Military guys and screenwriters may want to throw this Bond saga across the room for the writer having made some things — many things — too easy, but Bond fans of old — or of a forgiving youthful curiosity — might enjoy this visit with a Bond in the image of Ian Fleming plus alter ego set to work in the 1960s’ post-colonial but not yet post Grand Game era.
The series’ signatures from Bond Girls to arch evildoers are in the volume but written down a notch, more human scale than stellar, and, thank God for it, unbelievably low tech (with one exception).
For the reading addict struggling to carve time for the indulgence, Boyd’s Bond seems also a romance that in the spy thriller mode spiced with sex moves right along, the author’s nods to Graham Greene (Bond’s reading him) and Jamaica — the location of Fleming’s plain but once glamorized island escape — notwithstanding.
Bonded English old Bond, chain smoking, whisky swilling, Scottish white warrior with a penchant for the terribly pale British and equally cafe au lait exotic in women seems also to have immunity from contemporary political correctness as he encounters Africans with names like “Christmas” and “Sunday” while loving, losing (the hard way), and leaving the babes with but the briefest spells of deep regrets.
Other quintessential Bond: the Africa of interest is a plantain republic — something like Eritrea meets Somalia meets Nigeria — with verandas made for drinking and smoking and common global consciousness of the global encounter with the Islamic Small Wars still 40 years in the future.
Also, fans of Washington’s George Pelecanos, a writer of detective thrillers employing real spaces around the city, may enjoy Bond’s walkabouts downtown and drives into northern Virginia. Boyd knows and reinvents the atmosphere, culture, and landscape of the capital and surrounds a fair 50 years back, and that part of the fun.
Call Boyd’s Bond grandpa’s Bond — a low tech Scotsman come of age in WWII working Her Majesty’s interests in a post-colonial African state, and encountering in America the two hottest signals of the age: the Afro hairstyle and the 300 horsepower Mustang.
Also notable: when Bond’s in Washington and needs sophisticated weaponry, there’s need neither for Q, background checks, or a drive out of the District of Columbia: the counter keeper of the gun depot on the corner happily, legally, offers up the ready-to-assemble and concealable death delivering technologies of choice.
Ah, me hearties, those were the days!
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