AUGUST 29, 2010
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mr. Payne on Saturday!
RON PAYNE, who has written many articles for this site, sat down with me, recently, and discussed the latest about his pursuit of PER FINE OUNCE, the lost James Bond 007 manuscript, commissioned by the Ian Fleming heirs and written by the great South African novelist/thriller writer, GEOFFREY JENKINS. Maybe this interview will shed a little light on some of our readers questions.
BW: There are many James Bond fans out there, who want to know more about Geoffrey Jenkins and how he came to write the novel, PER FINE OUNCE.
RP: Well, to begin with, Brenda, Geoffrey Jenkins was a close, close friend of Bond author, Ian Fleming, and they shared many common interests. They both collected important books. They both loved ‘high-adventure’ stories. Jenkins was Fleming’s protégée’ when both worked for ‘The Sunday London Times. Ian Fleming was the ‘World Affairs Editor’ at the ‘Sunday London Times,’ and Jenkins was one of their star reporters.
BW: I know that Ian Fleming wrote ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’ about the gangsters, ‘The Spang Brothers,’ who ran the pipeline from South Africa into New York and Las Vegas. And, there was Fleming’s non-fiction book, ‘The Diamond Smugglers,’ which I think would make a great film, but how did Geoffrey Jenkins get the assignment to write PER FINE OUNCE…?
RP: Fleming died August 12, 1964, age 56, during the filming of ‘Goldfinger,’ and soon after his completion of the novel ‘The Man With the Golden Gun.’ And, both the film and the new novel were tremendous successes all over the world. However, by 1966, ‘Glidrose Publications,’ the Fleming heirs, became interested in continuing the saga of James Bond, and that meant finding a really great writer to follow in Fleming’s footsteps.
BW: I take it Geoffrey Jenkins put himself forward for the job.
RP: No one really remembers how it all actually came about, but soon Geoffrey Jenkins found himself on the short list to write the first James Bond continuation novel.
BW: This was early in 1966, correct?
RP: Yes. There were discussions between ‘Peter Fleming,’ Ian’s brother, and Mrs. Anne Fleming, Ian’s widow, and the talks became somewhat exasperating for Jenkins, as Mrs. Fleming was not really keen on the idea of another writer using her husband’s creation—James Bond 007—in a new story.
BW: I listened to your radio interview with Dr Wes Britton at ‘Dave White Presents’ and you mentioned that Anne Fleming was concerned about the Copyright in James Bond being infringed upon in some way.
RP: Yes—there was an Irish producer named ‘Kevin O’Donovan McClory, who had worked for John Huston on ‘The African Queen’ and for Mike Todd on ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ He had directed in 1959 a small, black-and-white independent film, entitled, ‘The Boy and the Bridge’ and Ian Fleming and his friend, Ivar Bryce, joined ranks with McClory in creating ‘Xanadu Productions’ for the purpose of producing the first James Bond film. When, after eighteen months, or so, had gone by and they had not been able to secure the services of Alfred Hitchcock as director—or Richard Burton, as the star—the company disbanded, and Fleming wrote his bestselling novel, ‘Thunderball,’ from the original 10 screen treatments and screenplay created by Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. McClory and Whittingham sued Ian Fleming for plagiarism, and won in the British courts in 1963. After that fiasco, Ian Fleming suffered a major heart attack, and McClory was assigned the Copyright in all the film scripts, while Fleming retained the rights to the book. When Geoffrey Jenkins came along, Mrs. Fleming was still not over the trauma of the McClory vs. Fleming case, and she was very reluctant to agree to any kind of ‘continuation novelist’ for James Bond, at all. I think ‘Peter Fleming’ talked her into it, and an ‘official agreement’—contract—was signed between Jenkins and Glidrose Publications, and he soon went to work writing the story.
BW: There seems to have been some disagreement over who would publish the book?
