Bond, James Bond: A Book Review of SOLO , by William Boyd -- in the Ian Fleming Tradition

Bond. James Bond. 007's calling card -- said declaratively, with a hint of menace, and of course with a clipped British accent. So began the Bond film legend with Dr. No (1962) with the inimitable Sean Connery fashioning a role that endures today through 24 trips into the dark and dangerous world of espionage that Ian Fleming created for us to vicariously relish.

Bond was no mere sodden, low-profile spy. Thin stylish suits and ties, with dashing tuxedos for the casinos he frequented to play high stakes Baccarat, vodka martinis shaken-not-stirred, stunning women and villainous men, and the inscrutable M all heightened the fantasy that has fueled this remarkable franchise.

Ian Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952. It was the seventh Bond actor, Daniel Craig, who breathed new life (and death of course!) into the first film version of this tale of 007 coming of age and and cutting his teeth with terrorists. Fleming himself was British gentry: schooled at Eton and Sandhurst (as was Churchill), son of a Member of Parliament, and a Naval Intelligence Officer, so he was well qualified for the fiction he produced. He was a man, too, who smoked and drank with abandon and died 12 years after his first book from a heart attack at the early age of 56. Two of his Bond books were published posthumously but his work was too good, and too financially remunerative, a product to bury with its first raconteur.

And so, we have today a continuing industry not only of Bond films but Bond books, for readers and future movie goers. Where else will Daniel Craig, and his successors, derive the scripts for the wild movie going we all crave?

I was delighted when I read last year that William Boyd had been hired to write the next Bond book. Boyd is a terrific British storyteller (Waiting for Sunrise is one of his best) and the third writer in the Fleming forever franchise. He is the author of Solo.

It is 1969 and Bond is dispatched to a would-be West African country divided by civil war. The spoils are oil and the Brits, though not them alone, want to war over since you can't drill when there are guns going off on the surface of the massive, multibillion dollar petroleum fields. Bond's nine lives come in handy as does his resolve -- driven by revenge -- to give the story its narrative turns, pace and blood thirstiness. Solo refers to his going rogue in order to defy M and get the job done, once and for all.

The story is well stocked with a brutal bad guy, duplicitous mercenaries, a double agent (not 007), lies and more lies, injustices of all stripes, and corporate and governmental greed. In other words, it could be in the international section of the New York Times. But this is more fun since justice is served, not quite cold but in the fiery, yet cold blooded fashion that makes Bond the man who has riveted the attention of men, and women, for generations.

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