Outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the James Bond film franchise is arguably the highest-grossing movie sequel series in history. And yet its source material, the original books by Ian Fleming, don’t have the same reputation as other highly adapted authors like JRR Tolkien or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As far as British literary exports are concerned, Bond is unique in that Americans who love movies seem not to be very curious about books. From 1953 to 1966, Ian Fleming wrote twelve James Bond novels and two collections of short stories. But when it comes to thunder ball either moon rakefinding someone to say “the book was better” is almost as unlikely as Bond going through the day without a cocktail.
So the question is: if you’ve skipped the Bond books, should you read them? Maybe not! Although Fleming was a pioneer of espionage literature who essentially revolutionized the game of page-turning, it’s hard to prove that a contemporary reader (or casual Bond fan) will love reading Fleming-Bond for one simple reason: many of the books are dated to the point of (sometimes) being offensive. While the case for individual novels (again, moon rake other thunder ball they are great, just like that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), others, like Live and Let Die (1954) and the spy who loved me (1962), can only be read with a bag on your head. To really enjoy yourself and feel good about the world at the same time, you really have to choose your old Bond books very carefully. But there is a solution to this problem. If you’re looking for official James Bond books that are really great and not as problematic as his literary ancestors, three much newer novels, all published between 2015 and 2022, are just about perfect.
That’s right: in order to get the best Book-Bond solution available right now, the curious reader may really want to start their 007 print adventure with three wonderful books, all written by Anthony Horowitz. these books are death trigger (2015), forever and day (2018), and the last of the Horowitz trio, With a mind to killwhich was published in May 2022.
To be clear, Horowitz is by no means the first author instructed by the Fleming estate to continue the adventures of James Bond in book form. That tradition began in 1968 when Kingsley Amis wrote the book 007. colonel sun under the pseudonym “Robert Markham,” just four years after his friend’s death in 1964. But for Bond fans, all “sequel” books are interesting, and the committed 007 completionist will find solid entries like the by John Gardner. Renewed License (1981) or William Boyd only (2013).
What makes Horowitz’s books so compelling and unique is that they really feel as modern versions of Fleming’s texts. Horowitz is the only Bond sequel author who was able to use previously unseen Ian Fleming material and weave it into completely original adventures. In death trigger, this results in actual Fleming prose drawn from a manuscript called “Hell on Wheels,” giving a racing car sequence a touch of breathless excitement. In forever and a day, some prose from Fleming’s travelogue is incorporated, as are some concepts from an unmade James Bond television series. While these details give the Horowitz Bond novels an extra touch of legitimacy, you’d hardly notice which aspects come from Horowitz and which come from Fleming. prose style of these books is perfect. If Horowitz were James Bond’s tailor, she would be Eva Green in the 2006 film version of Royal Casino, able to assess Bond and create the perfect suit for him with just a glance.
Part of the reason Horowitz’s books serve as a sort of alternate introduction to Fleming-Bond is that each of his books takes place within the chronology of the original series of novels, which means that we’re usually late of the 1950s. his first book, death triggeris about Bond going undercover as a race car driver at the French Grand Prix (seriously!) and takes place right after the conclusion of gold fingers. the second book, forever and a day, takes place before Royal Casino and focuses on Bond’s first pre–Agent 00 mission, in which he investigates the murder of the last agent who wore the number “007”. Finally, the newest book, With a mind to kill picks up the pieces from the last Bond novel Fleming wrote: the wide inequality The man with the golden gun.
Although Horowitz is a huge fan of Fleming’s original books, his books subvert much of what Bond stood for in the 1950s and 1960s. He may not admit it, but Horowitz’s books are a true reappraisal of how James Bond it connects with UK colonialism, Cold War machismo and outright sexism. The point of view of these books. feel like a 21st century lens, even if you’re reading historical fiction. And because the artifice of the books acknowledges that hindsight, an inherent critique of Bond runs through each novel.
Case in point: the last book, With a mind to killIt has several easter eggs that reference the books of John le Carré, a spy novelist many would rightly consider the antithesis of Ian Fleming. In Le Carré’s espionage universe, a figure like James Bond could not exist, because Bond’s flamboyance would be highly impractical for real espionage. And yet in With a mind to killHorowitz takes the harsh reality of le Carré’s masterpiece, The spy who came from the cold, and imagine what it would be like for Bond. What if Bond made having to pretend that he was going to defect to the USSR because of how a complete book? How would that feel? Complete with close calls to Berlin Wall checkpoints and moments where the reader isn’t quite sure what Bond is up to, it’s unreadable for fans of spy novels. With a mind to kill and not to imagine Fleming and le Carré getting drunk and simply deciding to mix it up. But if you have never read From Russian with love (fleming) or The dead’s call (le Carré), then With a mind to kill could be your gateway drug to both.
