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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Book Review: Forever and a Day by Anthony 007 is dead!

'So 007 is dead,'

I reviewed the first Horowitz Bond novel, Trigger Mortis CLICK HERE, and looking back at that review it seems the only thing I wasn't enamoured with was the title itself. Trigger Mortis -  it just didn't sound Bondian. There have been some great titles used for the Bond continuation novels over the years, and of course some not so good, and whilst Trigger Mortis was not, to my mind, the worse title (that distinction belongs to John Gardner's execrably titled, No Deals, Mr Bond) it just didn't have that touch of class, that magical ring to it. We're talking titles here mind -  not the books themselves because Gardner's No Deals, Mr Bond is ironically one of his best Bond novels and Mr Horowitz's first Bond novel was bloody wonderful.

On a side note -  John Gardner was revealed to not be happy with the title, No Deals Mr Bond and wanted to title the book, Tomorrow Always Comes but the estate wouldn't go with it and so No Deals, Mr Bond was settled on. It could have so much worse and Bond Fights Back and Oh No Mr Bond were also suggested.

Thankfully Horowitz was asked by the Fleming estate to pen a second Bond novel and this time the title itself is pure Bond - Forever and a Day. The novel itself also carries on in the same assured style as the previous Horowitz title. There's a lot of the Bond formula used in the story - the meeting with M, the high stake gambling, the larger than life villain, the torture scene, the snobbery towards food and wine, but because this book takes place before Casino Royale, the first Fleming novel,  and because Horowitz delivers this deceit with such proficiency, it feels almost as if the well worn formula is actually being invented here.  There are some nice touches too throughout the book - we learn the origin of why Bond likes his drinks, 'shaken and not stirred', and why he smokes a certain type of cigarette. There are other little nods for Fleming fans too but I'll leave you to discover them.

The book opens with M delivering the line, 'So 007 is dead.' And this time it's not a twist that will reveal 007's death was staged in order to go deep undercover. No, this time 007 really is dead - shot three times whilst operating in the South of France. It seems another agent carried the 007 number before Bond, and this book tells the story of how Bond replaced him, became the new 007 and also avenged his death. This all takes place before the events in the actual first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. This makes this book a prequel to the series, and as such I think it's very good.

The fact that Horowitz is able to set his Bond novels in the time frame where he belongs, an era when political correctness had yet to show it's ugly head gives him a massive advantage over some of the other Bond continuation authors. The novels that have Bond set in the modern day have always seemed more like the film Bond than Fleming's creation, and it is Fleming who Horowitz is reaching for here. As good as the Bond novels of say John Gardner and Raymond Benson were, and sometimes they were very good, you can't help thinking that they would have been so much better had they been set in the 1950's/1960's like Fleming's original canon. Still, I believe that was down to rules set by the Fleming estate rather than the authors themselves.  I wrote to John Gardner when his first Bond novel, Licence Renewed came out and I still have his reply in my scrap book and he more or less confirmed this.

There are one or two problems with the story in that the MKII Bentley Continental mentioned early in the story didn't actually exist at the time the story is set, but then Fleming often messed up his cars in the original books, so maybe that's the point. It does though seem an oversight that there is no mention of the 4 litre supercharged Bentley that Fleming said Bond drove during the early books, and had owned since 1933. Then again, now many people would actually pick up on this and as I say Fleming made all kinds of mistakes - perhaps the most famous being in his original choice of guns for his superspy. In 1956 a fan letter sent to Fleming by a Major Boothroyd  convinced the author that the Beretta was a ladies gun and that a jobbing secret agent would be much better armed with a Walther PPK.

'I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady’s gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25.' Extract from the letter to Fleming from Major Boothroyd.

Fleming's reply was:

Dear Mr Boothroyd,
I really am most grateful for your splendid letter of May 23rd.

You have entirely convinced me and I propose, perhaps not in the next volume of James Bond’s memoirs but, in the subsequent one, to change his weapons in accordance with your instructions.
Since I am not in the habit of stealing another man’s expertise, I shall ask you in due course to accept remuneration for your most valuable technical aid.

Incidentally, can you suggest where I can see a .38 Airweight in London. Who would have one?
As a matter of interest, how do you come to know so much about these things? I was delighted with the photographs and greatly impressed by them. If ever there is talk of making films of some of James Bond’s stories in due course, I shall suggest to the company concerned that they might like to consult you on some technical aspects. But they may not take my advice, so please do not set too much store by this suggestion.

Gun expert and fan: Major Boothroyd
From the style of your writing it occurs to me that you may have written books or articles on these subjects. Is that so?

Bond has always admitted to me that the .25 Beretta was not a stopping gun, and he places much more reliance on his accuracy with it than in any particular qualities of the gun itself. As you know, one gets used to a gun and it may take some time for him to settle down with the Smith and Wesson. But I think M. should advise him to make a change; as also in the case of the .357 Magnum.

He also agrees to give a fair trial to the Bern Martin holster, but he is inclined to favour something a little more casual and less bulky. The well-worn chamois leather pouch under his left arm has become almost a part of his clothes and he will be loath to make a change though, here again, M. may intervene.

At the present moment Bond is particularly anxious for expertise on the weapons likely to be carried by Russian agents and I wonder if you have any information on this.
As Bond’s biographer I am most anxious to see that he lives as long as possible and I shall be most grateful for any further technical advices you might like me to pass on to him.
Again, with very sincere thanks for your extremely helpful and workmanlike letter.
Yours sincerely
Bentley Continental mentioned early in the book too. Ian Fleming also messed up Bond’s cars, so maybe that is the point.

Read more
Bentley Continental mentioned early in the book too. Ian Fleming also messed up Bond’s cars, so maybe that is the point.

Read more

Fleming did indeed take Boothroyd's advice and as a thank you he introduced the character of Major Boothroyd in the sixth Bond novel, Dr No. The character would go onto become the much loved, Q.

But back to Forever and a Day - Horowitz has written another great Bond novel with an absolutely shocking climax - well, epilogue really since the huge set piece that would  usually be considered the climax comes a little earlier. I do hope Horowitz does a third Bond novel, and that should tell you all you need to know about, Forever and a Day.

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