Mercifully, literary Bond fans did not have to wait forever and a day for Mr. Horowtiz’s second James Bond continuation novel since 2015’s TRIGGER MORTIS.
In fact, rather than a continuation, his new effort is a prequel to CASINO ROYALE that provides him with a clean canvas to work with. The opening chapter starts off with a bang: “So, 007 is dead.” We’re back in 1950 this time and James Bond has yet to receive his Double-O status. We are introduced to the mysterious and seductive ‘Madame Sixtine’; a grotesque Corsican gangster called Scipio, an American industrialist Irwin Wolfe (who may or may not simply be producing Technicolour film stock) and a CIA agent Reade Griffith (Not Felix Leiter of course).
Mr. Horowitz explained to ALR:
‘It took me a few goes to get this right, but once it clicked it was easier to write than Trigger Mortis as I had earned my licence as it were. […] Drug smuggling had only be touched upon by Fleming in ‘Risico’ and I had free rein, a wonderful territory to discover.’The novel provides the Fleming aficionados with many references to Fleming’s own wartime background for Bond and in particular Madame Sixtine, whom we learn, worked as an indexer during the war at Bletchley Park and then recruited to the SOE as an agent for the F Section. Horowitz clearly knows his onions from his lifelong interest in the SOE and Foyle’s War, and has fun with blending fact and fiction. This adds great authenticity to the characterisations of Bond and Sixtine, which Horowitz divulged to us:
‘The Fleming Estate asked me to connect it to Bletchley Park and I’ve always had a fascination for the women of SOE and the portrayal of their fate. And Sixtine came out of that. An older woman who would have been old enough to serve in the War.’A key ingredient of the original Fleming novels were the chapter titles, some of which could have made great Bond titles in their own right. Horowitz maintains this tradition with several of his own, that Fleming might have been proud of such as Not So Joliette, The Acid Test, Shame Lady (suggested by Andrew Lycett) and Death at Sunset. There is of course, the essential briefing with M in chapter four – Meeting with M – as Horowitz said: ‘My favourite parts are always the meeting with M. He was the father figure I wished I had.’
It’s all grist for the mill for Fleming fans and without a healthy dose of M, it wouldn’t feel like a Secret Service story, so integral to the legend. Some prequels fail with too much back-story, attempting to answer every question possible, but Horowitz provides just the right balance of explanatory exposition. This novel feels much more in the vein of Kingsley Amis’ COLONEL SUN, but with more consistent pacing. There is also a clever torture scene, that has Scipio playing mind games with Bond, that is another acid test of a good Bond novel. And in the spirit of Fleming’s grotesque villains, Horowitz revels in his descriptions of Scipio:
“It seemed incredible that he could move, that somewhere inside this explosion of flesh there was an actual, working skeleton.”
Another suspected nod to Fleming’s own experiences is in a lovely scene where Sixtine gifts Bond a gun-metal cigarette case, telling him “you can use it when you buy yourself some decent cigarettes.” Sixtine smokes Morlands and we presume got Bond hooked on them. The cigarette case is inscribed FOREVER AND A DAY. It’s a nice touch, and perhaps by accident, a reference to the story of Maud Russell giving Ian Fleming a cigarette case as a gift, that he treasured.Mr. Horowitz remarked:
‘What I’ve done with Fleming’s cigarette case, is to have left a little graffiti of my own in the Bond world, leaving my mark and perhaps taking a liberty.’ And according to him: ‘The best titles of the continuation novels have been ‘Colonel Sun’ and ‘Carte Blanche’.’
Fleming’s FingerprintsWhat made Fleming’s books so popular were the locations. An escape from the drabness of daily life and taking the reader to exotic, faraway places. These days, the average reader has probably been to most of the locations mentioned in Fleming’s novels, but any Bond novel worth its salt, should maintain that tradition and we are treated to the South of France for the majority of Bond’s mission here. Having spent time there last year, I could instantly picture the areas including the Hotel Negresco, which really is worth the trip to Nice, even just to visit.
Bond visits the Monte Carlo Casino in what is one of the strongest passage in the book. Horowitz channels Fleming’s descriptions of playing Bridge in MOONRAKER and Baccarat in CASINO ROYALE. This time, it’s Blackjack (or 21). The duel between Bond and Sixtine over the gaming table sizzles and the tension holds up well to Bond’s duel with Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE.
