As we wait for Skyfall this autumn, let us not forget that everyone’s favorite hardboiled spy continues his adventures in literature as well. William Boyd has been chosen by the Fleming estate to write the latest Bond continuation novel, due in late 2013. (No, not Hopalong Cassidy. That’s an entirely different vein of pulp.)
The most recent Bond continuation novel, Carte Blanche, was written by American thriller (and sometimes noir) novelist Jeffrey Deaver. I haven’t read it yet, but it was not well-received. I intend to read Carte Blanche before I draw my final conclusions, but what I know of the novel suggests that Deaver deserved the abuse. Carte Blanche is set in the current day, a would-be “reboot” of the franchise.
The reboot has thankfully failed. James Bond doesn’t need an iPhone. Boyd’s new novel will be set in the late 1960s. The continuation novel preceding Deaver’s, Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care, was also set in the same period. I rather liked Devil May Care, though it was not popular among Ian Fleming fans. The principal cause for disdain was Faulk’s stylistic aping of Fleming; “Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming,” said the book’s jacket.
After the godawful fan fiction of Raymond Benson (really, airport novels would have been a step up for him), I should think fans would like something more similar to Fleming. Instead, they viewed the move as a sign that Faulks (a widely acclaimed novelist) didn’t think Bond worthy of his talent. Methinks the fanboy doth protest too much. Devil May Care was somewhat derivative, but it followed Fleming’s pattern with verve.
Boyd is already insisting that ”there will be a kind of Boydian element in the new novel,” so hopefully this mollifies potential detractors. For my part, I look forward to the new novel. Bond, as I have insisted over and over, is a very Tory pulp hero. The Fleming Bond novels are far more nuanced that most people (familiar only with the sometimes cheesy films) know. But they are still hardboiled. In these duals veins, I was heartened to see Boyd list Bond among great literary characters such as Augie March and Huckleberry Finn—and more importantly, to also include Philip Marlowe on that list.