Updating James Bond to the 1980s was probably a novel idea at the time. But now it doesn’t make so much sense. Like the more recent Carte Blanche, No Deals, Mr. Bond is a decent thriller. Jeffrey Deaver’s Bond will probably be much more dated in 25 years than Gardner’s Bond works are today. Still, I can’t bring myself to approve of updating the literary (hardboiled, Tory pulp hero) Bond to the “present day”—whenever that happens to be.
Posts tagged Carte Blanche
With the news that William Boyd is going to be the latest Bond continuation author, I decided it was high time to read the most recent Bond continuation novel: Jeffrey Deaver’s Carte Blanche. Deaver joined the ranks of previous Bond continuation novelists Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Raymond Benson and Sebastian Faulks.
If we were to compare Deaver to other Bond novelists, he would be in the middle of the pack. If it were not a Bond novel, Carte Blanche would be an adequate thriller novel rather than a disappointment. Deaver is certainly is not as bad as the glorified fanfiction of Raymond Benson. But Deaver should not be compared to these authors. In attempting to reboot the Bond franchise in the 21st century, Deaver can only be compared to Bond’s first appearance in Casino Royale.
The comparison is not flattering to Deaver. Fleming told his tale with verve, style, economy. Deaver’s Bond, by comparison, is a generic action hero in a bloated plot. Deaver’s prose cannot compare to Fleming’s. He tries to cobble together the elements of a Bond novel and translate them to the 21st century. It is not apparent to this reader that he is capable of either—he certainly cannot do both.
One has only to look at the final line of each novel to ascertain the differences. Fleming’s Bond is a hardboiled, brutally efficient Cold Warrior who deserves his double-0 status. ”Yes, dammit, I said ‘was.’ The bitch is dead now.” Deaver isn’t altogether comfortable with this attitude in the War on Terror, and tries to humanize Bond: “And, if he correctly recalled the poem Philly Maidenstone had so elegantly quoted, travelling fast meant travelling alone.”
Casino Royale was published in 1953, and the series has shown enormous longevity. Carte Blanche proved to be a serviceable thriller. But if it had actually been the first Bond novel, as opposed to an aborted reboot, we would not be talking about the franchise nearly sixty years later.
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.