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.