Death, Instead of Cartier – “Octopussy” by Gerald Wadsworth

This month Gerry Wadsworth dove into the short story Octopussy looking for treasure…


Octopussy – “Not So Tickety-Boo…Death, Instead of Cartier” …in which we find Bond in Jamaica, confronting Major Dexter Smythe, RMC, Ret., about the theft of Nazi gold bars during WW2, and the murder of Bond’s friend – Hannes Oberhauser. After Bond presents the evidence the Government has against him, Smythe – as broken dreams of wealth and a life of luxury flash through his mind’s eye – admits to the crimes and “comes clean,” explaining in detail what he did and how he escaped with the gold. Realizing that he has only a few weeks left before he is prosecuted, Smythe takes to the ocean for his recreational past-time of studying the local aquaculture. Intending to feed a deadly scorpionfish to his favorite octopus, Smythe is stung by the fish and quickly overcome by the poison. Delirious, struggling with pain, screaming into his Pirelli diving mask as it fills with water, Smythe is caught by the octopus, whose tentacles wrap around his arm and drag him down slowly, under the waves to a watery grave…

Put yourselves in the shoes of Major Dexter Smythe, Royal Marines (Retired).…

You’re living the life of luxury off stolen Nazi WW2 gold bars by selling bits of them to Chinese import/export merchants. You live on the island of Jamaica in a small villa on the ocean. You lose money gambling at poker at the Queen’s Club on the Island. You are a member of the prestigious Prince’s Club and have an exclusive entrée to the Government House. Yet you look with scorn upon the “international riff-raff” with whom you must consort for company. You are addicted to whisky, cigarettes, barbiturates, Secconal, Panadols, and brandy with ginger ale. Your heart is so bad that TNT pills are the only thing keeping you from having a massive coronary thrombosis.

You dream of the little things in a luxurious life…Bentleys, Monte Carlo, penthouse flats, Cartier watches, champagne, caviar, and a new set of Henry Cotton golf irons.

You know…the “little things” that wealth can bring you.

…If your past never catches up with you…

Then into your life walks someone from the British Ministry of Defense…a tall man in a dark-blue tropical suit. The name’s Bond…James Bond. And all your dreams and plans and secrets come crashing down to reality.

The man knows almost everything about you and your wartime past. Where you served. Who you killed. What you stole. What gun you used. And where you sell your stolen Nazi gold…

It all came down to the man you killed on the edge of a crevasse near the Austrian mountaineer’s refuge on the slopes of the Kaiser Mountains…the man was the guide you hired to lead you to the gold bars hidden in a cairn a few yards from the hut. A treasure covered by stones and wrapped up in an old Wehrmacht ammunition box…

The man was James Bond’s ski instructor when he was a young boy…a father to Bond when he needed one the most. So the death and killing was personal.

You have a choice. Turn yourself in to the Government and confess your crimes. Or take the coward’s way out. Bond gave him an option: “It’ll be about a week before they send someone out to bring you home” he said.

It was the old version of leaving the guilty officer alone with his revolver…

So what would you do?

Smythe went to the beach and with his diving gear, looked for a Scorpionfish to spear and feed to his favorite octopus – “Pussy.” It was a scientific experiment. Could an octopus eat a poisonous fish and survive?

It was a scientific experiment that went wrong. Very wrong.

The Scorpionfish lunged up from the sea bed and with it’s poison-tipped spines pierced Smythe’s chest. “You got me, you bastard! By God, you got me!” Smythe screamed into his Pirelli mask…

Smythe had no more than fifteen minutes left to live. Fifteen minutes of hideous agony.

But his Pussy was there…waiting for him, with tentacles outstretched…waiting to shake his hand…and she did. Dragging Smythe quietly, relentlessly, downwards, as he thrashed with convulsions until he lost consciousness…

Smythe took the easy way out – but not by choice. What would you do?

