The beauty of early psychology in pulp novels

I’ve been working my way through Ian Fleming’s James Bond books of late. Cos I’m inherently lazy and I’d fall asleep if I were actually reading them (early commute), I’m listening to them on my iPod, mind – what’s even less taxing than reading a James Bond? Listening to a James Bond book.

I’m currently listening to The Man with the Golden Gun, which like almost all the books has virtually nothing to do with the movies and vice versa. It’s slightly amusing anyway since the man reading them tries to do the accents and he’s not the world’s best at that; now imagine a book set on Jamaica, where half the characters appear to be Pakistani…

But then I get to this cracking psychological analysis of Scaramanga, the villain.

“I read recently a profile of Scaramanga in Time magazine. It mentioned something that was barely commented on, but I think is important. It said Scaramanga can’t whistle. Although it may be hearsay, I think there is an element of truth to the suggestion that homosexuals cannot whistle.”

There’s a lot of that kind of rubbish in the Bond books, although you can never be quite sure whether Fleming’s taking the piss – the books get a little more knowing as the series goes on. There’s Pussy Galore in Goldfinger who gets ‘cured’ of her lesbianism by Bond – she was raped when younger and that put her off men, but one night with Bond fixed her. And then there’s From Russia With Love, where the villain has to murder people during the full moon because he’s manic depressive.

But you’ve got to love 1950s psychology, haven’t you? They came up with some outstanding stuff, all cloaked with the authority of science. All the movies and books picked up on it and now we have an entire decade of media that is entirely laughable thanks to their attempt to use science to guide their plotting and characterisation.

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