Geoffrey Jenkins, His Lost 007 Thriller, and the Hunt for a Continuation Novelist
By Ronald Payne
Editor’s Note: The item below is very unique. First, it is an appreciation of neglected thriller writer Geoffrey Jenkins and his connections with Ian Fleming. Then, Ron Payne sheds some light into the history of the never published James Bond continuation novel, Per Fine Ounce. Finally, Ron makes an interesting appeal to thriller writers, biographers, and film makers—there’s a hot franchise waiting for some creative minds.
Of course, everyone knows about the fantastic world of agent 007 and his creator, Ian Lancaster Fleming. It is still hard for me to believe that the man who gave me such joyful and exciting reading as a teenager will soon be honored in centenary celebrations for his extraordinarily influential career.
However, Fleming did more than simply write “some of the livingest” thrillers ever created, in the words of British author O.F. Snelling who wrote about James Bond in his Double O Seven—James Bond Under the Microscope. Fleming also opened the door for his protégée at The Sunday Times, Geoffrey Jenkins, who created one of the most popular thrillers of his era, 1959's A Twist of Sand. What Fleming and Jenkins shared in common was the ability to project a reader forward into the most breathtaking adventure with what seems effortless aplomb. Jenkins's hero,
Commander Geoffrey Peace, is every bit as charismatic as agent “double-0-seven.” If one does not believe this, keep in mind, Peace was first portrayed in the 1966 film of A Twist of Sand by the British actor, Richard Johnson, who was producer Cubby Broccoli’s
second choice for Bond, after Cary Grant had graciously turned down the role, stating: "I can only play James Bond in one film and not a series." (Grant was best man at Broccoli's wedding to wife Dana in Beverly Hills in 1959, the same year A Twist of Sand was published to widespread critical accolades, both here and in the UK. In England,
the novel was an instant bestseller and Ian Fleming threw his name into the hat when pushing Jenkins's future as a “master of suspense.”)
Geoffrey Jenkins, like Fleming, had read the thrillers of John Buchan (The 39 Steps and Green Mantle), H.C. McNeil's "Bulldog Drummond" series, written under the pen name “Sapper,” and the works of Dornford Yates, featuring that dare devil adventurer, Jonah Mansel. What set A Twist of Sand apart from other books of the 1950s and early 1960s is that Jenkins intentionally updated the formula of his predecessors, just as Fleming had done only a few years earlier in such books as Casino Royale and From Russia, With Love.
As Fleming predicted, Geoffrey Jenkins was a master from the start. A Twist of Sand is, perhaps, his best written novel and would have been an ideal vehicle for a Hitchcock film. Jenkins, though a native of South Africa, lived in London and shared many of Hitchcock's views on how thrillers should be presented. As both a book and film, A Twist of Sand had all the ingredients. Greed. Gold. Bad guys who really are sinister and frightening. Yes, girls. On screen, we saw a beautiful and passionate blonde portrayed by Honor Blackman (“Pussy Galore" of Goldfinger and Cathy Gale of the pre-Diana Rigg Avengers.) And, of course, the darkly rugged Richard Johnson as Commander Geoffrey Peace, an actor who went on to play Bulldog Drummond in the technicolor films, Deadlier Than The Male and Some Girls Do. It’s high time, I should think, that Commander Peace gets a new lease on life.
I have been granted the great privilege of becoming the Literary Agent for the Estate of Geoffrey Jenkins. Indeed, it is a true honour for me. David Jenkins, the son of the novelist, is a wonderful gentleman and his wisdom regarding everything pertaining to his father's legacy has been most inspiring. He and I are in agreement about one thing that remains steadfast between us: "The novels of Geoffrey Jenkins, most of which are now out of print, need to be reissued by the best publishers in America and the U.K.. In addition, to me, it is extraordinary that Geoffrey Jenkins's original publishers,
HarperCollins, have not searched for a continuation novelist to keep the Geoffrey Peace character alive and robust--not to say, kicking. So, the Geoffrey Jenkins Estate and I are looking for the best thriller writer in the world to write the next Commander Geoffrey Peace novel. No easy task.
