06 November 2013

Solo (William Boyd)

The English novelist William Boyd, of whom I'm a fan, has written the latest book in the James Bond saga. It's received mixed reviews, and it's not hard to understand why. Boyd seems to have ascribed to the character some of the pantywaisted, pussified attitudes that so characterise modern Western man. The thing about Bond is that he is a cruel, racist, sexist, and slightly mad character--much, much darker (and therefore more compelling) in the books than in the popular films. Boyd's Bond, it appears, follows in the footsteps of Hollywood's version. What a pity. Still, I'll probably buy it. Here's an excerpt from a review:

 'Solo, set in 1969, begins promisingly enough, with plenty to satisfy Bond aficionados. By the end of chapter four, a suitably carnal Bond has already eyed up a beautiful woman in a catsuit that revealed "the full swell of her breasts" (and had a zip "that was crying out to be pulled down”), polished off a bottle of Chateau Batailley 1959 at the Dorchester and road-tested a Jensen Interceptor. He’s also had reason to use the lock pick he keeps hidden in his heel, meet Q, be briefed by a pipe-smoking M and told off by Miss Moneypenny. Oh yes, and he gets to say, "My name’s Bond, James Bond."

So far, so good. Boyd clearly enjoyed writing these early scenes, relishing their authenticity, and they are huge fun to read. He is also keen to establish the character of his 45-year old Bond: highly sexed (his eye is immediately drawn to the “small-nippled breasts” of a girl in a Chelsea café, for example) but with none of the misogyny or cruelty of Fleming’s creation. In one telling scene, when he breaks into the catsuited woman’s house (she’s called Bryce, don’t ask), he watches her undress and is excited but "made vaguely uneasy by this unsought-for act of voyeurism". Fleming would have had no such qualms. Ditto a later scene, when Bond seems more concerned about saving starving children than completing his operation.'



Florida Traditionalist said...

A shame. However, I may resign to purchasing it as well.

By any chance, have you read any of William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes novels?

Anonymous said...

It's been some time since I read the old books and, yes, Bond is far better in them than on screen.

Starving children, uneasy about naked women? Sounds more like a CBS sitcom than Bond.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

O ~ The Ian Fleming books are the beginning. So very different.

FT ~ No, I have not read them. I have not read any of the late WFB's books since the late 1980s. The chap was a fucking fraud. See here:


Anonymous said...


That is always a favorite blog entry of mine on your site.

And it reminds me of one of my life goals: find Byron York and smack that stupid look off his face.

And what's with all the fake British accents with the NR?

Mariano Torrespico said...

When Ian Fleming died, so, too, did the "James Bond novel". Hence, I am unsurprised that the novel "Solo" (2013), by William Boyd, is disappointing reading, because it is a commercial endeavour, for PC males . . . and not a straightforward adventure story for men.

Granted, the continuation novels have a commercial purpose, but, artistically, they are not of Ian Fleming quality. None the less, my favourite of such novels, "Colonel Sun" (1968), by Kingsley Amis, although well written and well plotted, is an interesting adventure, featuring a secret agent named "James Bond" , but is not a true "James Bond novel"; champagne vs. sparkling wine, as it were. As a reader of espionage, secret agent, and adventure novels, one is best rewarded by reading and re-reading the original novels written by Ian Fleming.

Thank you for the blog.