You Only Live Twice (1964): UK First Edition.
It is notable that Blofeld’s plan here is not to hijack a Vulcan bomber and its deadly cargo of two nuclear bombs for a grand ransom (Thunderball ) or to use biological weapons against the United Kingdom (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) but merely to induce the notoriously suicide-prone native Japanese population to kill themselves in ever more eccentric fashion in a “garden of delights” populated by highly poisonous flora and fauna, piranha fish, scorpions, snakes and fumaroles. This garden is the locale where Blofeld goes utterly insane and indeed it is a veritable anti-Eden where the Fall of Man brought about by Adam and Eve’s quest for knowledge is all too evident. It is as if the imaginative horrors of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale or a novel by the Marquis de Sade have somehow come to life in the early 1960s with a little early Swinging Sixties hocus-pocus thrown in for good measure. Blofeld does his rounds of the garden in a full suit of armour as does his companion Bunt (with the grotesque addition of a bee-keeper’s hat) and Fleming seems to be making the point that Blofeld is trying to be a legitimate samurai warrior with all of the code of honour that implies though we the reader see he is woefully inadequate in this role and that he is a mere gaijin, common criminal and definite bounder. The madman Blofeld is nothing more than a mere shadow warrior playing at being a samurai warrior just like children play at being James Bond. Blofeld and Bunt even plan to eventually sell up from Japan and then take their ghastly “death show” on the road in other locations around the world such is their ultimate cruelty, depravity and deeply twisted inhumanity.
In You Only Live Twice there is no world domination master plan but in its stead there is just the mad king Blofeld lopping off people's heads with a samurai sword, years before the serial killer fiction craze of the 1990s (which has of course continued on until the present day) that Blofeld's plan to maximise Japanese suicides in his Garden of Death is akin to. In this sense Blofeld can be seen as a forerunner to that other madman in a Castle of Death, the serial killer ex-actor David Dragonpol in John Gardner’s James Bond continuation novel Never Send Flowers (1993) who lived in the aptly-named Scholss Drache (‘Drache’ being German for ‘Dragon’ as well as Sir Hugo Drax’s real name in Fleming’s Moonraker ) in the Rhineland, Germany. Indeed, there are many interesting connections between both Bond novels, though the Fleming purist might blanch at the idea of Gardner’s off-beat creation Dragonpol being compared to Fleming’s infamous arch-villain Blofeld! Like Dragonpol with his assassination targets of the good and the great, Blofeld attracts the suicidal Japanese seemingly for his own sick enjoyment and also for the delectation of his squat and grotesque consort Fraulien Irma Bunt. Bunt has the type of wardress face often associated with a Nazi death camp guard and as she is German and of the right age that could well have been her occupation. Fleming may well have drawn inspiration for Irma Bunt from some notorious female Nazi concentration camp guards like Ilse Koch (1906-1967), who eventually committed suicide in prison or ‘The Bitch of Buchenwald’ or Irma Grese (1923-1945), whom the Press called ‘The Beast of Belsen’ during her 1945 ‘Belsen Trial’ for war crimes and whom the inmates also dubbed ‘The Hyena of Auschwitz.’ Grese was found guilty and executed in 1945. In any event, Fleming’s contemporaneous readers would have been aware of the allusion to female Nazi wardresses Irma Bunt represented. Bunt (as described by Fleming) also looks a tad like the convicted serial killer Rosemary West.
You Only Live Twice (1964): US First Edition.