RP: Right from the beginning. Ian Fleming’s books had all been published by ‘Jonathan Cape, Ltd.’ in London, but Jenkins wanted his publisher, William Collins and Sons to publish PER FINE OUNCE. This only fueled Mrs. Fleming’s paranoia, though Peter Fleming reassured her, repeatedly, that Geoffrey Jenkins was on their side and that there was no foundation for her beliefs that he would in any way make an attempt of disrupting their Copyright and ownership in “007.”
BW: Peter Janson-Smith, who was Ian Fleming’s agent, and who was then on the board of directors at ‘Glidrose Publications’ (now Ian Fleming Publications) stated recently he ‘thought one reason the Jenkins novel was turned down was because it was badly written.’ And, then he added, “But perhaps our standards were a lot different then than they are now.” What do you think?
RP: I have read all the correspondence and there is no evidence in any of it that anyone thought the Jenkins novel was sub-standard or poorly written. In fact, Billy Collins, Jenkins’s friend and publisher, at William Collins& Sons, “thought it one of the best things” Jenkins had ever produced, and that says a lot, considering that Jenkins’s first book, “A Twist of Sand” was an international bestseller and today is considered a classic piece of literature. Harry Saltzman, the producer of the James Bond films, shared the same attorneys—’Harbottle and Lewis’—in London, and Saltzman was a great champion of the manuscript of PER FINE OUNCE. He and his producing partner, Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli were interested in making a future Bond film from the story, they admired it so much. But, when Glidrose rejected the finished manuscript, all dreams of Saltzman and Broccoli filming the story for 007 fell completely apart, which enraged both producers. From that moment on, they made it a policy to never film a Bond continuation novel written by anyone else.
BW: Geoffrey Jenkins was supposed to write PER FINE OUNCE under a pseudonym. What was it?
RP: That’s an easy one. His nom-de-plume would have been ‘Robert Markham.’
BW: But hasn’t there been a James Bond novel written under that name?
RP: Yes, “Colonel Sun,” by Robert Markham was published by Cape in 1968 in the UK and by Harper & Row in the United States. The great English novelist, ‘Kingsley Amis,’ with whom I spoke only once, told me ‘Glidrose’ intended to use a series of different authors, all using this pseudonym. Well, they must have abandoned that idea. John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, and Jeffrey Deaver use their own names.
BW: Many Bond fans think ‘Colonel Sun’ is the best of the Bond continuation novels, and that it comes closer to being a real Fleming story.
RP: Amis really admired Fleming, and his ‘James Bond Dossier,’ along with O.F. Snelling’s “007 James Bond: A Report” is one of the best books about James Bond, ever written. It has been rumored that Amis did some work on Fleming’s ‘The Man With the Golden Gun,’ just before it was published, but I do not know the validity of this, and I did not ask him when I had the opportunity in 1978.
BW: There has been a ‘screen treatment’ registered with the ‘Writer’s Guild’ entitled PER FINE OUNCE. Can you tell us a little bit about this? Is it based upon the Jenkins novel…?
RP: Ever since it was announced that PER FINE OUNCE even existed, there has been a great momentum building amongst fans and professionals alike to find out what is in it—as it originated as a bona fide and authorized Bond story—commissioned by the Ian Fleming heirs. I will tell you what is not in it. As it stands now, James Bond is NOT in it. When Jenkins left Glidrose, “all references to James Bond 007, and his world—that includes the supporting Bond characters” were removed from the manuscript. Jenkins retained “all rights” in the plot elements of the story that he created, those rights reverting immediately to him.
BW: It has been strongly suggested that ‘A Cleft of Stars’ is a reworking of PER FINE OUNCE. There is not a single British secret agent in the entire story, or, any other kind of secret agent, for that matter.
RP: Funny you should mention that. As agent for the Jenkins estate, I have talked with at least six different candidates for the ‘continuation novels’ in the Commander Geoffrey Peace series.
BW: Commander Peace first appeared in “A Twist of Sand.” There was a 1968 United Artists film made from the book with Honor Blackman from ‘Goldfinger’ and Richard Johnson, as Commander Peace.
