Thursday, November 7, 2013

Solo – A James Bond Novel by William Boyd

Boyd comes to this project after 17 other books, none which I’ve previously read.  Yet, that really doesn’t matter because this time Boyd is channelling Ian Fleming – literally.  Despite the man passing away in 1964 he is still very much alive thanks to the Albert Broccoli Empire and Sean, Roger, George, Pierce and Craig.  Boyd’s challenge was to capture Fleming’s ‘voice’ picking up Bond midlife (i.e in his 40’s) and slowly allowing the reader into the world created for Goldfnger, Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  In this book Bond consumes way too much rich food, womanises, drinks entire bottles of spirits at virtually any occasion, gets his flat decorated and indulges beyond comprehension buying expensive sports cars, celebrating birthdays by staying at the Dorchester and outlaying ridiculous amounts of cash on airline tickets and firearms.  No, Q branch do not provide all the whizzy gadgets – only Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan get those!

Without spoiling it the plot is basically something direct from the early 60’s.  Bond is sent to a tin pot little African country to sort out a procrastinating revolutionary leader who refusing to lay down.  The plot thickens when Bond’s ally turns on him and shoots him.. Back from the dead, bond discovers his mission was successful but only for now.  There are bigger fish to fry including revenge for his near assignation and a string of untied threads.  As the cliché’ goes – This time-it’s personal!
I’ve read everything Fleming ever wrote.  So the question is – would he have ever, even in a fantasy world, ever written something like this?  Yes and no.  Bond, the Fleming Bond anyway, is cold heartless, a little sentimental but he’d never embark on a revenge mission.  He would have, instead out thought and out manoeuvred his foe, and somehow worked within the rules.  Despite his roguishness, charm would have won the day.  That and cold, hard brutalism.  But Boyd is commended for a cracking read.  He’s not reinterpreting Jane Austin here.  Fleming was never a complex writer.  There are a huge number of detailed facts and observations about Bond’s various meals, including recipes for his own salad dressing – which is a little OTT, to be exact.  And given that, the Martini method HAS to be in here.  Descriptions of every room, the cut and grain of every steak, brand of liquor, wine and precise location of every table and chair in swinging London’s best café’s are documented ad nauseam, almost to the point where the plot is a bit of a distraction.  Almost.  If you want to live dangerously and vicariously then this one would be worth the ticket.       

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