Midsummer Night’s Doom is a short James Bond adventure written to coincide with Playboy Magazine’s 45th anniversary. It is the second short story that Bond continuation author, Raymond Benson wrote that appeared in Playboy, the first being Blast From The Past which ran in 1997. And it goes without saying – I only read Playboy for the articles!
The story opens with a briefing in M’s office. As the story is fairly recent, M is Barbara Mawdsley – for those familiar with the films, but not of any of Benson’s continuation novels, Mawdsley is the character portrayed by Judi Dench. She asks 007 how much he knows about Playboy Magazine and Hugh Hefner. Bond reveals that he once bumped into Hefner whilst on a fishing trip in Jamaica.
Then M explains:
“It’s the bloody leak in the Ministry Of Defense again,” she said. “There is a river of information flowing out of there, and it’s apparently changing hands at parties being held at the Playboy Mansion West, Hugh Hefner’s home in Los Angeles.”
‘Hef’ is not the bad guy. His legendary parties are simply being used for the exchange. The seller is a rockstar named Martin Tuttle, whose ex-wife worked for the Ministry of Defense. She’d smuggle out secrets and give them to Tuttle, who’d fly them back to the US and then pass them on to the Russian Mafia at the Playboy parties.
Unknown to Tuttle, his ex-wife has been picked up by the authorities, and she has revealed the whole scam. But it is up to 007 to follow Tuttle to the Playboy Mansion and find out who his contact is.
In this instance, Tuttle is carrying the microfilm plans for infrared focal plane arrays (a camera device that can imitate the human eye and then process the data it receieves).
The Playboy party is a theme night – the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream party. The guests are expected to attend wearing their pajamas, nightshirts or (of course) exotic lingerie. Bond arrives at the party in his pajamas covered by an Oriental silk house coat. Soon after he meets ‘Hef’ who acts as ‘Q’, handing Bond a gold pen which acts as a radio transceiver, and the accompanying earpiece.
Also attending the party is Tony Curtis (from The Persuaders), Robert Culp (from I, Spy), and Jim Brown. There is also a borish Russian film-maker called Anton Redenius.
The story is an interesting diversion, but some of the passages are cringe worthy. Sure Bond is somewhat of a hedonist and is in a familiar environment when surrounded by beautiful women and dining on fine food. But I don’t see Bond as a disco dancer (even if it is with Miss October 1994).
Also I don’t like Bond entering or mixing with the entertainment industry. It also bothered me in Benson’s 2001 novel Never Dream Of Dying. I always see Bond mixing with (and battling) men with old world power and money. The entertainment industry, by it’s very nature is all smoke and mirrors, and ultimately fickle. One minute you’re up – next you’re down. So I don’t see characters from the film or music industries as having any gravitas.
I realise my point of view is without foundation in the real world. Anyone with large amounts of money has power, and as such can be a worthy adversary for James Bond. But in the Bond universe, I feel we need villains who are worthy of Bond’s snobery.
Having said all that, Midsummer Night’s Doom is a light Bondian confection written purposely to coincide and compliment Playboy Magazine’s 45th anniversary. The story is not exactly a throwaway piece, but certain liberties have been taken to bring the Playboy universe and the Bond universe together. It’s not exactly a snug fit. While some elements click, others do not.
I wouldn’t consider this story core bond material, so unless you’re a hardened Bond enthusiast (and I suspect there’s quite a few of you out there), I wouldn’t go hunting high and low for a copy of Playboy – January 1999.