Forever and a Day – new Bond from Anthony Horowitz

The sea keeps its secrets. But not this time.

One body. Three bullets. 007 floats in the waters of Marseille, killed by an unknown hand.

It’s time for a new agent to step up. Time for a new weapon in the war against organised crime.

It’s time for James Bond to earn his licence to kill.

This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera

Excited to hear about the upcoming new James Bond novel from Anthony Horowitz. I loved his first 007 outing, Trigger Mortis, so looking forward to reading this one!

Forever and a Day is a prequel to Fleming’s first Bond story, Casino Royale, and follows Bond’s origin, earning his infamous licence to kill. Set on the French Riviera in the 50s, it also features Moneypenny and M. Apparently it also includes previously unpublished material from Fleming for Horowitz to weave into the story.

Exciting stuff! Forever and a Day is published by Jonathan Cape Publications on 31st May 2018 in the UK, coinciding with Fleming’s 110th birthday.

My pre-order is already in!

Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz

Ah, Mister Bond. I've been expecting you. #Bond #007 #TriggerMortis

Trigger Mortis is a pitch-perfect Bond. Possibly the closest to Fleming’s Bond in any of the Bond stories I’ve read. Once I got past the seemingly-daft title (which does make sense as played out in the story), we get to a cracking tale of classic Bond adventure. Trigger Mortis follows immediately on the heels of Goldfinger, with Bond and Pussy Galore back in London. It’s not long before Bond is off on another mission, this time to race the Nürburgring and foil an assassination attempt against a British driver. But not all is as it seems, and soon Bond is embroiled in a bigger tale, one which threatens New York.

Horowitz’s Bond is superbly authentic, with a real feel for the character as written by Fleming. There are a couple of places in the book which, plot-wise, feel like slight mis-steps, but the action is such that they’re soon forgotten.

Very confidently written, and I hope Mr Horowitz has the chance to dabble in 007’s world again soon.

G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)

Yes, dear reader. Today we’re talking Bond. James Bond. I thought it’d be interesting to compare and contrast Goldfinger with GoldenEye.

Crunchy stats first.

Goldfinger. 1964,7.8 stars on IMDb. Oscar for Best Sound Effects. Connery’s third outing as Bond, with a bigger budget (more than the first two films combined).

GoldenEye, 1995, 7.2 stars on IMDb, nominated for a couple of Baftas, but didn’t win either. We’re introduced to a new Bond, Pierce ‘Remington Steele’ Brosnan.

Let’s start with Goldfinger then. Connery’s Bond is sent to investigate bullion magnate Auric Goldfinger (and what a brilliant name that is) and to find out how he smuggles his beloved gold out of the country. Jill Masterson gets a rather suffocating paint job, Bond gets cross, hijinks ensue and he teams up with Pussy Galore (the lovely Honor Blackman) to thwart Goldfinger’s plans to irradiate the contents of Fort Knox.

Goldfinger is quite rightly regarded as one of the better (some say the best) Bond movies. It has all the requisite components – a dastardly villain, played with panache by Gert Fröbe, who is obsessed with gold. The henchman – the incomparable Harold Sakata as Korean manservant Oddjob (also rightly regarded as one of the best Bond villains) with his killer bowler hat. The daftly-named Bond girl, Pussy Galore (how they manage to keep a straight face is beyond me). Bond gets his Aston Martin – the DB5, replete with a wonderful array of gadgets including the ejector seat. The DB5 went on to feature in five other Bond movies: Thunderball, GoldenEye (which we’ll come to later), Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale and most recently, Skyfall.

It also has some wonderful lines, most famous of which is of course

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

Apparently this was also the first time a laser appeared in a movie – they hadn’t been invented when Fleming wrote the original book – in the novel it’s a buzz-saw.

Bond also gets to start to play with more gadgets, and we get a lighter rapport with Desmond Llewelyn’s Q. In fact it’s the first time we get to see Q’s workshop.

Of the Connery-era Bond movies, it’s a close call between From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, but I think Goldfinger edges it. Throw in one of the best (if not the best) Bond theme songs, with Shirley Bassey letting rip with the title track, and you’ve got a belter of a movie.

