Haven’t listened to it, but thought I’d share.
Thanks for sharing…been looking for this one.
Interesting analysis of Horowitz’ three books.
An excellent article! Thanks for sharing.
I didn’t care much for the intro, which reeked of the woke/cancel-culture logic that Fleming’s Bond was too racist/sexist/imperialist/whatever.
But the rest of his analysis is pure gold.
Horowitz’s novels sometimes feel like they are a low-key deconstruction of Fleming’s Bond - without really feeling like a deconstruction, if you get what I mean.
The writer is also spot-on about With a Mind to Kill (LOVED the bit about this book being like a ‘‘Fleming/LeCarre mash-up’’ )
The more I think about it, the more I feel that the best course of action for EON would be to adapt the Horowitz trilogy for their next reboot of Bond.
The early period of Bond (CR, LALD, MR, etc) is interesting and exciting in the sense you’re building the world from the ground up. But I do find myself preferring the later part, namely OHMSS, YOLT and indeed With A Mind To Kill. Mainly because I like the idea of a fully formed Bond world full of long established allies, relationships and experiences that have formed his very being. Horowitz captured that psychological realism, as the above article calls it, really well.
With a Mind to Kill is as much a novel of transition as it is an end to Fleming’s Bond saga. As others have noted, like the author of the above article, there are clear references to Le Carre’s early spy novels. However, I think the novel’s beauty is diminished and its function misrepresented by calling it a “mash-up” of the two, or to say that it is like placing Bond in a Le Carre-esque plot, for Le Carre-esque it is certainly not, perhaps until the final chapter.
My thoughts below:
An appropriate subtitle to the book might be The End of Fantasy, for Fleming’s world is certainly fantastic, so much so that it served as motivation for Le Carre to paint the world as it is. In this sense, Fleming’s world must die for Le Carre’s to be born.
We are made aware of this transition in Bond’s conversations with the younger agents in the novel’s first part. In their view, the clarity of purpose of the immediate post-war years have given way to profound doubt. Through their doubt we see Bond’s world cast in its fantastic glory, filled with larger-than life figures responding to an extraordinary struggle and its aftermath in extraordinary ways, each with his particular motivations (Drax’s thirst for revenge, Dr. No’s obsessive drive for privacy). Of course, morality in Bond’s world has been questioned since its beginning (see the “The Nature of Evil” in Casino Royale), but it is certainly easier to make a case for heroes and villains in a world populated by dragons and kraken than it is by men in homburgs and mackintoshes. Bond’s occasional doubts aside, the world is populated by characters brimming with extraordinary purpose.
With a Mind to Kill is written as the dying gasp of Fleming’s fantasy. Despite the relative drabness of its setting, the novel is firmly in magical territory. This is epitomized by Colonel Boris’s Magic Room, where Bond must relive and confront the reality of his other-worldly past in a chapter that is among the most fantastic and psychedelic of the Fleming timeline. Bond is again made aware that his world is ending, as Scaramanga assures Bond that he’ll be joining him soon. His career is finally seen for what it is: a dream, a transient hallucination that cannot exist forever.
Yet the fantasy is still not yet completely dead. We are later treated to prototypically-classic Bond set-pieces in an elegant underground station and the splendor of the Berlin symphony, as well as a scrumptious meal of Georgian cuisine. It is not until Katya is gunned down without consolation that the veil is completely lifted; the fantasy is shattered and Bond’s world finally ceases to exist. He has at last harmed a person beyond justification, and cannot be redeemed.
It is in this way that we transition into the world of the real. Bond’s indifference to fate at the checkpoint stems from the realization that whether he lives or dies, the life that he knew is past. Enter the homburgs and mackintoshes. As Bond’s world ends, George Smiley’s can begin.
Finding racism/sexism/imperial longings in Fleming’s fiction is not a matter of applying cultural logic (of any variety); it merely requires engaging what is written on the page.
@hoxa: your analysis is wonderful, and inspires me to read the book.
Though I’ve never promoted it on here, I have a blog site where I do book reviews. I just posted my review of WITH A MIND TO KILL for anyone who is interested.