Per Fine Ounce Paperback – 24 Sep 2014
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Vollmer’s novel, one should stress, is not any kind of Bond continuation novel, nor does it claim to be working from the missing manuscript. It does however, with consent of the Jenkins estate, take up Jenkins’s lost novel’s title and Jenkins’s best-known character Geoffrey Peace to effect what is, in essence, a dual act of studied literary homage. Vollmer’s ‘Per Fine Ounce’ is a fast-paced thriller largely set in South Africa that sees Peace involved in a mission to prevent a plot involving a hijacked gold shipment, an ultra-right-wing white supremacist organisation, and a stolen nuclear arsenal. Jenkins’s Peace was never really a spy or secret agent and Vollmer’s hero too, although initially advised that his is mainly an intelligence-gathering operation, for which he was chosen because of his Richard Hannay-like knowledge of the region, soon involves himself in more direct violent confrontations. Vollmer is just as good as Jenkins when it comes to well-drawn action scenes. He writes knowledgeably and evocatively about the South African landscape and topography, and he also knows his stuff when it comes to the original Fleming and Jenkins DNA of his novel. I was pleased to see passing references to the gold bicycle chains and baobab wood that caught John Pearson’s eye when he read Jenkin’s original synopsis for the now-lost ‘Per Fine Ounce’. Vollmer has written an enthralling thriller that reads like a latter-day John Buchan, though which will also appeal to fans of Fleming and those authors that he knew and read. Fleming enthusiasts will want to read this not only for the sake of completeness but because of the echoes back to the kinds of novel penned by those working within Fleming’s orbit or that were, however indirectly, under his influence. There is also a wonderfully Fleming-esque note to the name of Peace’s fellow operative Sergeant Cherry Boxx, ex of Scotland Yard, now with MI6. Some readers may also be put in mind of Dalton- or Brosnan-era cinematic Bond as they read ‘Per Fine Ounce’. Those who know and enjoy Jenkins’s novels will also not be disappointed; Peace is still an active, prickly, hard-fighting, hard-loving character who enjoys his Glenfiddich. Those who don’t know Jenkins should try ‘A Twist of Sand’ or ‘Hunter Killer’.