The 007 continuation novels

It was on the 12 August 1964 that Ian Fleming died of a massive haemorrhage at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. Three days later he was buried in the cemetery of the Parish Church of St. James, Sevenhampton, near Highworth in Wiltshire. Ian Fleming wrote fourteen Bond books and numerous short stories about his secret agent, two non-fiction books and the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

   You Only Live Twice came out on 16 March 1964 the last book to be published in his lifetime. The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy were published posthumously in 1965 and 1966. Yet that was not the end of his creation for others have taken up the mantle with various degrees of success.

Colonel Sun published on 28 March 1968 by Fleming’s old publisher Jonathan Cape and written by Robert Markham (Kingsley Amis) is one of the, if not the best, continuation novel. It runs to 255 pages about the average length of a Fleming book, Goldfinger being the longest at 318 pages. Amis had not been the first choice to write a follow up, Glidrose Publications, publishers of the James Bond novels first approached the prolific thriller and historical novel writer James Leasor who declined. Thus they turned to Amis, who had written the non-fiction book The James Bond Dossier in 1965.  Glidrose Publications have now been superseded by Ian Fleming Publications

   I re-read Colonel Sun recently after many years and found it still fresh and set in a part of the world I know well, Athens and the Aegean. The scenes around the Parthenon where 007 and Ariadne escape a couple of hoods one ‘tallish’ the other one ‘plump’, took me back, to my first visit years ago when I signed a petition for the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum to be returned to Greece (which Lord Elgin had looted). Glad to see the Vatican have recently sent back their collection.

   Bond and Ariadne get into a debate over the merits of Lord Byron, a bit of an odd trait for 007 not noted for his artistic leanings. The story is based around the kidnap of M who is taken to the island of Vrakonisi fictionally sited close to Naxos. There is a map in the first edition end pages front and rear of the area. A nice touch is a Commando knife forming part of the compass north pointer. The futuristic dust jacket by Tom Adams seems to have been influenced by Salvador Dali.

   007 foils the Chinese plot hatched by Colonel Sun Liang-tan of the Peoples Liberation Army, ably supported by some particularly nasty ex-Nazi’s, to cause trouble between the Russians and the British. Having read a lot of the follow up 007 novels I think Amis has got the closest to the original.

However I do like the Anthony Horowitz books, , in particular the first Trigger Mortis published in 2015 in which Bond returns to 1957. The story is set two weeks after Goldfinger, a real bold move, even Pussy Galore is still hanging on to Bond’s arm ensconced in his Chelsea flat. It also featured previously unpublished Ian Fleming material using the short story Murder on Wheels as his chapter seven, in which Bond drives in a Grand Prix at the infamous Nurburgring, racing in a Maserati 250F to forestall a Smersh plot to sabotage the race by killing the leading Grand Prix driver Lancy Smith using their Russian Krassny car, which had ‘none of the elegance or classic curves of the Maserati.’ 007 rides shotgun and foils the attempt driving the Krassny driven by Ivan Dimitrov off the road. To Horowitz’s credit all works seamlessly. Or maybe I’m bias after all he did write the foreword to my book Ian Fleming’s War.

Some of John Gardner’s efforts I enjoyed, who went on to write sixteen Bond books, a fellow former Royal Marine Commando. Yet right from the beginning with Licence Renewed some things stuck in my craw. One the Saab 900 Turbo, come on what about the Jaguar XJS, came out in 1975, or the Aston Martin V8 Vantage 1977, if Bond needed a change and the excuse that the Saab has a ‘lower pollution level than the Bentley’ just doesn’t wash. And then there is the 9 mm Browning automatic pistol, standard issue to the UK forces, having used one, ‘awful’ springs to mind. Although to be fair I do have my character the MI5 agent Rob Nicolson use one from time to time in my books. Even the cover of the book designed by Mon Mohan from a water-colour painting by Richard Chopping is the Browning. Although to his credit Gardner does allow Bond to have a .44 Magnum stowed in his car ‘an unauthorised weapon’ as far as the Secret Service are concerned.

   However Licence Renewed is a cracking yarn even with the reservations. Largely set in the Highlands of Scotland, one of my favourite locations ever since John Buchan sent Richard Hannay there in The Thirty-Nine Steps.

   I appreciate the attempt to update 007, but think it was a mistake to bring him out of his comfort zone of the 1950s and 1960s where he is better placed. In Moonraker Bond is supposed to be thirty seven and has to retire in eight years time (1963) making him 62 in 1981. Toward the end of Gardner’s books they bore little resemblance to the original just as the later films have done.

   So there we are, the best of the rest perhaps you have a different selection, would like to hear your comments.