There’s two thing that I like about these new James Bond books over the movies.
They’re set in the past, which gives them a nice nostalgic feel: the heroes smoked pipes and cigarettes, the villains were stereotypically Russians, and the women were … not always the helpless creatures that writers of the time made them out to be.
Getting inside Bond’s head you get to see that he’s actually a bit of a dick.
Trigger Mortis takes us back to the late 1950s. Naval war hero and British Secret Service agent, James Bond has returned from the successful completion of the Goldfinger assignment with the svelte innuendo that is Pussy Galore in tow. He hardly has time to start sniffing around for a new bedmate when his country has need of him yet again, this time to foil a sinister plot involving race cars, Russians and rockets.
Okay, there’s not going to be any surprises plot-wise: the villains are stereotypical for the age it’s set (Horowitz picks the Russians and a Korean) and Bond is … well, he’s Bond. The story is extremely well placed: Horowitz captures the feel and the attitudes of the time so well that the misogyny and occasional Gay-bashing just slots straight in. This is a good thing. Things were a lot different in those days, and Bond’s letching over women and mistrust of homosexuals was pretty much the norm.
The Ian Fleming Estate won’t let just anyone write a James Bond novel, and I think that’s a good thing. Sebastian Faulkes made a decent job of it, and now Anthony Horowitz has taken a very similar tack of moving everyone’s favourite hard-drinking, hard-smoking mysgonist spy right back to his roots, dropping Bond right back to the start of his career just after World War II. (If I remember rightly, Faulkes’s outing was set in the sixties).
Following the murder of 007 in France, the British Secret Service is forced to promote a new agent fresh out of training: James Bond, a decorated war hero from Naval Intelligence takes the dead agent’s number and travels to France to avenge his death. It’s pretty much the standard Bond adventure: find the woman, find the villain, sleep with the woman, kill the villain. And as with all the 007 books, it’s not so much the plot as how it’s told. Horowitz tells it very well. The genius of setting the story in the mid-forties is that it immediately restricts you: there are no satellites for electronic surveillance, no invisible cars that can shoot missiles … nope, in the good old days, all Bond had was a pistol and a radio (and he was lucky if the radio worked). So without the gadgets then Bond is a much better read. Continue reading “Book review: Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz”