Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Bond Market

James Bond has been making headlines across the world these past few weeks.  A new Bond movie is being filmed and all of the Bond books are getting new publishers and new editions across the world.  And most important for me, but in a bad way, there was the announcement that the newest James Bond novel is to be written by William Boyd.

William Boyd is one of my favorite writers.   I love his novels, his short stories, and his criticism.  Almost anything he does, really.  So I was saddened to learn that he was chosen by the Ian Fleming estate (or whoever it was) to write the next Bond novel because it means that we, in the long run, are being cheated out of a William Boyd novel.  I don't see the point (aside from the financial one) in hiring people to write sequels or new titles in a series after a writer has died.  Ian Fleming wrote 13 Bond novels and 9 Bond stories.  After him, we have: 1 book by Kingsley Amis, 2 by Christopher Wood, 16 by John Gardner, 12 books/stories by Raymond Benson, 1 by Sebastian Faulks, and 1 by Jeffery Deaver.  And the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson (the idea of which I quite like, I confess), The Moneypenny Diaries and the adventures of 003 and 1/2.  In total, there is way more non-Fleming James Bond than there is Ian Fleming James Bond.  Haven't we had enough James Bond by now?  Wouldn't it be better to read something new and promising (perhaps the forthcoming Paul Dark omnibus? or maybe the new Mark Mills novel House of the Hanged?) than ersatz James Bond?

I do like James Bond.  We had Book of the Month Club editions of the original novels around the house when I was a kid and I read some of them.  I saw all of the early movies - but nothing after Roger Moore.  I tried to read a John Garder book but didn't like it.  This clearly indicates that I am not the part of the target audience for the new Bond book.  And I would never dare to openly complain about a new Bond book if they hadn't poached somebody I loved.  (I know I make it sound like William Boyd was dragooned into doing this when that is probably not the case.  Or maybe they spied on him and found some dirt and blackmailed him into doing it?  No, probably the dump truck full of money did it.) 

I suppose I am prejudiced against the very idea of writers being commissioned to produce books like this.  Are they ever any good?  VC Andrews long dead, continues to churn out new books.  Dick Francis books continue to come out (though I gather his wife did much of the work on the originals so may this is okay).  Bourne ad infinitum. There are scores of Sherlock Holmes books - but how many do we remember?  The sequel to Gone With the Wind?  Bad idea.  Sequels to Pride and Prejudice?  [The more I think about this, the more I realize how prevalent this faux fiction is.  Clearly, we can't get enough of it.  Or make enough money off of it.]  On the other hand, I can't ever imagine J.K. Rowling's estate commissioning  new adventures of Harry Potter.  So not everyone has to do this.

I suppose this spy fiction kick William Boyd is on is consistent with his recent work.  Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms fit in with this genre.  And his new novel, Waiting for Sunrise, is certainly about espionage.  According to a review of Waiting for Sunrise in the Times Literary Supplement, Boyd calls OT "Buchanesque" - so maybe he is a good choice to write this book.  And maybe it will be a good book.  In any case, my apologies for all this churlishness.