As Mr. Horowitz told us:
‘Bond has to exist in the timeline and the world of the Bond novels […] The South of France gives you all the add-on value you associate with Bond and a story about drugs immediately pointed to Marseille.’
He also acknowledges Fleming’s chapter on Monte Carlo in THRILLING CITIES for inspiration and captures the interior of the Casino perfectly. He also (and quite rightly) has Bond comparing the experience less favourably to the Casinos in Beaulieu and Le Touquet.
A big selling point to this novel is the ‘original Fleming material’ used, which Mr. Horowitz acknowledges as part of chapter 9 – Russian Roulette, which is based on an outline he wrote for an American TV series. In this chapter, Bond also tells a story to Sixtine about the Aleksander Kolchak, which Fleming claimed was based on fact in THRILLING CITIES. [Side note: Peter Fleming wrote a book called ‘The Fate of Admiral Kolchak‘.]
“And where was the romance? It seemed to him that the wealthiest players – the Italians, the Greeks and the South Americans – were absolutely grim-faced as they took their places at the green baize battlefield, setting their sights only on the business of amassing tax-free capital gains.”
A line about the Russians certainly does have Fleming’s fingerprints on it:
‘You’re right about the Russians. They’re like children, really. They have no self-control. It comes from always being told what to do.’
One feels that Horowitz found his groove with inhabiting Fleming’s writing style, with deference to his master but stamping his own style on the series and avoiding pastiche. This novel is a treat for the Fleming aficionados, as Horowitz told us: ‘There are loads of Easter Eggs concealed in the novel for the real Bond-lovers.’
With two Bond novels in the bag, Horowitz has officially earned his Double-O status too.
FOREVER AND A DAY is released on May 31st in the UK and the book tour dates include:
ANTHONY HOROWITZ is the author of the bestselling teen spy series, Alex Rider, and is also responsible for creating and writing some of the UK’s most loved and successful TV series, including Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War. He has also written two highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes novels, The House of Silk and Moriarty; Two James Bond novels, Trigger Mortis and Forever and a Day.
10 thoughts on “For Bond Lovers: ‘Forever and a Day’ by Anthony Horowitz”
Great review, Tom. As someone who generally dislikes continuation novels I have really had my appetite whetted. Only discordant note for me is Bond’s conversion to Morland cigarettes in his early 30s. I’d have hoped that he had the gumption to discover them when he was much younger (see Pearson’s biographical Bond novel).
The whole continuation thing is a real poisoned chalice.
There are a lot of boxes to tick as there are so many different constituencies to please: The Fleming literary aficionados, the film fans, the family and the publisher. On top of all of that something has to be written that will sell well in a competitive market and attract new readers.
A tall order that defeated many of Horowtiz’s predecessors.
‘Trigger Mortis’ was the most credible effort since Colonel Sun and after reading Tom’s review, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one !
It looks like it ticks all of the boxes.
Naturally, long time literary aficionados are going to make John Pearson comparisons but wait and see,First chapter was a good introduction
I wrote a review of “Forever And A Day”, last week, but was reluctant to publish it as it seemed to be so much in conflict with the generally enthusiastic reception that the book had received. However I have since read a few less fulsome reviews, particularly in last Thursday’s Evening Standard and this has emboldened me to offer it here for consideration.
FOREVER AND A DAY – A James Bond novel by Anthony Horowitz – Jonathan Cape, 2018
I was seventeen years old when I read my first Ian Fleming novel “Moonraker”; I had heard of neither Fleming nor James Bond (neither of whom was yet well-known) and it was an eye-opener. A seminal moment. Here was a character who was not one of my boyhood heroes, Richard Hannay, Bulldog Drummond, Jonathan Mansel – or even the Saint, but a proper grown-up. Flawed, not perfect, not indefatigable but nevertheless a man who was tough, determined, who knew the ropes, knew how things were done, what to do, how things worked. A man who would push on against the odds and, though he liked them, didn’t always get the girl. A perfect role model for a young man actively exploring life’s possibilities. Such experiences sink deep into the psyche – and have stayed there even though there have since been many attempts to cast Bond as a violent, sour, mysogonistic, melancholic sado-masochist. It is perhaps with these thoughts in mind that this review should be read.
