Friday, July 3, 2020

Forgotten Books: 007 in DEVIL MAY CARE by Sebastian Faulks (2008)

I read this book when it came out, and despised it. Why? I can't remember, so, after pretty much exhausting all the other Bond audiobooks available, I decided to give it another try.

And whaddaya know? It ain't so bad, after all. Not the best Bond ever, maybe, but I still can't figure why I had such a reaction to it. 

The marketing gimmick of "Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming" seemed (and still seems) silly, but judged against other Bond pastiches, I'd rate Devil May Care more Flemingesque than most, up there with Colonel Sun by Robert Markham (Kingsley Amis) and the two recent entries by Anthony Horowitz. (The only one I've yet to read is Solo by William Boyd - whom I suspect is not the Hopalong Cassidy guy). The inbetweener series by John Gardner and Raymond Benson are, by comparison, of almost comic book quality (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The story takes place not long after the events of You Only Live Twice. Bond is still recovering from his ordeal in Japan, and M is trying to decide if Bond is ready for a full-fledged assignment. There are many comforting references to former cases and characters.

This one oozes with sophistication, tossing off exotic foreign locales and cuisine and beverages as if they were chopped liver. The prose, too, is rich and sophisticated, and we're eased nicely into the complex plot. The villain, in this case a pharmaceuticals genius gone bad, is reminiscent of Hugo Drax, Auric Goldfinger and Dr. No, and - for a change of pace - does not casually invite Bond into his lair to leave himself open for destruction.

There's a rather long sequence with Bond in Teheran, which seems to serve no purpose other than allowing the author to show off his knowledge of Iran before it went batshit crazy in 1979. It's all interesting, but puts the story on pause. Otherwise, it was all pretty dang good, and I sort of wish Faulks had gone on to write more. Don't know why he didn't.


Fred Blosser said...

Yeah, "Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming," what's up with that? SOLO is pretty good despite a colorless title. Bond in Africa by a writer who knows Africa and handled the chase/action scenes well. No Fleming-style super-villain, but that's ok with me, Gardner's worst contributions were ones where he tried to come up with new super-villains. I didn't care a lot for the two Horowitz entries, not sure I can really pinpoint why. But they were generally well received.

Fleet Commander Johnson, Ret. said...

I'm just a reader not a writer so from my prospective, an entertaining tail. Thanks for the ebook, D. E. Lewis. 😀