Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

ANTHONY HOROWITZ – Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Thriller, with Original Material by Ian Fleming. Harper, US, hardcover, September 2015. Orion, UK, hardcover/softcover, 2015.

               The rain swept into London like an angry bride.

   That may not be the authentic voice of Ian Fleming, but it is close, and not surprising the source is polymath Anthony Horowitz, whose accomplishments include many episodes of Poirot, the highly praised Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders series, the bestselling adventures of juvenile secret agent Alex Rider, several other juvenile series in horror, fantasy, and mystery genres, and more recently, the highly praised Sherlock Holmes pastiche, the bestselling Moriarity and House of Silk. Horowitz is the latest writer to tackle the Bond series and with more than a bit of success.

   Since Kingsley Amis’s Colonel Sun, written as Robert Markham, one writer or another has attempted to keep the Bond series going. (An earlier attempt by Geoffrey Jenkins, Per Fine Ounce, was never published and is a sort of minor grail for Bond collectors, and an original un-canonical novel, Jim Hatfield’s The Killing Joke is a mixed bag that does away with Bond decisively at the end.)

   Christopher Wood wrote two novelizations of the screenplays for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker,which had nothing to do with Fleming’s novels, and about which nothing much needs to be said. John Gardner had great success in terms of sales, though popular as they were, his Bond was never quite Fleming’s (not surprising as he created Boysie Oakes as a reaction against Bond and was himself the anti-Fleming, a radical leftist ex commando/vicar).

   Raymond Benson was a bit more popular with Fleming fans as opposed to the movie fans, but again the authentic voice was not quite there, though certainly closer than anyone could hope from an American writer.

   All those books have and deserve their own fans, but they are none of them quite Ian Fleming’s James Bond. They kept Bond alive in print, and I personally enjoyed many of them, but they were never Ian Fleming nor did they really try too hard to be. They were instead what the publishers and the public seemed to want, a hybrid of the literary Bond and the cinematic one. In regard to that the Bond series has been lucky to be helmed by so many conscientious writers.

   The latest round of pastiche began with Sebastian Faulks’ The Devil May Care, which was interesting and certainly literate, but didn’t quite fit the bill. Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche recreated 007 and updated everything, but while it was a good thriller it wasn’t Bond or Fleming — just a thriller calling its main character James Bond, 007.

   But with William Boyd’s Solo this latest series found its legs. Boyd, author of A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach, not only found an authentic voice that echoed Fleming, he actually wrote a damn good James Bond novel, more serious perhaps than any by Fleming, but an adventure that took Bond to Africa in the sixties to good effect. If anything Solo is actually better than some of Fleming’s novels while still clearly Bond.

   Trigger Mortis is the new Bond pastiche by Anthony Horowitz, and it takes a bit of original material by Fleming from an incomplete story from the For Your Eyes Only shorts he never finished that took Bond into the world of Grand Prix. From that Horowitz has extrapolated an adventure that begins just after the end of Goldfinger.

   Bond is in London living with Pussy Galore who he has successfully kept out of prison, but things are deteriorating between them and domesticity doesn’t really suit either of them very well. There is a nice observation by Horowitz when Bond recalls introducing her to a friend in London and recognizing just how puerile her name was outside of one of his exotic adventures.

   Bond’s discomfort and self-recognition are something sadly missing from many Bond pastiche, but part of the authentic Fleming Bond. Both Boyd and Horowitz recognize that the Bond books are not individual adventure or suspense novels, but a saga, part of a very personal evolving fantasy auto biography by Fleming much the same way John D. MacDonald used the Travis McGee novels or Raymond Chandler used Philip Marlowe as more than simply a series about a continuing character.

   Bond will be saved from the ‘soft arms of the good life’ by a mission that puts him on the Grand Prix circuit, pits him against SMERSH and the mad bad and dangerous Korean Sin Jai Seong, aka Jason Sin, and he finds himself in the arms of the intriguing and all too self-aware Jeopardy Lane. It seems Smersh has been enlisted to help along the Russian entry in the Grand Prix stakes, and Bond is sent to foil their plans, but not before he saves Pussy Galore from the same gold plated fate of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger. Eventually the trail takes him from the Tyrol to a bomb laden train racing beneath New York with the intent of laying waste to most of Manhattan.

   Best of all is a nice little snipe at the film Dr. No (the book properly is Doctor No) when Bond discovers plans for an American rocket in Sin’s office and is told about any Smersh plans to sabotage American rockets: “… suppose he did manage to blow up a couple of rockets. Would it really make all that much of a difference? The Americans are managing perfectly well without him. Last January they fired off a Thor rocket. It managed all of nine inches before it fell in two and blew up.”

   A well-stated reminder of our space program late in the Eisenhower administration when this takes place — in terms of the timeline of the books: Doctor No takes place in about 1958 and Goldfinger in 1959.

   What is surprising here, and in Boyd’s Solo, is that the books read like an undiscovered Fleming and not a pastiche. Boyd and Horowitz capture the feel and the authentic Fleming effect in a way none of the previous writers have, and it is the Bond of the books and not the films, a mistake made by all of the previous pastichers, who tried too hard to split the difference between the two.

   Either book could have been written at the height of Fleming’s powers the way the best Holmes pastiche sometimes rises to echo Doyle or Robert B. Parker’s authentic sounding continuations of Raymond Chandler sounded so much like Marlowe.

    Trigger Mortis is not only good Bond, it is good Fleming, not surprising since Horowitz’s Alex Rider books are canny takes on the Bond novels themselves. Solo and Trigger Mortis are not Ian Fleming, but they have the feel and at times the voice of Ian Fleming without ever simply imitating his work, and far and away mark the first time fans of the books have reason to truly celebrate Bond pastiche.

   I’m not sure if fans of the films or of the Gardner or Benson Bond’s will be entirely happy with these, but they are the closest thing to finding a pair of lost Fleming novels available and that is as high a praise as admirers of the original Bond novels and Ian Fleming can deliver. This is not the Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig Bond, but the Fleming Bond.

   Of all the Bond pastiche written since Fleming’s sudden death at the hands of the ‘iron crab’ on that golf course, these are the first two I would happily include as authentic Bond novels since Amis’s imperfect Colonel Sun.

   They are, as advertised, James Bond Thrillers, and for some of us that is exactly what we have been missing for far too many seasons in the past, not books about a character called James Bond, but books about James Bond. There is a subtle difference there, but fans of the authentic Ian Fleming James Bond will know exactly what I mean.