RP: There was also the novel, “Hunter Killer,” in 1966, which featured Commander Peace. It is widely believed that Harry Saltzman used a section of “Hunter Killer” in his Sean Connery Bond film, “You Only Live Twice,” after Glidrose rejected PER FINE OUNCE.
BW: Which section is that?
RP: Well, Saltzman and Broccoli tossed out Fleming’s novel, altogether, when they went to shoot the movie. The book was too dark, and moody for what the producers had in mind. It was all about ‘Blofeld’ and Hench lady Irma Bunt—who had just murdered Bond’s wife in the previous book, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”—retiring to Japan, where they open a garden of poisonous plants. And, for a fee, anyone wishing to commit suicide can come there, and do themselves in. Well, I don’t think that quite fit into the Saltzman and Broccoli scheme-of-things, right after the smashing success of ‘Thunderball,’ the year before. The new plot for “You Only Live Twice” was set in outer space, where space capsules fired by the Americans and the Russians are being kidnapped, and the world is on the brink of WW3. The upshot is: Bond is believed dead, his body is aboard a nuclear submarine, and he is fired into the ‘Sea of Japan’ to get to his mission’s objective. This did not come from Ian Fleming. It came from the pages of “Hunter Killer,” and that book was written by Geoffrey Jenkins.
BW: I remember that scene. It was one of the best things about the film, with the exception of Sean, of course.
RP: I love Sir Sean, of course—it’s his 80th birthday this week—but the girls rather made the film for me. But, getting back to PER FINE OUNCE, as I said, I have received a great deal of email about the story, and whether Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson will someday make it into a full blown James Bond film. My answer is this: “I have had no contact with either of the producers.” The story we have does not have James Bond in it—one way—or the other. For legal reasons, I will leave it, at that. Geoffrey Jenkins took James Bond out of his original story. He did not own James Bond, and there was no way for him to use the character once PER FINE OUNCE was turned down by Glidrose and the Fleming heirs
BW: You were telling us about the ‘continuation novelist candidates’ for Commander Peace. You said there were six of them.
RP: Yes, at last count. I was very big on one particular American novelist, but he dropped out, after I didn’t show him the “original synopsis” to PER FINE OUNCE. This was very disappointing to me, as I like him and his work—enormously. What he did not understand and I did not explain to him, was this: “I could not show him the ‘synopsis’ to PER FINE OUNCE until he signed a contract with the Estate of Geoffrey Jenkins to do the book. Not before.”
BW: You told me before we started the interview, that you did show three synopsis’s to each writer.
RP: Yes. The Commander Peace character was in each. The outlines were: “The Bridge of Magpies,” “Southtrap” and “The River of Diamonds.” We wanted to see how each of the writers would adapt the original Jenkins stories, before turning over PER FINE OUNCE.
BW: You said, a moment ago, there were legal reasons for doing this, as well.
RP: Yes. Our attorneys wanted to take a closer look at PER FINE OUNCE, before releasing the synopsis to anyone. There were several production companies and independent producers lurking about on the horizon, and the last thing—absolutely the last thing—we were going to do was release a copy of the synopsis to anyone, who might turn around and “reverse engineer” James Bond 007 back into the story—and put us all in danger of a lawsuit from Danjaq/Eon.
BW: Do you think that could really happen?
RP: Not if everyone were above board. Geoffrey Jenkins removed 007 from his story, and the plot elements all reverted to him. On the other hand, there have been clandestine attempts by unscrupulous people (no one I’ve mentioned) to get their hands on the story.
BW: You mean industrial espionage?
RP: Well, that’s one way of saying it. Indeed, the Geoffrey Jenkins Estate is eager to build a motion picture franchise around ‘Commander Peace.’ PER FINE OUNCE will emerge when the time is right. And, it will be “genuine” Geoffrey Jenkins synopsis and book.
BW: Tell us more about the “Screen Treatment.”
RP: It is ‘based upon and/or suggested by’ the Original Story by Geoffrey Jenkins.
