A variety of authors have written 007 novels since the death of Bond's creator, Ian Fleming -- and the results have been mixed, to say the least. As 'Robert Markham', Kingsley Amis penned the very first post-Fleming Bond, and this attempt by a novelist better known for his 'literary' work was judged a success. Now, after a decade of less successful entries by such writers as John Gardener, we have another serious writer, Sebastian Faulks (author of such acclaimed novels as Birdsong
), taking up the challenge.
Devil May Care has already collected a jaw-dropping amount of publicity, with even the Royal Navy helping to put the book firmly at the top of the best-seller charts (Bond is, of course, a naval commander), and few books have had such wind under their sails (the relaunch of the movie franchise with the re-make of Casino Royale and Daniel Craig's second Bond film, Quantum of Solace, is all part of the ever-accelerating momentum). Of course, this also gives the book farther to fall if it misses the mark.
Faulks' author credit on the book ('Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming') is both revealing and encouraging the author has reportedly said that he undertook the task with total seriousness, and he has tried to work within the parameters of the Ian Fleming formula (Faulks re-read all the extant Bond novels and stories) rather than the more glossy film incarnation. Among several very canny moves by the author is his decision to keep his 007 in the 1960s rather than catapulting him into the 21st century (as other ersatz Fleming novels and, of course, the films -- have done. So how successful are the results?
Fleming aficionados can relax this is a sterling job of recreation, and a novel that functions with total authority in its own right. The evocation of time and place (or places, notably Paris and the Middle East) is impeccable, as are the plotting and detail (as colourful and violent as anything in Fleming); there is a satisfyingly unpleasant larger-than-life villain, Julius Gorner, with a grotesque deformity of the kind Fleming often gave such characters (the chapter 'The monkey's hand' gives this away) and grandiose, evil ambitions. Best of all, this is Ian Fleming's James Bond not a superman -- worried about his health and his physical powers (which he fears may be on the wane). Delicious stuff in fact. Now... can Faulks be persuaded to write another such novel? --Barry Forshaw.
`Fans of James Bond ... are in for a vintage year' -- Guardian
`I fell to my knees and wept with envy and rage last week when I opened my morning newspaper to discover that Ian Fleming's estate had asked Sebastian Faulks to write the next James Bond book'
-- Jeremy Clarkson, Sunday Times
`Move over Harry Potter, the published event of this year will be the new James Bond book, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks' -- Daily Express
`That a literary novelist of Faulks's calibre should take on Fleming's mantle is a fitting tribute to one of Britain's greatest thriller writers.' -- Ben Macintyre, The Times
`The biggest literary thrill of 2008' -- Observer