Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.So let’s start with the rugby league novel.

1674 – David Storey – This Sporting Life

This tells the story of Arthur Machin and what happens to him once he signs on to a professional rugby league team in the North of England in the late fifties. I say “professional” but for that time it’s just an extra job from his main one in a factory. It’s still fame though and what the novel shows is it’s consequences for him and his life.

Thing is I’m not sure what I think now I’ve finished it. Which probably means I’ve not completely understood it. The biggest issue is the behaviour of Arthur Machin’s landlady Mrs Hammond which I just don’t get. Perhaps what happens to her explains it. Perhaps not. I’ve no idea.

And speaking about female characters leads us of course to James Bond.

So let me tell you a story of me in three time periods. Me as a teenager. Me in January February this year and me now.

It’s 1977 and I’m thirteen. I have the princely sum of £1.50 in my pocket. I decide to buy two James Bond books. One was Goldfinger.

Well I hated it. Partly because it has the most racist prose I’ve ever experienced. No matter if you’re North and South Korean I bet nobody there read that and wanted to read another bond book again.

The other reason was quite simple……the movie was better.

So the other book I put on the shelf and ignored. Eventually my mother wanted to read it so she put it on her shelf and that’s where it stood. Unloved and unread.

The other book was this.

Ian Fleming – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

A quick word on the cover. When I put this on Twitter there was a comment on how typically sexist it was for the period (the seventies – 1977 to be precise). Well for that period it’s actually quite restrained. The sexism is actually quite more subtle. In the inside cover there’s a credit for the maker of the gun, the photographer, the clothes designers and even the hairdresser….but not the model.

Anyway regular readers will know I’m a fan of the Backlisted podcast and this book was the featured on early this year when I was in Essex exile looking after my then unwell mother. And well as it was on the shelf I decided to read it, though I didn’t actually look at until now. I was hoping I was wrong.

Well I wasn’t. This book was truly awful. My teenage self was right. The movies are better. Bond is a wisecracking saviour of the world. In the novels he’s just a pompous prig and not really that secret of agents either. In the movies the sex is between lustful consenting adults. In the book Bond is hunting for women.

Ah you might say but what about the main woman in this novel Tracey? Well do you want to know how she was conceived? As a result of a rape between a Mediterranean gangster (who knows about Bond – again not so secret an agent) and a wayward English woman. You know what? She stayed and married him. Thus perpetuating the myth at that time (1960) women liked it.

Not only that but this was told by the gangster to Bond in the same way that they might be discussing the weather.

Of course the books were popular at the time but I suppose it just appeared glamorous at the time. The films (even this one starring George Lazenby) takes the basic plot, throws away the rubbish and then puts better parts to replace it.

Yes. My teenage self can be right sometimes.

Until the next time.