Top critical review
A copy of a copy of Bond
on 7 December 2015
Published in 1982 For Special Services was the second John Gardner novel to feature Bond. The name of the book came from an inscription on a .38 Police Positive Colt revolver Fleming received for his work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner to the CIA.
All the key parts of a Bond story are present, albeit updated, for better or worse for the 1980s. For example:
· we get a female Q (Q'ute – a friend with benefits),
· a different car – the Saab 900,
· a handful of gadgets,
· a pre-credits sequence; the hijacking of an airplane, and
· a new gun, a Heckler & Koch VP70.
The story is a typically far-fetched affair:
Bond teams up with CIA agent Cedar Leiter, daughter of his old friend, Felix Leiter. Together they investigate S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent, Markus Bismaquer. Bismaquer is a collector of rare prints; Bond and Cedar pose as art dealers to infiltrate his organisation. They reveal their true identities after a nail-biting car race. Bismaquer’s wife, Nena falls for Bond. She confides in Bond that Bismaquer is the new Blofeld.
Bond discovers that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. plans to take over control of America's military satellite network. Bond is then brainwashed into participating in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.'s scheme. He regains his memory in time to see Nena killing Bismaquer. The final twist being that its actually Nena, who is the mind behind the operation and the daughter of Blofeld. She makes this confession moments before a python crushes her. Felix Leiter, who arrives on the scene to help rescue his daughter, puts Nena out of her misery.
So in summary, it’s a decent enough thriller and an entertaining enough slice of Bond. But I was left feeling a little ambivalent about For Special Services. The plot seems to be influenced more from the movie version of Bond, than the literary version. It’s a little like a copy of a copy of Bond. Read it with this in mind and you’ll enjoy it all the more.