Per Fine Ounce
Which brings us to Per Fine Ounce, the lost Geoffrey Jenkins James Bond novel. In 1966, Geoffrey Jenkins was contracted by Glidrose Productions, Ltd. to write the first James Bond Continuation Novel under the pen name “Robert Markham,” later used by Kingsley Amis when he published 1968's Colonel Sun. Anne Fleming, Ian's widow, had some reservations about copyright problems if a continuation novelist were brought in. Peter Fleming, Ian's brother, was the top man on the board of directors at Glidrose (now Ian Fleming Publications) when the Jenkins contract was finally drawn-up and signed. The novel, which would have taken 007 to South Africa, would have dealt with gold smugglers in much the same way Diamonds Are Forever dealt with the diamond pipeline. Peter Janson-Smith, who was Ian Fleming's British agent and one of Glidrose’s editorial directors remembered that the Per Fine Ounce manuscript was rejected, though he was never clear on exactly who did the rejecting or why. There had been some concerns as to who would publish the book, whether it would be Fleming's original publisher--Jonathan Cape, Ltd.--or Jenkins's publisher, William Collins and Sons or some combination of the two joining forces for maximum exposure and leverage in the literary market place of 1967 England.
The rejection created hard feelings between James Bond film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli toward the board of directors at Glidrose. In 1979, I asked Reginald Barkshire why Cubby Broccoli had not filmed the continuation novel, Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis. Mr. Barkshire--a delightful man and generous with his time with me, said simply: "Mr. Broccoli will never film a continuation novel." Before that statement, Saltzman and Broccoli had every intention of filming the Jenkins novel. In the meantime, Geoffrey Jenkins's second Commander Geoffrey Peace thriller, Hunter Killer, was published in America and England. In the opening pages, Commander Peace is believed dead. His body is on board a British nuclear sub. It has not been confirmed, but has been widely speculated that Harry Saltzman bought this scene from Hunter Killer for the 1967 James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, as some small recompense to Geoffrey Jenkins after the rejection of Per Fine Ounce.
As the agent for the estate of Geoffrey Jenkins, I am now on a mystery hunt. The original manuscript of Per Fine Ounce has simply disappeared. David Jenkins and I now possess 18 pages of the original story and it is quite good. However, we are missing some 300 odd pages of what might have been the best James Bond thriller after Fleming. We are searching the archives of many universities and there is still the possibility that the Harry Saltzman Estate might have a copy of the unpublished manuscript. After all, it was Harry Saltzman who personally championed Jenkins's story to Glidrose. It was Saltzman, who more than anyone else, wanted to film Per Fine Ounce.
A New Franchise?
Well, where does all this lead? I have had several New York publishers contact me about publishing Per Fine Ounce. It cannot be published as a James Bond novel, of course, because of copyrights and trademarks belonging to Ian Fleming Publications. However, "Commander Geoffrey Peace" can be easily substituted for "Commander James Bond" and what an exciting story we would have, if the pages David Jenkins and I possess are any indication of the skill and high level of literary craftsmanship. Jenkins was
in top form in 1966. Some of his best thrillers were still ahead of him.
So the extant pages of Per Fine Ounce offer us all an intriguing possibility. If a continuation novelist were to pick up the gauntlet, a thrilling new story with a heavy dose of Jenkins with a dash of Fleming could excite readers once again. At the same time, there should definitely be a biography of Geoffrey Jenkins, not only one of the world's greatest thriller writers, but one of South Africa's greatest novelists. After all, Jenkins's books sold 50,000,000 copies during his life time and there is still life in his creation, Commander Geoffrey Peace, not only in literature, but also potential films.
So, as literary agent for the Jenkins estate, I would like to hear from all serious writers and their agents. Once contacted, we will do our best to read your proposal in a timely manner. We are looking for three things at the moment:
(1.) a good continuation novel, based upon the Commander Geoffrey Peace character, which means the writer must read A Twist of Sand and Hunter Killer and be previously published by a commercial house.
(2.) we are interested in a professional biographer for an in depth biography of Geoffrey Jenkins.
(3.) we are interested in working with a studio/film director with a track record in Hollywood or London for a proposed film series based on the Peace character, ala James Bond. Producer/director/writer
credentials are essential. We will be blunt about this: a producer, director, screen writer with attached 'financing' will be given carte blanche treatment.
David Jenkins and I are big fans of
and will keep all Geoffrey Jenkins fans posted.
Ronald Payne for The Geoffrey Jenkins Estate
To learn more about Ronald Payne, check out his “Untold Tales of 007” articles as well as his archives of O. F. Snelling material in the “James Bond Files” at
Saturday, March 1, 2008
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