Colonel Sun is still my favourite adult Bond continuation novel, but Trigger Mortis is a close second. I’m a fan of the Authorised Biography as well. I’m hoping Forever and a Day joins their company.
The reviews I’ve read (only The Times today and The Sunday Times last weekend) seem a bit mixed.
Sunday Times went so far as to note “Sadly it’s very formulaic”. “The character is so established that the novels no longer need the props and clichéd scenes.” “The next book needs to get away from the Bond checklist and formulaic structure. Fleming was much freer with his creation.” (Something that tends to go underacknowledged). Suggests a few alternative names as authors, which is a bit of a slap for this author as we’ve been told by so many of the post-Fleming authors in one way or another that not all creative decisions in something like this lie with the writer.
Does, slightly grudgingly, observe “Still, if you can put all that behind you, it is a fun read…” Perhaps that’s all it needs to be.
The Times today (Ben Macintyre reviewing) is a little more positive although again does point to it being “obedient to the traditions” and “briefly intoxicating and unsatisfying” (not totally sure what that means). Does contemplate that the “…problem for many of those who have tried [to follow Fleming] is that they are not only better writers than he was, but also nicer people.”
Both suggest there’s a decent twist towards the end.
Still buying it, but I consider my expectations now managed.
It´s always amusing to read critics struggling with (not really) complimenting Fleming and the continuation author of the day while at the same time feeling the pressure to badmouth the whole endeavor as “fun” at the most.
What else, one might ask. Does anybody expect or wish a Bond continuation novel to finally be high art, the great British novel aiming for the Nobel Prize (although the sexism on display there might finally raise the chances at winning)?
I guess the real aim for my taste is for a continuation novel to get the character right, to construct a fresh and entertaining adventure and to recreate Fleming´s style. Otherwise, what’s the point in calling it a Bond novel?
The only 2 scenes that nailed it for me post-Fleming are Colonel Sun’s opening set-piece and Trigger Mortis’ coffin escape.
But who knows, perhaps they were Fleming’s material; i know these novels contained some, but i don’t know which parts.
Fleming wrote unassuming thriller lore - pulp - as if it was literature. He knew what he did and why he did it this way; mainly to keep the pace up, keep readers turning the page. I‘m sure he could have written something else, something deeper and more high-brow. But ultimately this was where his heart was in, the borderline juvenile adventure he could lose his imagination in.
I think Macintyre misses the point a bit when he states the continuation authors were often better writers. Fleming was always a dreamer first and a writer second - and put all of his writing in the service of his fantastic adventures. And from this perspective it must sadly be noted that Fleming would seem to have been a cut above those who came after him in the dreaming department.
As for formulaic, I have trouble believing some of the continuation writers didn’t at least try to suggest the odd storyline that freed itself from the ‘traditional’ structure. But perhaps the brand of Bond has become so much a part of our cultural shorthand that IFP is hesitant to allow any deviation from the established order; maybe also because an ‘experiment’ could alienate part of the fanbase - while a newcomer to the books wouldn’t recognise anything more extravagant as a James Bond adventure. And one thing is for sure: these books are written first and foremost for people who already have an idea about Bond; most often an image drawn after the films.
Boyd’s Solo is the most critically acclaimed Bond novel since OHMSS (1963). OTOH, fans weren’t so enthusiastic…
I too didn’t find TM particularly thrilling and have no real enthusiasm for FAAD.
Boyd’s Solo was garbage, absolute utter garbage. After reading it I found it extremely wanting and I burned my copy.
As for Horrowitz, I’m not a fan because of his arrogance and ego. I’ll be checking this one out, but I’m hoping this is his last one.
I wonder how much the continuation novels actually sold and whether this was the deciding factor why Deaver etc. did not continue but Horowitz could.
I agree with everything. However I didn’t burn my copy. I shredded it.
I still have mine. I refuse to give them the satisfaction. Mine will forever sit in storage, never to see the light of day again…
Little extract of Forever And A Day here:
In the UK it’s been an almost steady downward spiral. Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis narrowly outsold Boyd’s Solo.
In the US, I believe Deaver’s sold best although apparently its sales were soft compared to his other books. The other three did not sell well at all.
Quoting my own 2013 post, According to Esther Bintliff at the Financial Times… “Boyd’s Solo sold 25,000 hardbacks in the UK in its first four weeks, according to data from Nielsen BookScan. Although this made it the worst-selling of the three new Bond novels since 2008 – Faulks’s Devil May Care sold a whopping 100,000 copies in the same period, while Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche sold 37,000 – Solo still significantly outsold Boyd’s most recent novel written in his own voice, Waiting for Sunrise, of which 13,000 copies were bought in the first four weeks. It’s too early to know how Solo will do in the longer term but, if Boyd writing as Fleming can sell more books than Boyd writing as Boyd, who can blame publishers for commissioning such a product?”
And in 2015 I wrote, Now onto England. The 15 September 2015 issue of The Bookseller says “Anthony Horowitz’s James Bond reboot Trigger Mortis (Orion) shifted 11,123” copies. The article is behind a firewall. By comparison, Boyd’s “Solo shifted 8,692 copies in its first week on sale. Such a figure for a hardback fiction title would be the envy of many publishers, but the Boyd novel’s opening week sales are 48 per cent down on the equivalent frame for Jeffery Deaver’s 2011 Bond thriller, Carte Blanche.”
Fact is, the continuations don’t sell terribly fine, mainly because they are aimed at a niche market and rarely - if ever - gain wider recognition. And if some of those books hadn’t featured James Bond but Johnny Smith instead it’s debatable whether they would have even been printed.
Painful but legitimate truth right there! Well said, Dustin!
I’d say they’d be printed…just never sold outside the WHSmith at the airport.
Fine points on all. Of the lot, CB was my favorite because I want a contemporary current Bond. I also liked Deaver’s writing and I enjoyed the story. While these period pieces are fun in concept, the really only find appeal to the fans and not the masses. I’ve been made privy to the first chapter just yesterday. It’s a fine start IMO. As to how well it plays out, we’ll see. But Bond should be of the times or as Cubby put it “five minutes into the future” .
I would be curious how they sold compared to a regular Anthony Horowitz release like Magpie Murders…
I’ve been waiting for a sequel to Carte Blanche for 7 years. Alas, we’ll never get one. Just more and more crappy attempts at imitating Fleming.
Has anyone got a copy yet? I haven’t been looking but apparently bookshops have had it on sale for a few days now.
Apparently Waterstones in the U.K. has had them out a few days now…