Skyfall and my novels
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall, released by MGM and Sony Pictures. Some of it felt familiar, as I will explain. Warning - there are spoilers here for anyone who hasn't seen the film.
My novels, "Ezekiel One" and "The Followers of Horus" were published by Timeless Voyager Press in early 2009 and 2010 respectively. They contain several threads in them, but essentially they're espionage thrillers with increasing doses of science fiction blended in as the story unfolds through the two books. Both have been readily available since those dates, and have attracted some limited interest by professional film-makers in that time, although this has not culminated in a movie deal.
In the books, the protagonist, Bill Bainbridge, is an unwitting hero plunged into the world of investigative journalism and then freelance espionage as he is drawn inexorably into a nexus of intelligence operations and deep conspiracy. Like Bond in Skyfall, his abilities are often not up to scratch to achieve the goals at hand, through wounding and advancing years, and a pervasive sense of cynicism and world-weariness accompany his efforts to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy. But such anti-heroes are common enough in the genre - as are chases on crowded underground trains, which are also common to both my books and the movie.
What was striking from my perspective - and I stress that this might simply be a remarkable coincidence - is the similarity between a scene in my second novel 'The Followers of Horus' and the climactic scene in Skyfall, based at an eponymous manor house in the Scottish Highlands. Both feature the protagonist holed up in a British country house estate far from anywhere. Both involve MI6 intelligence operatives defending the isolated house and their wards from a besieging force of hired assassins who work for dark forces also connected to the intelligence community.
Then there's the helicopter gunship which turns up halfway through the siege, also common to both my novels and the movie. And finally, and most coincidental of all, is the way the protagonist's car, parked outside the house, is destroyed by a hail of gunfire from that same helicopter.
Obviously, James Bond's Aston Martin was more of a loss than Bill Bainbridge's hybrid family saloon! But it's an amazing coincidence, all the same. Here are two excepts from my book to illustrate the point. The first marks the arrival of MI6 agent Felicity Murray at Mr Provotkins' besieged country manor house in Norfolk:
In the distance, towards the main gates, she could hear a pitched gun battle taking place between the men in the cottage and the men outside. The sound of breaking glass was interspersed with automatic gunfire.
In front of the Georgian house were two vehicles - a splendid Rolls Royce and a Toyota with its windscreen smashed. The Toyota hybrid she recognised as Bill’s car.
A man dressed in a dark suit appeared at the top of the steps. He was carrying a hunting rifle, which he pointed directly at her. He was the same man who had watched her progress across the field.
“I’m Felicity Murray. I work for Colonel Keye,” she called out, holding her hands up.
Still keeping the gun aimed at her, he gestured for her to ascend the steps and approach the door. “Don’t try anything stupid,” he murmured and pointed her through to a ground floor room that had become an operations centre.
At gunpoint, she entered the room. Immediately, she was greeted with a warm embrace from a delighted Mr. Provotkin. “Felicity!” he greeted her, his eyes sparkling with mischief. “My! Both MI5 and MI6 in one day! Who’d have thought?”
“MI5 are here already?” Felicity was crestfallen. Competition between the two agencies was a deeply ingrained mentality. The man with the rifle acknowledged a discrete nod from his boss, and left the room.
“Yes, yes. The Colonel assigned one of their Watchers to Dr. Clarke earlier this year. She accompanied Dr. Clarke and Mr. Bainbridge to the meeting here today. It was just as well. The Followers have made their move.”
“So I heard,” Felicity murmured. She looked around the large room, its Baroque splendour seemingly out of place with the paramilitary activity within. She made brief eye contact with a young woman loading a shotgun. The two exchanged a smile of recognition. Felicity turned her attention back to Mr. Provotkin.
“There are men at the back entrances with assault rifles. Are they yours?”
“No. But I expected as much. I have my men ready if the Followers make a move on the house.”
“These men have been driving up here from London in vans with diplomatic plates. There’s no saying what kind of firepower they have at their disposal.” Her face was strained with concern.
“Could you make out which country?”
“No, I couldn’t. I’m sorry. Look, Mr. Provotkin, I seriously doubt that you’re going to be able to hold these people off for very long. And it will be a while before the police can get here.”
“Don’t worry, my dear. The Colonel’s on his way. He left Mildenhall about five minutes ago.”
“But it’s got to be a twenty minute drive up from Mildenhall!”
“He’s not driving, Felicity. He’s sequestered an Apache helicopter from the American airbase there.” Provotkin smiled and winked mischievously.
There was a shout from a window at the far end of the room. Outside, the shooting at the gatehouse had stopped. Provotkin and Felicity ran up to the window just in time to see a grey van crash into the wrought iron gates at the end of the drive. Within moments, a group of heavily armed men were rushing through the broken gates into the estate. They moved towards the house, using the trees along the drive for cover.
“Game on!” muttered Claire, clicking the barrel of her loaded shotgun into place. (Chapter 12, pp125-6)
And later the aftermath of the pitched battle is described to our hero, Bill Bainbridge, who was located in the house's basement during the fight (note that the story is set in 2017, and the advent of electric cars is a standing joke in the book):
“What the hell was going on up there?” Bill hissed at Felicity under his breath.
“The Followers, or whoever all those people were, attacked the house. They managed to get as far as the main entrance. We were literally holding them off in the hallway. That’s when Colonel Keye’s Apache helicopter turned up. He strafed the front drive with the main machine gun. You should have seen those guys run! It was great.” Her face took on a fond expression when she mentioned the Tall Man.
“The front drive? But…my car’s there.”
“Well, it was there, Bill. It’s totally stuffed, I’m afraid. The gunfire struck your car’s petrol tank and it detonated. You should have gone for an electric car, mate.” She tried to make light of his loss. ”If it’s any consolation, Mr. Provotkin’s Roller also got creamed. There are bullet holes all over it. You’d have thought he’d be devastated. I mean, no insurance company in their right mind is going to pay out on a Rolls Royce shot to bits by an American Army helicopter. But, he seems to have taken it in his stride.” (Chapter 13, p133)
There are further strands common to both. The hero gets wounded early on, affecting his arm - a wound that has a bearing on the story as it proceeds. Also, in the first book Ezekiel One, there is an unexpected bomb blast in the heart of London, of unknown provenance, which appears to have an intelligence target in its sights. Curiously, one of my main characters is a woman MP who serves on the Security and Intelligence Committee of the House of Commons. So, many common threads to both. However, it's fair to say that the plots of Skyfall and of my novels are very different. But in terms of the action scenes at the end of both stories there are some remarkable similarities.
I'm not sure what to make of it. Many people who read my novels said how they would make great movies. If nothing else, I can now see how aspects of them might have looked on the main screen, and it was mightily impressive.
Written by Andy Lloyd, author of 'The Dark Star' (2005), 'Ezekiel One' (2009), 'The Followers of Horus' (2010) and 'Darker Stars' (2018)
10th November 2012