Let’s turn our attention now to GoldenEye – the 17th Bond movie and this time introducing a new Bond. Pierce Brosnan followed Timothy Dalton’s rather dour Bond after a six-year hiatus. I rather liked Dalton’s Bond and would have liked to seen him given more of a chance. Pierce, by comparison, felt a bit… glossy at the time. We also got a new M in the form of Judi Dench, who immediately made the role her own.

M: You don’t like me, Bond. You don’t like my methods. You think I’m an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts.
Bond: The thought had occurred to me.
M: Good, because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.
Bond: Point taken.

Various other big names show up – Sean Bean as Alec ‘006’ Trevelyan, Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky and Alan Cumming (sporting a terrible accent, gawd love ‘im) as Boris Grishenko. The ladies are represented by Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova and Famke Janssen as the implausibly named Xenia Onatopp.

Moneypenny: M authorizes you to observe Miss Onatopp but stipulates no… contact without prior approval. End transmission, Moneypenny. Good night, James. I trust you’ll stay… Onatopp of things?

The plot is rather more convoluted than Goldfinger, and I do rather hark back to the simpler days. Here we have a murky tale of a wronged Lienz Cossack, satellite weapons, hackers, and a mysterious crime syndicate known as Janus.

It does have some splendid moments. The opening bungee jump off the dam (at 220 metres it set a record for a bungee jump off a fixed structure) is utterly spectacular, only to be topped minutes later by Bond chasing a pilotless plane off a runway on a motorbike, free-falling alongside it and, of course, escaping as the base explodes and the titles roll…
There’s also a rather implausible car chase between the iconic DB5 (there it is again) and a Ferrari F355. Fun while it lasts, but don’t think too hard about the practicalities of it. Famke Janssen did her own driving stunts in the Ferrari though. Kudos.
Then there’s more motorised fun with a tank chase in and around (and sometimes through) St Petersburg.

Tina Turner puts in a sterling effort with the U2-penned title track, but was never going to best Bassey’s Goldfinger.

Overall, it’s a fun outing – Brosnan puts in a solid turn as Bond, and it’s probably the best of his four movies. He made an excellent Bond, but as with Dalton, was let down by some sub-par scripts.

So, that’s Bond – Goldfinger and GoldenEye. Which is your favourite?

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Bond – Solo: a review

Ah, Mister Bond. I’ve been expecting you.

William Boyd's James Bond novel, Solo

It was with great anticipation that I started William Boyd’s Solo, the latest in a longer-than-you’d-think list of post-Fleming Bond stories. It follows on chronologically from The Man With the Golden Gun, and is set in 1969. So we find Bond celebrating his birthday as a 45 year-old veteran spy, sent on a mission to the fictional country of Zanzarim in West Africa.

Boyd captures Fleming’s Bond pretty well, I thought. There are fast cars, exotic locales, beautiful women and an awful lot of martinis and good food[1] along the way.

It’s definitely a book of two halves though, and is rather let down in the second act which felt a little rushed and too neatly wrapped up. We spent a decent amount of time in Zanzarim setting up the plot and the action there is great, though some of the later revelations were telegraphed fairly early on. Enjoyable stuff, with Bond in-country, doing his Bond thing as only Bond can.

Once the action switches to the US though, it rather falls over a bit. An old school chum is shoe-horned into the story, Bond does some detective work on his own recognisance, wraps things up rather too quickly and all of a sudden, we’re done. I’d hoped for more.

That said at least some of the villains were suitably villainous, with suitably Bond Villain-esqe quirks (what is it with Bond villains and dodgy eyes?) , the atmosphere was well done, especially in the African parts, and it’s always nice to see Mister Bond in action. It could have done with a little more danger and excitement along the way though.

If you’re a Bond fan, worth a read, but unlikely to make any new converts. There are better post-Fleming Bonds out there. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t read the wikipedia page on the list of Bond novels as it contains a massive spoiler. You’ll work it out yourself as you’re reading the book!

[1]that said, I was a little disconcerted to find Bond’s ‘secret recipe’ for his vinaigrette added as a footnote in one chapter.

James Bond – Solo

Bond Solo

The title of William Boyd’s new Bond novel was announced today.

The new mission.
1969. A veteran secret agent. A single mission. A licence to kill.
James Bond returns.

