I read William Boyd’s Solo as an overpriced large format paperback bought in some offer or other at an airport. The story continues with depicting Bond as envisioned by Ian Fleming and is therefore set in the late 1960’s with everyone’s favourite spy a veteran of WWII. Boyd does an excellent job of capturing the spirit and the style of Fleming’s work and is as close to the ‘real thing’ as I have read.
Bond as usual falls for the charms of more than one woman in the story – one a English cougar film star and the other a young lithe African spy. Both are creations of fantasy akin to those that came before them.
Bond is as easily fallible as previous incarnations, is prone to outrageous violence with a smidge of guilt attached and in this story of vengeance becomes embroiled in the fate of an African nation that has recently found massive oil reserves.
The fight for control of the oil reserves by the resident factions of the country, international governments and oil companies is realistic and the descriptions of the African nation’s politics and everyday sights and sounds benefit from Boyd’s experience in these areas.
The action is old-school Bond – no gadgets here (beyond a false shoe heel) – and has that sadistic twist that was typical of Fleming.
I would recommend this book to anyone who liked the previous literary Bond reboots, but don’t expect any great reinventions – this is a celebration of the original Bond and as such there is no need for anything more. Saying that I could see this being the basis for a film; with a little tweaking it has all the elements of a solid piece of cinema entertainment.