No One Knows Who Wrote This James Bond Novel
By Jake Rossen
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.