For my painting of Octopussy, I chose to include those sea creatures that Smythe called his “People”…he loved them and believed they reciprocated his affections.

Reef swimmers, like Smythe, avoided the three most dangerous denizens of the deep: the Scorpionfish, the shark and the barracuda – and of the three the Scorpionfish was the most deadly. So I included the fish Smythe speared on his trident, and the barracuda, watching hungrily over the scene.

…artistic license allows the inclusion of some fish named in the story, and some not. There are two bright red Jewel fish with whitish spots, a Butterflyfish with orange stripes, an iridescent indigo blue Hamlet fish, and a Cowfish – chosen because it added a humorous visual to an otherwise grim scenario.

…de rigueur is the octopus that drowned Smythe – his tentacles grabbing the Pirelli mask and wrapping around the Henry Cotton golf club that represents a broken token to Smythe’s shattered dreams.

…the Cartier Tank watch became a “sank watch” that swirls to the bottom in glints of black leather, gold and sapphire cabochon.

…I couldn’t find a Pirelli full-face mask of the period, so I had to adopt and adapt one and gave it the Pirelli logo on the face mask glass – a logical placement that I saw on other diving masks.

…and the stolen Nazi gold bars, of course.

The only thing I was forced to leave out? The Chopping fly – my usual visual tribute to the Master of the Bond book covers.

Incidental Intelligence

Buy prints at James Bond Art

Interview with Gerald Wadsworth, James Bond Artist

Buy Octopussy & the Living Daylights

15 thoughts on “Death, Instead of Cartier – “Octopussy” by Gerald Wadsworth

  1. Wadsworth’s Bond art just goes from strength to strength.
    Nobody has ever mined an author’s work for inspiration in quite this way.
    Many have illustrated scenes from the books but this is something quite different. Here Wadsworth goes to the soul of Fleming’s works to create real art that completely embodies the character of each story by using elements that are instantly recognisable to the 007 aficionado.
    The works are beautifully painted in phenomenal detail and in colours that heighten the senses in the most marvellous manner. They explode from the canvas in the way that Fleming’s words leap from the page.
    What’s more, his painting has just got technically better as the series has progressed and this, ‘Octopussy’ is absolutely one of the best.
    The originals belong in ‘The Tate’ but I will certainly be adding a print to the collection in my study.
    Bravo to Gerry Wadsworth for this extraordinary artistic achievement and bravo to for bringing it to my attention.

  2. Those colors, wow!

    The rictus, I’m attracted and yet disgusted. 😉

    This is amazing, Gerry. I don’t revisit the short stories often, but this one is filled with such imagery that I couldn’t imagine another way to capture it. Well done sir!

  3. And from one of my favorite short stories too!! Absolutely incredible! But then again I’d expect nothing less from Gerald!! Great work!!

  4. Another wonderfully well-planned artistic contribution to what I envision to be a master body of visual work interpreting and illustrating Fleming’s literary creation.

    • Sometimes, W. Greer, I don’t either…I look at what I’ve done and ask “Did I do that?” You get into the mindset and everything just flows…Thanks, and hope you guys are doing well! Drop a line…”you can tell a Homa but you cain’t tell him much”…

  5. Amazing work as always! Mr. Wadsworth is indeed of a very rare breed. Truly talented. This would look amazing hanging on any fan’s wall.

  6. As always Gerry Wadsworth’s art is superbly creative and brilliantly executed. The imagery and rich colours really really grab your attention and add to the enjoyment of the books. Keep up the great work sir!

  7. Fantastic painting. I am blown away by the detail you’re able to achieve with watercolor. And I love how you abstract the composition from the details of the story. Fabulous work!

  8. Simply gorgeous and even more exquisite to see in person! The attention to detail even in the placement of the Pirelli logo keeps the viewer constantly looking for more in the painting. Now that my fiancé and I have a print for ourselves, it’ll be an excellent addition to our walls. Cheers Gerry

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