Posts tagged not noir

While we’re on the subject of Bond continuation novels, William Boyd’s Solo is the most recent.  The previous installment was the lamentable Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver—the best thing about it is a cocktail recipe, unnamed in the book but referred to as a Carte Blanche despite other drinks with that name.  Unlike Carte Blanche, Boyd’s Solo mercifully spares us the details of Bond’s iPhone.
Solo is set in 1969, several years after The Man with the Golden Gun (Fleming’s final, posthumously published, Bond novel).  It was good to see 007 navigating Cold War politics again (why don’t the moviemakers try that out?), but Solo deviates from the Fleming mold in other ways.
Unlike Kingsley Amis, Boyd does not embrace genre fiction.  Instead, Solo seems more like James Bond as written by John Updike.  Boyd gives us a more literary, introspective Bond.  Fleming’s heroes are surprisingly deep, though never at the expense of delivering a cracking potboiler.  Boyd’s plot is seemingly borrowed from John D. MacDonald’s Nightmare in Pink, and is not terribly compelling.  It serves to facilitate Bond’s navel-gazing, but not his heroics.  

While we’re on the subject of Bond continuation novels, William Boyd’s Solo is the most recent.  The previous installment was the lamentable Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver—the best thing about it is a cocktail recipe, unnamed in the book but referred to as a Carte Blanche despite other drinks with that name.  Unlike Carte Blanche, Boyd’s Solo mercifully spares us the details of Bond’s iPhone.

Solo is set in 1969, several years after The Man with the Golden Gun (Fleming’s final, posthumously published, Bond novel).  It was good to see 007 navigating Cold War politics again (why don’t the moviemakers try that out?), but Solo deviates from the Fleming mold in other ways.

Unlike Kingsley Amis, Boyd does not embrace genre fiction.  Instead, Solo seems more like James Bond as written by John Updike.  Boyd gives us a more literary, introspective Bond.  Fleming’s heroes are surprisingly deep, though never at the expense of delivering a cracking potboiler.  Boyd’s plot is seemingly borrowed from John D. MacDonald’s Nightmare in Pink, and is not terribly compelling.  It serves to facilitate Bond’s navel-gazing, but not his heroics.  

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Here it is.  The first Bond continuation novel.  After Ian Fleming’s death in 1964, his estate released several previously unreleased works by Fleming, and then commissioned Kingsley Amis to write a new Bond novel.  Amis, always a fan of literate potboilers, was happy to oblige.  Amis wrote under the pseudonym Robert Markham, though his involvement in the project was common knowledge.  

Colonel Sun may be the closest of any Bond continuation novel to Fleming’s original work, though I’d reserve that honor for Sebastian Faulks’ panned (but enjoyable) Devil May Care.  Still, Colonel Sun is an important bit of prose for Bond fans, and vastly exceeds many of the subsequent Bond continuation novels.

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The local radio station was talking about this song the other day.  The deejay (do they still call them that?) said it reminded her of film noir.  I wasn’t sure how.  But it’s a damn good song.  Can’t beat Nick Waterhouse for vintage musical stylings.  And “Dead Room” sounds like a noirish song title, if I’ve ever heard one.  

Eh, not everything retro is noir.  Though “Dead Room” does have a grimy directness that’s not far from pulp.  But don’t think about it too much.  Just enjoy the damn song.

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It’s the perfect companion for reading crime fiction.  Hell, for reading anything.  I sit there with a book in my lap and a pipe in my teeth.  This isn’t a cigarette.  I’m not taking the time to pack my pipe and light it because I need nicotine.  I don’t need to puff at all hours.  
I can pick it up when I want it.  I can think, I can read.  I can puff.  I can join the fraternity of great men who have puffed on their pipes as they thought.  As they read.  As they wrote.  Cigars are great for celebrating.  For socializing.  For drinking good whiskey neat.  But a pipe for thinking.
Even the tobacco is literary.  Bell’s Three Nuns was the favorite of C.S. Lewis.  They say the recipe has changed since then.  Maybe I’m missing out.  But when you’re born too late you have to take what you can get.  And what I get is tobacco.  I love peeling back the fluted paper on a new tin of tobacco.  And each time I open the tin again.  It’s like unwrapping a present.
Into my favorite briar it goes.  No glass nonsense for me.  I once walked into a self-proclaimed smoke shop.  All I saw was swirly, spacey glass contraptions.  I walked right out.  Give me something substantial.  Something all the kiddies aren’t doing or experimenting.  
Sure, my pipe is a cheap one.  And the rim has a little char.  So what?  I don’t want something you can throw in the dishwasher.  It’s a man’s tool.  It looks like one.  And it’s a tool I’m proud of.  A tool I clean and take care of.  But a tool I use.
Doesn’t mean it’s not a vice.  I know it is.  It’s an older vice.  A forgotten vice.  A vice I don’t need.  A vice I chose.  A vice I didn’t just pick up because I thought everyone was doing it.  A vice I admire.  A vice I can perfect.  The best kind to have.  After all, who wants a second-rate vice?  

