Carte Blanche – Jeffery Deaver

Since watching Skyfall I have had somewhat of a Bond overload. I made myself a chronological compilation of choice theme tunes for my car which made my drive to work a little more cinematic, I have started a Bond film marathon after treating myself to the Blu Ray boxset (done 4 Sean Connery ones so far) and I have read Carte Blanche. This will be subject of this post.

Carte Blanche had to wait until I had finished reading the 14 book set of Ian Fleming originals I acquired from a charity shop earlier in the year. In summary it stands up well against these originals and is far more enjoyable than Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks. Deaver does not fall into the trap of trying write like Fleming and instead makes sure he follows the spirit of his books rather than the clipped style. We have a moneyed bad guy with a strange obsession, an evil henchman skilled in the art of death, an evil plot that needs uncovering sooner rather than later and our hero who is somewhat of a blunt instrument relying on hunches and a gun to make it through the day.

With a little tweaking the book could be made into a good film and has just the right amount of action, villainy and Bond ‘girls’ to satisfy most Bond fans. Deaver also puts in an interesting subplot about Bond’s parents – was their rock climbing accident really an accident or part of a rash of KGB assassinations. Could one of Bond’s parents have been a spy before him?

Having just watched the disappointing Marvel adaptation Jonah Hex I could easily imagine Michael Fassbender in the role of the wily Irish henchman Dunne. In fact I can easily imagine Michael Fassbender taking over the role of James Bond if Daniel Craig decides to call it a day. Fassbender’s performance in Jonah Hex was the only one I found remotely entertaining, if I discount the marvellous sight of Megan Fox dressed up like a wild west floosie.

Back to the book. The tagline on the cover reads ‘New Warfare. New Rules. New Bond’ and there is a picture of the Aston Martin from Quantum of Solace driving across the desert. The car does not feature in the book and the Bond portrayed inside is not ‘New’. He is described quickly as having dark hair in a comma over his forehead and having a scar down his cheek; this description is classic Fleming Bond and therefore ‘Old’ Bond and I was happy that Deaver has not fallen into the trap of using Bond from the films for his book. Bond from the films is a one-liner pitching prat to my mind who is best left off the page, and it is only the recent films starring Daniel Craig where the seriousness of Fleming’s original has been accurately portrayed. New Warfare and New Rules are equally vague statements and if anything the title Carte Blanche contradicts the notion of ‘new rules’ in that, as usual, Bond not only has a license to kill, but also, it seems, pretty much a license to do whatever the hell he likes wherever he likes, as long as it is not back on British soil. Carte Blanche is granted to the old Bond by M (the old M, not the Dame but the pipe smoking, club attending, old warhorse) to figure out the intentions and indeed identity of a terrorist known only as ‘Noah’ who is plotting to kill thousands in a matter of days and damage British interests.

The opening of the book features an attempt by Dunne to crash a train laden with nasty chemicals into a river in Serbia thus potentially killing lots of people. As we would expect, this attempt is foiled by Bond despite the bungling efforts of the local law enforcers. It introduces our hero and one of the main protagonists and explores the difficult decisions that Bond has to make on a day-to-day basis in his line of work. The scene is very much in the spirit of the pre-title vignettes of the films, but Deaver adds a cerebral element to the action and he continues to do so throughout the book. Bond is a thinking man when at rest and a kinetic killing machine when in motion. I was very impressed by Deaver’s description of close combat and gun battles and on the flip side happy that Bond is still a fool for a fair looking woman. In terms of his love-life it is as complicated as ever and centers on a like-minded woman back home in Blighty and a powerful character who works for a Food Aid organisation in South Africa, where the bulk of the action is based, and as usual by the end of the book he is resigned, because of the nature of his work, to continue his life alone.

As well as the henchman there is the usual bossman’s kept woman; in this case an aging ex-Beauty Queen – ironically seen quite a lot on the extra features of the Blu Ray boxset. However, Deaver avoids the sexism of Fleming by including strong female characters the most notable being the head of the South African Police Service branch tasked with helping his investigation of the recycling plant operating on their turf. There is also none of the blatant racism so apparent in Fleming’s books. Another box is ticked for fans when the recycling plant is introduced in that it is usual for there to be some form of industrial complex – a factory of some description with jetting flames and smoking vents, in which Bond can sneak around and in which he can ultimately have a gun fight.

I will avoid any further spoilers and simply recommend it, and give it 5/5

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