BW: What does that exactly mean?
RP: It means that the story uses all the elements of the Original 18 pages in our possession, follows the original plot and characters, and has new material added into create a great adventure film. It is registered in the name of ‘The Geoffrey Jenkins Estate’ and the two screen writers who wrote it. That’s all I’m at liberty to say about it.
BW: I am intrigued by the ‘industrial espionage’ aspect of today’s interview.
RP: I’m not intrigued. I simply think it’s wrong. If someone wants to sign a deal with ‘Geoffrey Jenkins Publications’ for the book and movie rights to PER FINE OUNCE, they should simply step forward—or have their agent do so—and we’ll take it from there. But chasing people down highways through Indiana into Chicago, and attempting to encrypt private emails pertaining to the story, are simply against the law.
BW: Who was chased into Chicago?
RP: One of the writers of the screen treatment. He managed to identify one of his pursuers—a film producer. He was accompanied by six other men, all armed and wearing black shirts.
BW: That’s incredible.
RP: Yes, it is. There were even listening devices secretly implanted in his car, and a satellite fed tracking device for locating him. All of this because of ‘PER FINE OUNCE.’
BW: What’s in the future for PER FINE OUNCE…?
RP: Well, several things have been happening. John Cork, who directed so many of the wonderful documentaries about James Bond that appear at the end the Bond film DVDs, is interested in writing a scholarly article about ‘Geoffrey Jenkins and Per Fine Ounce.’ I had hoped that John would produce and direct a documentary about ‘Geoffrey Jenkins and the Writing of Per Fine Ounce.’ I am a great admirer of his, and enjoyed our exchange of emails over the summer. And, as we mentioned before this interview began, a producer from “Thornfield Productions, LLC” has requested a meeting in September to discuss an option on PER FINE OUNCE and the ‘Commander Geoffrey Peace’ character. I don’t get excited about such things. If there is $950,000 on the table, a clause stipulating 20% of the gross/net and a major star attached with a start date, then like ‘Ross Perot,’ I’m all ears. Until then I am as relaxed as ‘Perry Como’ on his most excitable day.
BW: Well, I would be excited about the news received this morning, and you haven’t even mentioned it once.
RP: Well, if Lucianna Paluzzi or Barbara Carrera wanted me to take either one of them to dinner, my heartbeat might “rev-up” a bit, but I suppose you’re talking about the German find….?”
BW: Yes. The fact that a German publisher has found the entire manuscript of PER FINE OUNCE is wonderful news….!
RP: I’m in no rush. I have not seen the manuscript, which I understand is translated from English into German.
BW: How and why did that happen, do you think?
RP: I don’t have much information. Evidently, if what I am reading is correct, Geoffrey Jenkins submitted a copy of PER FINE OUNCE to his German publisher/ editor in 1966. They translated it into German, thinking they would soon be buying the rights.
BW: Aren’t you shocked—or at least—surprised? There has been so much information passing back-and-forth recently about PER FINE OUNCE.
RP: No, I am certainly not shocked, though I am pleasantly surprised, if the manuscript is the real deal. It only makes sense that someone out there has the complete manuscript, believed entirely lost all these years. Who would have received copies—or made copies of copies—and kept them? All of his many foreign editors and publishers, for one? Then, there is ‘Billy Collins,’ his London publisher. And, Ronald S. Aiken and Stanley Gorrie, both of whom read the book as it was being written and offered their insights….Then there is ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the James Bond producers. They liked Geoffrey Jenkins, championed his PER FINE OUNCE, and were interested in making a film from it, once all of the original Fleming material was exhausted. You don’t happen to speak German do you?”
BW: (Laughter) I am contacting ‘Rosetta Stone,’ asap, in the event you will need a new translator for PER FINE OUNCE. Thank you, Ron Payne, for a terrific interview. It has been a great pleasure.”
RP: Thank you, Brenda, for asking me. I know how hard you worked on getting all the Jenkins books back-into-print in the United States. I appreciate the time you have given me this afternoon.