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 John Gardner
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.
Here is a rather large stack of the pulp/noir crime fiction I’ve picked up in the past six months or so. I’ll strikethrough the books I’ve already read. From the top, then:
- R is for Ricochet, Sue Grafton
- The Goodwulf Manuscript, Robert Parker
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
A Bullet for Cinderella, John D. MacDonald
- The Dark Frontier, Eric Ambler
- The Manchurian Candidate, Richard Condon
The Bride Wore Black, Cornell Woolrich In a Lonely Place, Dorothy B. Hughes
- One Fearful Yellow Eye, John D. MacDonald
Thunderball, Ian Fleming Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy
- A Hell of a Woman, Jim Thompson
When the Women Come Out to Dance, Elmore Leonard
- Three By Cain, James M. Cain (consisting of
Serenade, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit and The Butterfly)
- The Long Fall, Walter Mosley
All Shot Up, Chester Himes Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane Miami Noir, edited by Les Standiford
- License Renewed, John Gardner
- Bad Business, Robert B. Parker
- The Underground Man, Ross Macdonald
- A Triple Shot of Spenser, Robert B. Parker (consisting of
Pastime, Double Deuce and Paper Doll)
- Nature Girl, Carl Hiaasen
- The Cold Six Thousand, James Ellroy
I’ll be doing a separate post soon about good places to look for cheap/used/out of print noir and pulp titles. These books here were accumulated from a couple different sources, and their cost ranged from free to about $7. The library is also free, and you should use it. But some of use have the collecting instinct…
Noir is notoriously tricky to define (though somewhat easier in diction than film, where is is sometimes more difficult to determine what is not a neo-noir). I include Ian Fleming’s James Bond as a pulp hero. A very Tory pulp hero, but a pulp hero all the same. Bond continuation novels are a mixed bag, and I include John Gardner’s License Renewed here because I haven’t read it yet. After reading it, I might decide it belonged to some other genre, along with Raymond Benson’s unfortunate continuation novels (which are airport novels at best and fanfiction at worst).
These do not represent the totality of my reading, as I also use the library frequently. You’ll want to check out the Currently Reading tag. I’ll probably be cheating and adding some of these books I’ve already read to that tag.