A lot of people don’t know that the film The Spy Who Loved Me is not an adaptation of the novel of the same name.
TSWLM is an experiment on Fleming’s part. He wrote a first-person novel narrated by a woman, detailing her life and her relationships. James Bond first enters more than halfway through. The book is divided roughly into thirds.
Part one finds Vivienne Michel alone in a motel on her last night as the caretaker. During a storm, she reminisces about her life and how she came to be in Lake George, New York. She is a 23 year-old French Canadian, educated in England. Her first romance was with an English boy who abandoned her immediately after he took her virginity in a sordid scene. Then she began a sort of platonic affair with her boss, all sex and no love. When she told him she was pregnant, he gave her money for an abortion and fired her. Feeling utterly lost and seeking to restore her sense of self, she buys a Vespa and decides to travel through America, and early on her journey ends up taking a temporary job at a motel.
Part two has two vile gangsters showing up at the motel and taking her prisoner. It is clear they intend to rape and kill her. After attempting to escape, she is beaten unconscious.
Part three is the arrival of James Bond. It is purely a coincidence; he has a flat tire. He sizes up the situation and decides to rescue Viv and handle the crooks. He keeps making mistakes, however, so that they continue to struggle against the gangsters in surprise after surprise. He has time for a magical sexual night with Vivienne before leaving for his life of adventure, leaving Viv behind to give a police report and reminisce about the finest night of love she has ever experienced.
When Fleming sold the rights for his novels to Eon Productions, there were two stipulations. First, he didn’t sell CR because he had already sold it. Second, he sold only the title TSWLM, specifying that the story should never be filmed. It wasn’t a “Bond story” in his opinion, and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t a Bond film either.
I’m going to come back to this topic in a day or three and explore what a film of the original TSWLM might be like.