It’s the perfect companion for reading crime fiction.  Hell, for reading anything.  I sit there with a book in my lap and a pipe in my teeth.  This isn’t a cigarette.  I’m not taking the time to pack my pipe and light it because I need nicotine.  I don’t need to puff at all hours.  

I can pick it up when I want it.  I can think, I can read.  I can puff.  I can join the fraternity of great men who have puffed on their pipes as they thought.  As they read.  As they wrote.  Cigars are great for celebrating.  For socializing.  For drinking good whiskey neat.  But a pipe for thinking.

Even the tobacco is literary.  Bell’s Three Nuns was the favorite of C.S. Lewis.  They say the recipe has changed since then.  Maybe I’m missing out.  But when you’re born too late you have to take what you can get.  And what I get is tobacco.  I love peeling back the fluted paper on a new tin of tobacco.  And each time I open the tin again.  It’s like unwrapping a present.

Into my favorite briar it goes.  No glass nonsense for me.  I once walked into a self-proclaimed smoke shop.  All I saw was swirly, spacey glass contraptions.  I walked right out.  Give me something substantial.  Something all the kiddies aren’t doing or experimenting.  

Sure, my pipe is a cheap one.  And the rim has a little char.  So what?  I don’t want something you can throw in the dishwasher.  It’s a man’s tool.  It looks like one.  And it’s a tool I’m proud of.  A tool I clean and take care of.  But a tool I use.

Doesn’t mean it’s not a vice.  I know it is.  It’s an older vice.  A forgotten vice.  A vice I don’t need.  A vice I chose.  A vice I didn’t just pick up because I thought everyone was doing it.  A vice I admire.  A vice I can perfect.  The best kind to have.  After all, who wants a second-rate vice?  

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This was a pretty prosaic Cold War thriller.  French secret agent Al Glenne may have been billed as “the FRENCH James Bond,” but Glenne lacks Bond’s depth and élan.  It was a quick, enjoyable read nonetheless.

Operation Jealousy was translated by Ralph Hackett, for whom I can’t find much information, except that he also translated three of Braun’s other novels (the ones listed on the book jacket).  Whether Braun or Hackett’s doing, the prose in this book is serviceable though far from impressive.  (Of course every rule must be proved by its exception.)  

Bottom line: decent thriller.  I think the book (as an object) is a pretty neat vintage paperback.  Not a must-read, but I’m glad it’s sitting in my collection.

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I reviewed this thriller for CFL, and enjoyed it immensely.  If you like fast-paced suspense, then this is a book you should pick up.
But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

I reviewed this thriller for CFL, and enjoyed it immensely.  If you like fast-paced suspense, then this is a book you should pick up.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

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Internal Security by David Darracott is my latest review over at Crime Fiction Lover. If you happen to be jonesing for a left-leaning Ayn Rand, then Internal Security is the book for you. Lest readers think I’m being prejudicial or partisan, let me hasten to add that this is no more problematic than a (or the original) right-leaning Ayn Rand. Preachy novels are not my bag, but it’s a serviceable thriller nonetheless.
But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

Internal Security by David Darracott is my latest review over at Crime Fiction Lover. If you happen to be jonesing for a left-leaning Ayn Rand, then Internal Security is the book for you. Lest readers think I’m being prejudicial or partisan, let me hasten to add that this is no more problematic than a (or the original) right-leaning Ayn Rand. Preachy novels are not my bag, but it’s a serviceable thriller nonetheless.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

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.  

The semester is over, and I’m decompressing with Harry Harrison’s anarchically humorous sci-fi.  Fans of pulp literature may recognize Harrison as the ghostwriter of Vendetta for the Saint, the first which series originator Leslie Charteris did not write himself.

But here Harrison in on his own terms, with his own hero.  This is certainly not hardboiled, not by a long shot.   But it’s solidly entertaining pulp.  Harrison has a breezy, quick-witted style that makes Slippery Jim (a.k.a. The Stainless Steel Rat, a.k.a. James Bolivar DiGriz) a quickly endearing hero.

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As promised, my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is now posted over at Crime Fiction Lover.  Gone Girl has certainly been a runaway success—but is it any good?  Check out my review and find out why I think it’s a pretty darn good thriller.  If any of you have read it, I am (as always) curious to hear your reactions.
But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

As promised, my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is now posted over at Crime Fiction Lover.  Gone Girl has certainly been a runaway success—but is it any good?  Check out my review and find out why I think it’s a pretty darn good thriller.  If any of you have read it, I am (as always) curious to hear your reactions.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go read the review, then take my word for it.

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