Ian Fleming was a very good writer and succeeded in his thrillers for several reasons. He wrote with enthusiasm and pace – and utter conviction; his journalistic sense of place made his backgrounds exciting and totally, vividly real; he wrote of things he knew about and peppered his stuff with his own thoughts and prejudices; and finally, the accuracy of his background detail and the people, institutions and artefacts that Bond used and experienced made even the most preposterous scenarios absolutely compelling; much of this can be gathered under the banner used by Kingsley Amis in ‘The James Bond Dossier’ – The Fleming Effect and it is a tough baton for any other author to try to pick up.
Anthony Horowitz’s new James Bond novel, ‘Forever and a Day’ (great title, great cover) has been greeted with a good deal of critical acclaim by both the media and also the general public so I realise that I am going against the grain by expressing here a less enthusiastic opinion. But there we are.
To what extent has the author managed to achieve The Fleming Effect? The book is constructed on the same matrix as a traditional Fleming, that is to say – attention grabbing introduction; flash-back; domestic interlude; office routine and meeting with M accompanied by backchat with Moneypenny and Bill Tanner; journey to the war-zone; sophisticated gambling for high stakes and meeting ‘the girl’ (sorry, woman? gender-appropriate human-being?); meeting and clash with villain (hideous, grotesque), introduction of CIA agent (optional), clandestine visit to and examination of villains HQ/lair; capture of Bond and the girl; bizarre torture; escape; retribution and death of villain; afterword. In this case we are spoiled – Bond is captured and tortured twice!
So, did Horowitz think to himself, ‘Job done’? Well, sorry, not quite. The whole enterprise reads like a box-ticking exercise; Meeting with M? Check; Casino, card-game? Check, grotesque villain? Check and so on. But the point is Fleming wrote like this because that’s how his mind worked not because he had a check-list.
The Fleming Effect was based, very much, on his writing style. This was grown-up, authoritative, based on experience, knowledge and the confidence and sense of entitlement that Eton bestows upon its alumni. This then is the ‘voice’ of Ian Fleming and when one has become familiar with it, it becomes the voice of James Bond. Without it, as here, a character who if not a friend, is certainly a close acquaintance, becomes a stranger. How about Fleming’s ability to create atmosphere, a sense of place? He was an excellent travel writer and Horowitz relied on his “Thrilling Cities” when describing the Casino at Monte Carlo but as far as ‘place’ generally is concerned AH doesn’t do well. In IF’s books the look, feel and smell of places comes leaping out of the page. None of that here. Stockholm? Nope. The French Riviera? I have known the coast quite well since the 1960s and none of the sleazy glamour and feel of a luxe coating over shady goings-on comes across. Bond wouldn’t have stayed at the Negreso. It is a wonderful building but Bond liked Station Hotels and good but discreet back-street hotels off the tourist trail.The chapter “Russian Roulette” which, I gather is taken from some original Fleming writing (presumably one of the unused “Commander Jamaica” TV scripts) is absurd and out of place in what I was still trying to read as a serious thriller.
Let’s look at the smaller details (which help to make the Bond books so convincing). Well, again the check-list is much in evidence and too much of it is just a bit off target and sometimes wrong:
Before he discovers Morlands, Bond smokes Du Maurier ! Surely not. These were cork tipped ‘ladies cigarettes’ and were not made in Canada until 1955. Before Morlands Bond would have smoked Senior Service (named for the Royal Navy) as he did in “The Spy Who Loved Me” or perhaps Players or Capstan Full Strength. I do not see Bond being told about Morlands by Sixtine, when he was thirty. He would have discovered the Grosvenor Street shop much earlier of his own accord or possibly advised by an older man. And incidentally, as Sixtine seems to spend much of her life out of England, how does she maintain her supplies? Export of tobacco products in those days was extremely controlled.
Continuing the tobacco theme (petty I know but IF knew and cared about such things): M has an ashtray made from the base of a 14 pound shell casing. According to Fleming it was a tobacco jar. And at one stage M growls into the bowl of his pipe. As a pipe smoker myself I have been trying to do this. Very difficult. Impossible.