With his jolts of realism, it’s tempting to say that Horowitz has done for the new James Bond books what the Daniel Craig movies did for the film franchise. But it’s actually a bit more interesting and nuanced than that. Fusing Fleming’s propelling sense of storytelling with le Carré’s mind puzzles, Horowitz has created the James Bond Fleming books. should have written. In death triggerHorowitz briefly gives us a moment where Bond spares the life of an unnamed henchman, mainly because Horowitz believes, like Fleming reclaimed—that Bond is not really a sadist. “He hates killing people”, Fleming saying playboy in 1964, a notion Horowitz plays with in forever and a day when we first get that telltale numb Bond feeling. After a particularly brutal murder, Horowitz tells us that Bond “felt nothing”, which is another way of saying: the bonus is really fucked up.
In addition to flashes of psychological realism, Horowitz’s Bond is also more politically progressive by default, mainly because this version of Bond not only runs into gay villains, but has cool gay friends like agent Charles Henry Duggan, introduced in death trigger. As Duggan tells Bond: “The trouble with you, James, is that you’re basically a prude.” It’s a smart inversion of our perception of the famous secret agent. Not that James Bond is this god of sex, capable of doing whatever he wants. It’s actually a bit vanilla. Therefore, at the end of Fleming’s moon rakeBond is super sad because Gala Brand doesn’t want to be his girlfriend. In fact, the end of moon rake— “He touched her one last time and then they walked away from each other and went to their different lives” — actually proves that Fleming nested a sad version of Bond inside the more confident version we’re familiar with. But Horowitz is always better at making you believe that Bond is there; he removes the matryoshka doll’s lid more often, revealing the smaller Bond underneath. But not often enough to prevent the escapist adventure from happening.
Because forever and day is a prequel, we have a slightly more tender James Bond, this time, he falls in love with an older woman (with the incredible name of Sixtine) whom knows it’s bad for him. It’s a Mrs. Robinson trick that shouldn’t work, but she does anyway, in part because Horowitz is just as good at describing wine, food, and places as Fleming was. In fact, the best scene in forever and day it could be when Bond and Sixtine have a salad and wine at their villa. It’s sexy, down to earth, exciting and relatable all at the same time. Although the movies have a reputation for being bombastic action sets, the charm of the novels can be found primarily in their accurate depictions of everyday tasks. Bond controls every move, from the exact arrangement of his morning eggs to his famous tricky showers: hot at first, but super cold at the last second. In short, the good thing about Fleming was not the fantasy that a secret agent can sleep all the time or visit exotic places, but that this person can control his daily routine down to the smallest detail. Bond is the best optimizer, something that maybe felt glamorous in the 1950s, but maybe now seems a bit anal and uncompromising. In the ’50s, Bond was cool because of his everyday obsession with minutiae. But now, it’s more of a quirk, and it’s in that quirk that Horowitz finds interesting gaps in his armor. While some could probably read a Bond novel in which things went well for 007 for 200 pages, it’s the things that disrupt Bond’s routines that are so compelling and, paradoxically, comforting.
In the 2021 movie no time to die, James Bond (Daniel Craig) lost so spectacularly that he actually died while saving the world, but Horowitz doesn’t go that far. The 007 of these novels still tends to win, but just barely. And yet there is a sense of dread that hangs over all of Bond’s minor victories in these books. It’s as if the clock is ticking until this type of antihero can no longer get away with murder, which is exactly how the trick of truly great spy novels works. The reader thinks all things will be one way, until, of course, they aren’t at all. Many of Ian Fleming’s old paperbacks had the words “A James Bond Thriller” vertically across the cover. We call them thrillers because we expect a thrill, but we’re not sure what the thrill will be. It is in that moment of anticipation and surprise that Horowitz Bond novels always hit home.
Ryan Britt is the author of the new book. Phasers in a stun! How the creation and reconstruction of Star Trek changed the world, to the editor in paternal, and a writer for reverse other Geek’s Lair!
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