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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Solo William Boyd

I think the Ian Fleming copyright holders should get William Boyd to pen another James Bond novel since Solo is a far more satisfactory Bond novel than both Devil May Care and Carte Blanche. I think what William Boyd's done here is to completely engross himself in the larger than life world Ian Fleming created in a way that the writers of the previous two Bond novels didn't. He doesn't go for realism, understanding that Bond can never be realistic and instead treats Bond as a superhero in a tux.

Boyd's Bond is very much Fleming's Bond - a carnal, chain smoking, action man. This is a Bond who can't talk to a woman without his eyes falling to the small nippled breasts or the bra-busting bouncers. In an early segment of the book Bond breaks into a woman's house and watches her undress. It's all good unclean fun and by the time the story starts proper I was completely sucked into the world of Bond in a way I have not been for a great many Bond novels. It helps, of course, that Boyd sets his novel in 1969 when Bond is 45 and ageing quite disgracefully. We don't need Bond updated for our overly sensitive times, nor do we want him to treat women as equals. The man Fleming created was a chauvinistic bastard and so too is the Bond that Boyd successfully recreates.

Bond admired the small-nippled breasts of the girl on the next table, clearly visible through the transparent gauze of her blouse. There was something to be said for modern fashions after all.

The plot concerns the fictional African country of Zanzarim which is in the midst of a terrible civil war and Bond is sent over with the task of bringing the war to an end. It is here that the book does tend to get a bit bogged down as Bond posing as a journalist, but after a terrific jungle scene things start to pick up again and there is a massive shock around the mid-way point. The latter section of the novel is set in America where Bond goes rogue, or solo as the book would have it, in order to exact vengeance for his near death at the hands of a double crossing bitch. There are more twists to come and Felix Leiter pops up towards the end of the book and helps Bond put everything in order.

There were several nice touches in the book - Bond bumping into an old school friend  and then naming many of his classmates for one and also the recipe for James Bond's salad dressing is painfully detailed. These may seem like minor points but they do add colour to the book, and make Bond seem real in a way that he hasn't for a great many years.

Overall then Solo is a success and the Bond here owes much more to the literary character than the cinematic one. This guy is nasty and even makes Daniel Craig looks like a pussy, and thankfully he does it all with so much style.

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