By Jeffrey Deaver
Following EON Productions’ reboot of James Bond with Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s estate does the same in print with Carte Blanche, the first original Bond novel since Sebastian Faulks Devil May Care. To succeed Faulks and longtime series author Raymond Benson, they recruited Jeffrey Deaver, no slouch as a thriller writer, to reimagine Bond as a present day agent. The Bentley Continental is still present, as is the curmudgeonly M (Admiral Miles Messervy of the original novels and movies, not the Judi Dench-based character, though she certainly would fit in here), Moneypenny, the CIA’s Felix Leiter, and Q. Only his name is not Q. He is an Indian technical wiz named Sanu Hirani.
That’s not the only change. MI6 is not front and center. Bond works for a super-secret, questionably authorized organization with the bland name Overseas Development Group. Why? Well, you can’t be a secret agent in MI6 these days. Hell, the headquarters showed up in the last four James Bond movies.
In a nutshell, our new Bond, mid-30’s and a veteran of Afghanistan, is assigned by M to find out what garbage mogul Severn Hydt is up to. Hydt is one of the strangest Bond villains ever, a man with long fingernails and an unhealthy, almost sexual obsession with death and decay. It’s this fetish that throws Bond and Felix Leiter (pre-shark bite, we assume) onto the wrong trail while trying to stop what’s been labeled “Incident 20.”
The women in Carte Blanche are certainly worthy of a Fleming novel, from Ophelia “Philly” Maidenstone, Bond’s analyst coworker in the ODG, to tough-as-nails South African cop Bheka Jordan to the clearly Flemingesque Felicity Willing. But the regular characters seem almost cursory. M has one or two good scenes. Moneypenny is talked about more than portrayed, and Mary Goodnight is so generic I wondered why Deaver included her.
It’s a fun novel about a guy named James Bond, and it’s clearly better than anything John Gardner foisted upon us in the 1980’s, but it lacks some of the edge that the Fleming Bonds and even Faulks’ retro effort had. But since Deaver isn’t trying to force-fit Daniel Craig into a storyline that originally predated Sean Connery, it wouldn’t hurt to see what he does next. Read this more for Deaver than for Bond.
By Victor Gischler
Full disclosure: I never took up golf as a favor to Vic so he would never lose a golf game to me. (Actually, the few times I’d played, he would have nothing to worry about.)
This is Gischler’s second novel and one from his Plots With Guns days. Visiting professor Jay Morgan starts his day off badly. His latest one-night stand has OD’d in his bed. Meanwhile, St. Louis drug lieutenant Harold Jenks assumes the identity of a grad student after a mugging goes bad. What do these two things have to do with each other? Well, Jenks and Morgan run afoul – separately – of the college’s cross-dressing dean, Fumbee, OK’s local drug dealer, and a private detective who is as depraved as he is inept. On the upside, an aspiring novelist thinks sleeping with Morgan is the perfect way to start her career. Make sense?
Of course not! It’s a Gischler novel. Chaos reigns, and you spend about 340 pages trying to figure out which character is the punchline to this joke. (Spoiler alert: All of them.) A worthy successor to Gun Monkeys.
THE PATH TO SELF PUBLISHING SUCCESS
Michael R. Hicks
In this modern era of ebooks and independent writers, you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting someone who wants to sell you a book on how to sell a gazillion copies. I’ve read two in recent weeks, one of which had lots of exclamation points!!!!
Michael Hicks, a science fiction writer going to the indie route, did not abuse the exclamation points. And before I spent an admittedly small amount, I actually checked his Amazon rank for his In Her Name series. After all, how many books on getting published, selling a gazillion books, and writing that bestseller have we seen over the years by writers who never wrote a bestseller (and worse, dispensed their advice via PublishAmerica or iUniverse)?
Hicks’ advice is similar to that of ebook bestseller John Locke’s, but Hicks is more specific, doesn’t beat around the bush, and isn’t dogmatic about how to go about one’s business. One of Hicks’ principles is self-improvement. You need to work on the author before you work on the story, and you need to have a story before you can even worry about marketing. He also warns against being obnoxious in self-promotion, essential for the independent ebook author.
I took the risk on his book because it was cheap, and Hicks has sold a few books. But I downloaded a couple of his novels because his marketing book had something I’ve seen too many supposed writing guides lack: Hicks can write.