The last couple of Bond novels have been a bit lukewarm for me, but the idea of Bond going on a solo mission strikes me as an interesting idea.

What do you think? Have you read any of the new (or indeed original) Bond stories?

Ten reasons why Skyfall is the best Bond movie.

Skyfall poster

I present, in no particular order, ten reasons why Skyfall is the best Bond movie, ever. Starring the best Bond, ever (imho)…

Spoilers abound, naturally. You have been warned.

Daniel Craig
It became clear to me very quickly whilst watching Casino Royale that Daniel Craig would make a very good Bond indeed. By the end of the opening credits I was convinced. He even redeemed Quantum of Solace (though more of than in another post).

In Skyfall he absolutely owns Bond and cements his place as The Best Bond. I will quite happily explain why, at great length, to anyone who asks. Again, maybe another blog post…

The pre-title sequence
Normally in a Bond film we meet our hero in mid-adventure, risking life & limb for Queen & country. But, he always gets away with it. This time it’s equally thrilling, with car chases followed by bike chases followed by derring-do atop a speeding train. Bond will surely retrieve the disc, won’t he?

Not this time. Farewell, Mister Bond. For now…

Skyfall looks amazing. Roger Deakins does a wonderful job throughout a largely UK-centric film. From the grim, rain-soaked streets of London to the neon-lit skyscrapers of Shanghai and the highlands of Scotland, the locations of a Bond film have never looked better.

Bond is a character who says little, preferring action over chit-chat. There are some wonderful lines though, from Q’s “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing any more,” to Bond’s “What makes you think this is my first time?”.

It’s M who gets all the best lines though, quoting Tennyson at a public inquiry into her losing the mcguffin hard drive, and her wonderful dismissal of Bond at her house, an over-the shoulder “well, you’re bloody well not sleeping here.”

Silva’s entrance speech is also mesmerising, a long, oh-so-slow walk up to Bond, reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia (with just a hint of Tim Curry’s memorable entrance in Rocky Horror), monologuing all the way, as all good villains do.

References to previous Bond movies
Oh, so many references. Little nods to the fans. It is a 50th birthday for Bond, of course, so lots of presents! How many did you spot? Here’s a few:

  • Running across komodo dragons (Live & Let Die)
  • the Moore-era comedy one-liner from the couple as Bond jumps on the back of a speeding Tube train
  • the lone sniper (The Living Daylights)
  • Bond’s obituary (Tomorrow Never Dies)
  • MI6 blowing up (The World Is Not Enough)
  • bad guys & fallen statues (GoldenEye)
  • Bond tied to a chair by the bad guy (Casino Royale)
  • “Don’t touch your ear” (Casino Royale)
  • the Aston Martin…

The Aston Martin
Oh, the Aston Martin DB5. Complete with ejector seat. I need say no more.

Judi Dench
Oh, Dame Judi. How we adore thee. Much as Daniel has done with making Bond his own, you’ve done the same with M, but for longer. Bond is nothing without the ladies, and doubly so in your case. The supreme matriarch figure, taking no crap from anyone. We shall miss you.

Javier Bardem
One of the best Bond villains we’ve seen for a long while. Silva is cunning, clever and ruthless. And by golly does he monologue well. And the only Bond villain to actually get what he wants. Stick that in your pipe & smoke it, Blofeld.

That theme song
There’s the theme tune. After Casino Royale’s “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell (which I still rate as a decent Bond tune, though realise that I’m firmly in the minority here) and Quantum of Solace’s theme, which I really dislike with a passion, we get a full-blown Oscar-winning Bassey-esque belter, courtesy of Adele.

This is a proper Bond tune, for our proper Bond. One which you can still hum days later. Big, brassy and bold. Utterly splendid, it wouldn’t feel out of place in any of the earlier Bond movies. Easily in my top 5. But that’s for another post, another day.

The ending (or is it a beginning?)
No, not the Silva/M ending. Though that in and of itself is quite splendid. The big reset, a clearing of the decks. We’ve got our new, proper Bond, and we have a new M to run the show. And a new, more capable, Moneypenny, not to mention Q. This feels like a new beginning. I, for one, can’t wait to see where they’ll take us next.

So. There you have it. My ten reasons why Skyfall is the best Bond movie. Do you agree or disagree?