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Time to pension off 007,
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This review is from: James Bond: The Union Trilogy: Three 007 Novels (Paperback)
Raymond Benson took over the 007 'franchise' from John Gardner in the late 1990s before passing the baton to Sebastian Faulkes who has in turn passed it on to Jeffrey Deaver whose contribution we will see next year. This trilogy of Benson's has all the ingredients: fast pace, exotic locations (Gibraltar - exotic? Hmm!), nasty villains and plenty of thugs, plus a few hot babes of course! But, the mercenary outfit The Union is not quite in the same league as SPECTRE and their blind leader 'Le Gerant' lacks the 'wow' factor of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (who was better in the movies than in Fleming's books anyway).
Benson makes the sex more explicit than Fleming ever dared, but he gets the snobbery and the sadism pretty well on the button. These three stories are blatantly cinematic (Benson also wrote the 'novelizations' of three Pierce Brosnan Bond-films) with their hotel fights and helicopter shoot-outs, casino scenes and motorbike chases.
HIGH TIME TO KILL, the first of the trilogy, climaxes on Mount Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas and is as good as anything Gardner contributed. Sex and treachery at 7,9000 metres!
DOUBLE SHOT has Bond foiling a Union plot to assassinate the British and Spanish prime ministers in Gibraltar. Bull-fighting replaces mountaineering. Only so-so.
NEVER DREAM OF DYING has a Hollywood movie production in the South of France being used to camouflage an outrage at the Cannes Film Festival. Bond not only comes face to face with 'Le Gerant', at last, but is also reunited with Draco, the Corsican gangster whose daughter Tracy was - all too briefly - Mrs 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond falls heavily for a Hollywood actress, a high-IQ bimbo who would surely be dumbed down in a movie version. This one is pretty woeful.
But, we need to remind ourselves that Ian Fleming knocked off a few duds himself: The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy, to name but two (neither much improved by being filmed with Roger Moore). So far, none of his 'disciples' has come close to Fleming at his best: Casino Royale, From Russia With Love and Moonraker (two of them decently translated to the screen with Connery and then Craig, Moonraker representing a low point in the movie cycle recently matched by the dire Quantum of Solace.
If MGM can recover from their financial hiccups (or sell the franchise on), they should rethink their policy on Bond. Patchwork screenplays like Die Another Day and Quantum and the two written for Timothy Dalton (who in my view came the closest to capturing the essential 007 of the novels) need to be junked in favour of remaking the early Connery Bonds like From Russia and Dr No, which had strong plots and memorable characters.
Otherwise it may be time to lay James Bond to rest. In the 'real world' he'd have one of Ken Livingstone's Freedom Passes by now - and might also be boring the incontinence pants off the other residents in a twilight home!
Let's hope Jeffrey Deaver can breathe fresh life into our hero.
[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]