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Sunday, 6 March 2011


This book gets the award for crappiest title ever - No Deals, Mr Bond. And then as if to compound the crap the first edition UK hardcover did away with a tasteful Richard Chopping cover and offered us a photograph of a pair of headphones and a scalpel - with a cover design and title like that readers could be forgiven for bypassing the book on the shelves.

However you should never judge a book by its cover, nor it's crap title, for No Deals Mr Bond is a damn fine novel. I'm not sure who is to blame for the book's title (probably some idiot at Glidrose who may have seen one of the films once but certainly never read any of the novels) but I do know that John Gardner hated the title and fought against it. Alas, he was simply the writer for hire and didn't have sufficient clout to get it changed.Gardner's own choice was, Tomorrow Always Comes, which is at least Bondian but Glidrose (now Ian Fleming Publications) first suggested Oh No, Mr Bond and then Bond Fights Back, before settling on No Deals, Mr Bond.

Mind you, the dodgy title is the only negative thing about this entry in Gardner's Bond series.

No Deals, begins with a mission in the Baltic Sea dubbed "Seahawk", which involves James Bond stealthily extracting two women that have completed an assignment in East Germany. After accomplishing his mission, the book continues 5 years later with Bond being called in by M to learn more background into what those women were doing there before being extracted. Their mission, dubbed Cream Cake, was a honey trap that involved getting close to top Soviet personnel as a means to not only spy for the British Secret Service, but to secure the defection of 2 highly ranking Soviet officers, an act that the Soviets occasionally performed against countries of the West. Involving 4 women and a man, the operation was considered a complete debacle that ended with the members being found out. After being extracted and given new identities, however, two of the women were discovered to be gruesomely murdered. Bond is subsequently sent by M, "off the record", to find the remaining members of Cream Cake before they suffer the same fate.

For a change we have an appealing heroine in Heather Dare, but even she may not be what she seems as 007 finds himself involved in one of he most complicated and dangerous missions of his career. I don't suppose there's nothing new here but what matters is the way Gardner stitches the familiar elements together and weaving in several original strands. The book is very fast paced and for the first part sees Bond at his best, acting as a detective as he tries to discover who is responsible for the death of the Emilies (service jargon for women placed in positions to gather information) and coming up against all manner of danger and proving he has become a master with his police-style Baton.

There are some great in-jokes throughout the book - at one point Bond does a Pierce Brosnan impression in order to check into an Irish hotel (note when Gardner was writing the book it was expected Brosnan would take over from the then James Bond, Roger Moore but the actor later had to decline when he couldn't break from his Remington Steele contract) and he also references writer, Kingsley Amis. Bond fans will know that Amis wrote the 007 adventure, Colonel Sun under the name Robert Markham.

An excellent addition to the Bond universe and maybe only second to Icebreaker among Gardner's 007 novels. Ignore the stupid title - what matters is what's between the covers.

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