There was all that fuss the other year about Sebastian Faulks, an actual literary author (unlike John Gardner or Raymond Benson) being hired to write a James Bond novel. But ignored in all the coverage was that the Fleming estate had hired a literary author to write a James Bond novel before. And on this score, Kingsley Amis (a writer not traditionally known for his thrillers) does Fleming perfectly.
Much slower paced than a Fleming at his best, this novel never really seems to quite hit the level of excitement or anticipation that it was presumably aiming for.
With the death of Ian Fleming the creator of the James Bond novels and the great succes of the first three Sean Connery 007 movies there as a great thirst for more James Bond stories and the inheritors of Flemings legacy came up with the plan to ask great writers to write new books and they would all be known by the writers nam Robert Markham. In this first book of a planned new series we find the writer Kingsley Amis who took up this cloak. It leads Bond to Athens where he finds himslef in a strange alliance with the GRU ( A Russian secret service) to stop a Chinese secret agent form fulfilling his plan to bloody the nose of the Russians and leave the British with the smoking gun.
Not bad, just typical Bond and nothing too intriguing in the story. Really, this story would have probably been more interesting if there weren't already a bunch of similar Bond novels and films out there, even by 1968.
His story follows the Bond formula, but his prose is better than Fleming's or Gardner's.
Well, that was a book about James Bond alright. Yup, it was most certainly a James Bond book. I really didnt want to talk at length about this book because I didnt much enjoy it, but if you are going to insist! Colonel Sun is the worst thing to happen to James Bond since George Lazenby (zing!). The reason why this is good is because you havent read the rest of the book yet, and as such, you wont know the stupid reason for kidnapping M in the first place. Anywho, after being told by several characters that Greeks are lazy a-holes (seriously, Kingsley Amis does not like Greeks), Bond stumbles his way through the mess of a plot. When Bond is not being a secret agent, and instead is just being a normal guy, I kinda liked the way he was written. Amis does a good job of hitting on Bonds excesses, and it felt very much like Flemings Bond.
Because Kindles let you do crazy stuff like this, I bought all of Fleming's Bond books and binge-read them. As we started to face the realities of the End of Empire, Bond made us feel relevant. Then Fleming's hooch and nicotine consumption got the better of him and his publishers, faced with that most feared of all publishing disasters - a dead cash cow - farmed out the Bond franchise. The first writer of these non-Fleming Bonds was Robert Markham, as eny fule no these days, we're actually talking celebrated satirist and literary giant Kingsley Amis. The question I kept coming back to throughout my difficult time reading Colonel Sun was whether Amis was doing this for the LOLs. The whole thing is so very badly done, the writing, dialogue and characters so stilted and the situations so very wooden, that you wonder but then you pull back and debate whether writing very, very badly is the stuff of satire. Have a look at this - an action scene: "Bond dropped to his knees, shoved out of the way the legs of the man he had stabbed, got his finger through the brass ring of the trapdoor and heaved it aside. We're looking at someone trying to give Bond readers what they want. And in attempting that, Markham/Amis amplifies the worst aspects of Bond and neglects the good aspects of him. That finding the good aspects of Bond is rather like searching haystacks perhaps doesn't help. The bad Chinese guy wants to torture Bond to satisfy the code of the Chinese or something. Yes: you should have seen the look he gave Yanni." A little later, the character's defined more deftly: "a fat little fairy." The racism and sexism are both very much in evidence, overdone to a tee.
I'm a huge fan of the James Bond franchise, anyone who has read this blog will know that. When Ian Fleming died, his publishers wished to continue producing Bond novels. Kingsley Amis was a huge Bond fan, no one could doubt it, with a number of books written on the franchise. Either way, Kingsley Amis typed out a book which I think is probably one of the best Bond books. The premise for the novel is the demented Colonel Sun, a Maoist Chinese operative with a pain obsession (because literary Bond villains are crazy like that), has kidnapped M. Kingsley Amis' politics are on full display here, much as Ana feared, but are more amusing in retrospect than offensive. Kingsley has Bond willing to team up with the Soviets against the Red Chinese because the author clearly believes the Maoists will be the enemy in the future. In any case, Bond isn't going to let M's kidnapping slide so he heads off to Greece and hooks up with GRU operative Ariadne Alexandroi in order to stop Colonel Sun's nefarious plan. I've read Colonel Sun, listened to it on audiobook, and purchased the B&W comic book version so I must like it a great deal.