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on 30 August 2017
If you're a fan of the James Bond novels then you're a fan of the characters and characterisations of Ian Fleming. Whilst it's inevitable when you've enjoyed a series of books that you're left wanting more beyond the author's death the reality is that the characters, the characterisations (the hero himself in particular) cannot truly be recaptured by the mind of another author; someone who didn't create those people, who didn't have the backstories of each one in their mind (undivulged to the reader but inevitably in the mind and creative context of their creator). For the foregoing reasons any attempt at 'continuing' another man's work of fiction is doomed to be no more than a synthetic pastiche unworthy of the original creation that won so many fans and so the cleverness of John Pearson's idea to write instead a pseudo-biography of the fictitious James Bond is one that ought to have worked better than any other 'sequel' could.
Pearson sets up the idea that through a series of events he discovers that in fact Ian Fleming had been writing pseudo-fiction largely based on missions undertaken by a real agent called James Bond in collaboration with the Secret Service as a kind of double-bluff to convince the enemy that agent OO7 wasn't real rather he was a fictitious person and therefore to 'take the heat off' the real Bond. This is a rather peculiar premise for Pearson's 'biography' and comes across as ridiculous. Although Pearson's writing style in presenting the unknown personal and professional bits of Bond's life is generally very good the whole book jars as one reads it as it's littered with various characters remarking that "Fleming got that wrong", "Ian exaggerated that detail", "Ian totally misunderstood that", "Moonraker never happened" which places Fleming's supposed former colleague Pearson in the position of arrogantly 'correcting' the creator of the novels in his own rationales for his characters - talk about insulting! Surely the purpose of any homage or attempt to follow Fleming in this way is meant to be a compliment to the creator of the James Bond novels not to have the characters from the books holding their creator up to ridicule for getting details "wrong" or for "exaggerating"? It's bizarre for Pearson to take this tack and feel that fans of Fleming would be comfortable with this approach. Finally Pearson attempts to close the book with a new mission in the offing yet he sets a ludicrous, comical scene with Bond off to Australia to fight giant mutant rats! With some respectful editing this book could have been a fine attempt unfortunately it feels more of a feeble one that flings a final insult at everything the fan loved!
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on 23 January 2006
Most Bond fans are familiar with the James Bond continuation novels by Amis, Gardner, Benson, and Higson, but few are familiar with this one-shot continuation novel written by John Pearson in 1973. This book claims to be the "true" story of James Bond, secret agent and colleague of Ian Fleming, who gave a one-time interview to John Pearson while on leave in Bermuda in 1973. Pearson’s straight-faced presentation of how he came to meet the real 007 is the first highlight of many in this excellent James Bond novel. I mean biography. I mean…well, you know.
The book cuts back and forth between the author's adventures interviewing the sometimes uncooperative Bond in Bermuda and Pearson’s own retelling of Bond’s life story. Many of the events Pearson chronicles read like James Bond short stories -- and good ones at that! For Bond fans who have longed to hear tales of Bond’s early missions and his wartime adventures, you have it all here. Some of the stories have a bite that rivals Fleming. Bond’s mission to Stockholm to kill a former colleague is quite shocking, both in the events and the clean, clipped economy of the writing.
We also get looks at Bond’s failings and the periods between missions: James Bond forced to consider taking a job as a Harrods department store detective during a period of desperate unemployment; James Bond the social dropout living off his looks and wealthy women in island resort communities (Pearson reveals the events of “The Hildebrand Rarity” took place during one of Bond's beachcomber periods). One of the strongest moments in the book is when Bond, during a period of suspension because of scandal, takes a seat at a Blades gambling table, not to best a villain or win over a woman, but in a last desperate attempt to make a living. All of Bond’s nerve and skills fail him. It’s as if the universe itself rejects a James Bond who is not 007.
The premise of the book is strained a bit in the last third (abruptly sectioned off with its own heading titled “The Man and the Myth”) in which Bond recalls how the famous 007 novels were a plot concocted by Fleming -- and endorsed by M -- to convince Bond’s enemies in SMERSH that 007 was a work of fiction. The sudden appearance of the more fantastical characters of the Fleming novels don’t seem to belong in the same universe as the more realistic Pearson adventures. Still, the “conspiracy” approach to the novels origins puts an interesting spin on things, and it’s amusing how Pearson explains that Moonraker was a pure work of fiction, concocted by Fleming and Bond, to further confuse and frustrate the Russians.
It’s a delightful game Pearson plays in this book -- using fiction, posing as nonfiction, to explain how famous works of fiction where, in fact, nonfiction. (Did you get all that?) The entire book is an exercise in misinformation, a twisting-and-turning spy experience for the reader. In the final chapter, Bill Tanner lays out the details of an Australian assignment involving Bond’s old nemesis Irma Bunt, setting up what would have been a terrific second Pearson novel. Unfortunately, this second novel, if there ever was one planned, never materialized; and Bond fans are left to wonder how James Bond handled “The Giant Rats of Crumper’s Dick.”
I recommend this book highly.
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on 6 December 2010
As a big fan of the Bond novels and films I find it hugely surprising to read so many negative reviews of this book. My personal impression was that it was a genuinely decent effort at trying to bring a sense of realism to the Bond character and his origins and a more than cursory explaination for his skills and character traits. I read Devil May Care a few weeks after this novel and that trully is awful. A gaudy pastiche of Flemming's writing and storytelling style.
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on 15 February 2011
I have had a paperback version of this book for many years and have read it on a number of occasions. I have thoroughly enjoyed it every time and decided I would like a hard back version.
This is a well constructed novel giving the reader the background to Bond's early life and adventures. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any Bond afficianado.
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on 14 December 2009
I love the character of Bond from Fleming's books. In this book Bond constantly acts and says things that I could never see him doing. I understand the spirit and context of the book, but it can't help jarring whever the author starts a sentence like, "What Fleming didn't understand about bond was..." I didn't find the JB depicted here particularly likeable. If you're really into the books this 'biog' will seem tempting, however, it'll probably just annoy. STOP GETTING BOND WRONG!
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on 16 November 2009
This book fills in all the gaps. A must for any fan of the Fleming books.
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on 8 August 2008
Yes, I agree with two of the previous reviewers here; this book is utter balderbash. Pearson apes Fleming's style without realising the tongue in cheek attitude the original always kept. There has been no update in style since the 1970s so we get words like negro and Roumanians jumping out on us and bottom line, the story and idea behind it are weak. In an age where Bond is selling any product he's on I cannot recommend this book to even the most ardent Bond fan, even as an enjoyable skim read.

Go for Simon Winder's book The Man Who Saved Britain if you want a read that covers the Bond era as Fleming wrote it without the nonsensical idea of interviewing a man who doesn't exist.
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on 22 November 2013
If you like to imagine "but what if he were real" this book is for you. Fans of Bond will have a lot of fun picking up the clues and enjoying the plotline of a massive deception perpetrated by Ian Fleming. A whole new bond story in itself too.
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on 8 July 2015
What an excellent book! The author is a consummate storyteller and writer extraordinaire. Attention to detail and description is very 'Ian Fleming'. Would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good story well told.
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on 10 November 2015
Brilliant. So glad this is in print again. I read it years ago when I borrowed it from the library. Will be purchasing the hardback too.
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