it: Amazon

7. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES WEIRD HISTORY: THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW SELECTED ESSAYS; $20

The Public Domain Review is one of the premier online destination for fans of curious history. If you know someone who enjoys stories about weird medieval medicine treaties, ancient automata, deranged 18th century scientists, and other odd subjects well off the beaten historical path, look no further than this book of essays (the site's fourth).

Find It: The Public Domain Review

8. FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY: THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS, EDITED BY OTTO PENZLER; $25

Cover of the Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Amazon

At the heart of every good mystery is a (usually dastardly) perpetrator, whether it's a Count Dracula or a Jimmy Valentine. With this anthology, Edgar Award winner Otto Penzler has combed through 150 years of literary history to find 72 stories featuring the most famous and entertaining antiheroes authors have ever been able to dream up.

Find It: Amazon

9. FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE BORSCHT BELT IS: JEWISH COMEDY: A SERIOUS HISTORY BY JEREMY DAUBER; $28.95

Jews and humor go together like challah and Manischewitz (after all, as my bubbie says, if you don't laugh, you'll cry). In this "serious history," Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber considers the origins of Jewish humor in Biblical times through its life on Twitter today; how it's reflected—and even influenced—Jewish history; the production of major archetypes like the Jewish mother; and the prominence of Jewish comedians like Sarah Silverman and Larry David. You don't have to be Jewish to love it, but it may help you understand the in-jokes.

Find It: Amazon

10. FOR YOUR FRIEND WHO LOVES DARK SHORT STORIES: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO; $16

Book cover for Her Body and Other Parties
Amazon

A story told in the form of Law & Order episode summaries. A strange plague that makes girls go invisible, as narrated by a mall worker. A recollection of romantic encounters with the last of humanity’s survivors. In this collection, Carmen Maria Machado fuses urban legends, dystopian tropes, and heavy helpings of sexuality to create a new kind of magical realism strangely appropriate to our era. The images will haunt you long after you put the book down, if you let them.

Find It: Amazon

11. FOR THE PERSON WHO LOVES BIG-DEAL LITERARY NOVELS AND ALSO ABRAHAM LINCOLN: LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BY GEORGE SAUNDERS; $18

A meditation on sorrow and the Civil War populated by a rag-tag group of ghosts, Lincoln in the Bardo starts with the real-life death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, Abraham's son. In the book, Willie has entered the Bardo—a Tibetan Buddhist term for a transitional limbo—where there's a fierce struggle underway for his soul.

Find It: Amazon

12. FOR THE GENERALIST: A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION; $45 FOR THREE MONTHS

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Book of the Month Club

Can’t decide what to get, but feeling generous? Give your friend who loves to read a new hardcover book of their choice every month. Literary fans who are short on time will love having someone else do the legwork to find the best new novels; plus, there’s early access to new releases. Prices vary depending on the length of the subscription, and there’s a deal right now where you can get a month free when you give a subscription as a gift.

Find It: Book of the Month

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