Not content with having Bond drive an unlikely Jaguar (more Morse than Bond) there is apparently the wreckage of a Mk II Bentley Continental stored in an East End garage. This I take to be the rebuilt car introduced in “Thunderball” Problem here is Bentley didn’t start to use the ‘Continental’ descriptor until 1952 at least two years after the events of this book. And what happened to the iconic 1930s Blower Bentley which receives no mention?
An example of Horowitz’s laboured detail, where he is just trying too hard, is in his description of May’s conversational style. Fleming described her Scottishness with a nice light touch, here it is laid on with a trowel. And in describing Bond’s ability, thanks to his trust-fund, to afford things he otherwise could not, AH talks about his Regency house in Chelsea. Of course it was a flat in a house with a Regency facade.
I could go on at length but wishing to keep this brisk and brief I will finish with a few mixed thoughts:
Mr. Horowitz is without doubt a master of action sequences and set-pieces. The first torture scene and acid attack left me heart-thumpingly breathless.
The Casino/gambling scene and meeting with Sixtine is nicely handled.
The escape from the drug factory above Menton is effective although AH should be aware that security barriers are normally fixed above bonnet height, so that if you attempt to crash through them they smash through your windscreen and do you a great deal of harm.
Scipio is an off-the-peg Fleming villain memorable only for his considerable size and actually reduced in his effectiveness by his inability to communicate directly with Bond/us.
Bond’s late-life decision on how to mix a Dry Martini is unconvincing. As with his cigarettes this is something Bond would have worked out for himself, much earlier.
But what finally convinced me that this book was hocum and could not be taken seriously even by Ian Fleming’s liberal standards (he always stayed on the credible, at a push, side of incredible) is the escape from Scipio’s clutches. It is completely inconceivable that, after being injected with heroin, cut, and drained of a pint of blood, beaten severely around the head by a giant who then, when Bond had collapsed on the floor gave him a thorough kicking before stomping on his chest, cracking a rib, Bond was able to escape from a guarded, locked cabin, sabotage the ship, dive overboard, swim a mile to the shore and a week later fly to Los Angeles to drive down Sunset Boulevard to murder the number two villain. He would, if he had survived, be in hospital with likely brain damage, badly bruised, in severe pain and with certain damage to several internal organs. Ian Fleming dealt realistically with this sort of thing, e.g. “Casino Royale”.
And to end, AH’s final line: ‘He felt nothing.’, presumably this is intended to match Fleming’s final line in “Casino Royale”: ‘The bitch is dead now.’ But it’s not true, Bond did not feel nothing. He was a man with strong feelings – about his life, his chosen occupation, the women in his life. The harsh, brutal expletive at the end of CR is used by a tough, stiff upper lipped survivor of the Second World War to mask his feelings of anger, grief, guilt, betrayal, understanding, forgiveness, love, desolation and unfathomable loss. He came back to Royale every year thereafter, to stand at Vesper’s grave.
Sorry Mr. Horowitz, I really wanted to like it more.
6 vi 2018
Excellent review, David. I think Horowitz is a fantastic writer, but you’re right the finer details seem to trip him up. The Easter eggs for the “real Bond-lovers” seem more self-referential rather than a hat tip.
Thanks Carlos. I do appreciate that it must be difficult trying to do this stuff, knowing that knowledgeable aficionados are going to be scrutinising it. However, the internet and Google have made research and fact-checking a whole lot easier.
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Excellent review, David. I’ve just finished reading “Forever and a Day” and frankly it was a struggle. I thoroughly enjoyed “Trigger Mortis” and still consider it the best of the continuation novels so I was very disappointed with the new book, for all the reasons you note and more. The CIA agent makes a call on a phone in a bar and in the time it takes Bond to get the drinks in, he has a full biography of Bond and his recent promotion, two days after it happens?? Give me a break! As for the escape from the factory, they roar through a crowded village street, machinegunning villains from their motorcycles, and no authorities investigate or follow up? This is Bond film stuff. As with you, I could go on but point made I think.
I can’t comment on the novel as I have not read it – not that this is to make a point in itself as I read Trigger Mortis and enjoyed it. However I will underline the point about Moreland. Their store on Grosvenor Street was en route from Bond’s Chelsea flat to Universal Exports’ offices near Regents Park. Whether he took a taxi or drove himself, if nothing else he would naturally have come across them.
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