- - Thursday, December 13, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

FOREVER AND A DAY

By Anthony Horowitz

Harper, $26.99, 304 pages

I’m not fond of continuation novels, as some writers, like Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have a unique style that truly can’t be imitated. But I understand that the author’s iconic characters, Philip Marlowe, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, are so popular that their many loyal readers want to read more about them, just as they enjoy watching the characters portrayed on TV and on film.

Anthony Horowitz, the author of 40 novels, including two Sherlock Holmes continuation novels, and the creator of the TV series “Foyle’s War,” which I liked very much, is the latest writer to offer a James Bond continuation novel, following Kingsley Amis, John Pearson, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks.

The late Kingsley Amis, author of “Lucky Jim,” wrote the James Bond continuation novel “Colonel Sun” in 1968. Mr. Amis was an admirer of Ian Fleming and he wrote of the “Fleming Effect,” which he called the fusion of a vivid imagination with an air of authority that swiftly carries the reader along on fantastic stories that Ian Fleming himself called “improbable but not impossible.”

I don’t believe Mr. Horowitz captured the Fleming Effect, but he comes close.

I was weaned on Ian Fleming as a preteen and teenager. I devoured his novels about the British secret agent with the license to kill. I loved Mr. Fleming’s description of exotic places, people and products. I also loved his unforgettable characters, such as villains like Goldfinger and Blofeld, women like Domino and Honeychile, and James Bond’s friends, like Felix Leiter and Darko Kerim. James Bond fought the good fight against Soviet killers, international criminals and malicious madmen. Ian Fleming’s novels are far darker and much more complicated than the films and I’ve reread the thrillers a good number of times over the years.

Mr. Horowitz is also an Ian Fleming aficionado and he knows a good deal about Ian Fleming and his iconic character, James Bond. As Mr. Horowitz notes in a piece at criminalelement.com, Mr. Fleming’s “Dr. No” changed his life. He wrote that he read the thriller when he was 10-years-old and stuck in a grim all-boys boarding school in North London, “The book opened up a whole world to me: tropical islands, exotic food, adventure, excitement and, of course, beautiful women,” Mr. Horowitz writes. “Even when he’s not writing action, Fleming captures mood and atmosphere in a way that is much more sophisticated than it seems. I know because, twice now, I’ve tried to imitate him.”

Mr. Horowitz penned an earlier James Bond continuation novel called “Trigger Mortis.” Like that novel, “Forever and a Day” was commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate and contains original material from the late Mr. Fleming. Utilizing his ideas and unpublished story notes is a good idea and a good hook.

A portion of “Forever and a Day” is based on an outline Ian Fleming wrote for an American TV series that never came to be. I wish that he had expanded more on the outline, but most of the novel is an original story crafted by Mr. Horowitz.

In this novel, which takes place in the 1950s in a prequel to Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale,” 007 is killed right off. No, not James Bond. The man killed is the holder of the 007 code name that James Bond takes on as he is ordered to investigate the murder of the previous 007 in Marseille, France.

Prior to leaving for Marseille, James Bond reads a file on Jean-Paul Scipio, a grotesquely obese and brutal Corsican drug trafficker. “Currently, Jean-Paul Scipio is one of the most powerful leaders in the Corsican underworld and certainly the most feared. He is often referred to as the “Peacemaker,” although this is a generic term for high-ranking criminals. He is better known as “Le Boudin,” French slang which can be translated as “the fat man.”

In Marseille, a port city known for Corsican criminals, drug smuggling and other crimes, James Bond quickly encounters a female fatale by the name of Joanne Brochet. She is known as “Sixtine,” her World War II code name when she was an allied operative. Now a freelance operative, James Bond is unsure of her involvement in the murder of the first 007. He watches her and her team gamble at a casino in Monte Carlo and he then becomes intimate with her.

James Bond later meets her friend, millionaire Irwin Wolfe, as well as Scipio. Bond’s capture and torture with disfiguring acid by Scipio and his henchmen is the most Flemingesqe scene in the book.

Forever and a Day” is a well-written, fast-paced and action-packed thriller. It is not Ian Fleming, but it is perhaps the next best thing.

Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism


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