Friday, May 30, 2008

LibraryThing: "The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling"

I have updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling [Moneypenny Diaries #3] by Kate Westbrook (I actually posted my review a few days ago and forgot to mention it here. Oops.)

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last LibraryThing post, I've now moved on to the new James Bond novel Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulkes. This is a very special book that I've been looking forward to for some time (and my wife and kids haven't seen much of me since I started reading it late Tuesday night). James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, died in 1964. The last novel that he "finished" was The Man With the Golden Gun, widely considered to be the worst novel in the series. I put "finished" in quotations because there is some speculation that the book was actually finished (or at least polished) by another writer (or writers) following Fleming's death and Bond fans have often wondered how the book might have changed had Fleming had a chance to work through a second draft before publication.

Anyway, following Fleming's death, there have been three (well, actually five or six, depending on how you count) continuation authors plus a prequel author. Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham) wrote Colonel Sun the late 1960s. Then nothing more was written about Bond (at least not officially or literary; John Pearson wrote The Authorized Biography of James Bond in the 1970s [it has some really interesting ideas mixed in with some dreadfully bad concepts] and Christopher Wood wrote novelizations for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) until 1981 when John Gardner took over the helm as the James Bond author. Gardner wrote 14 novels (plus 2 novelizations). Then, Raymond Benson, author of the excellent (and hard to find) James Bond Bedside Companion, took over and wrote 6 more novels, 3 short stories, and 3 more novelizations). Gardner and Benson essentially ignored the 15+ year gap between Fleming's death (and The Man With the Golden Gun) and Gardner's first novel License Renewed (published in 1981). But, with the exception of Colonel Sun (a sadly overlooked and underrated novel), the James Bond of the 1950s and 1960s was not seen again following Fleming's death. Until now.

Several years ago, to commemorate the centennial of Fleming's birth, his literary executors decided to have a "literary" author write a Bond continuation story. They chose Sebastian Faulkes. The reason that I'm so excited about Devil May Care is that it picks up Bond's story following the events of The Man With the Golden Gun. As it begins, Faulkes' Bond is still recovering from the events of The Man With the Golden Gun and, by necessary implication, the wider series of events that overshadowed the final few Fleming novels (the death of Bond's wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service leading to Bond's final showdown with Blofeld in You Only Live Twice and Bond's eventual capture and brainwashing by the Soviets).

Don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of both Gardner and Benson (although I must say that Benson did a much better job of both capturing the essence of Bond's character and of "name dropping" people and places of interest to Bond fans, not to mention trying to tie up many loose ends that Fleming left behind). Similarly, I have been thoroughly enjoying Charlie Higson's Young Bond series (4 novels so far, with the 5th and final book due this fall) following the exploits of a teenage James Bond in the 1930s (and where we are beginning to see glimmers of how this teenager became the cold, efficient spy) and Samantha Weinberg's (writing as Kate Westbrook) Moneypenny Diaries series. But the character that I have the most affinity and attachment to is that written by Ian Fleming. Thus, I have been very, very eagerly looking forward to returning to the James Bond of the 1960s in Devil May Care.

I'm sure that most people who have seen one or more of the James Bond films have never read one of Fleming's novels. Do yourself a favor and give one a try (start at the beginning with Casino Royale); after all, Fleming's novels can, in many ways, be seen as the precursor to the modern thriller. Moreover, you may be surprised at how different the literary Bond is from the movie character (at least until Daniel's Craig's terrific performance in Casino Royale).

So, forgive me if I don't have much to say about politics or world events for a few more days. 007's license to kill has been renewed and I'm along for the ride.

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