Noted British historian and Financial Times contributor Simon Schama offers an interesting review of Anthony Horowitz's James Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis in the Financial Times.
Scanning the dim interior of Le Caprice, the writer failed to see anyone answering the description of the man he was looking for. There were the prosperous bald lunching with the dangerously chic. A scented cloud of Guerlain hung over the room. “You would be . . . ?” asked the girl at the desk, looking steadily at the writer from beneath heavy mascara. “The reservation should be under . . . ” He tailed off, wondering if 007 had booked under his real name. Unlikely, he surmised. He was already feeling uncomfortable. It was unseasonably warm for April. Normally he would have lunched tieless but 007 was Old School, so he had suited up and knotted a dark red silk tie at the strangling collar.
A light tap on the shoulder. The writer spun round to find himself faced by a feral smile set in a lightly bronzed face. The writer took mental notes: chin, cleft; eyes, chestnut with little specks of gold in the iris; black hair thickly swept back; sardonic eyebrows. “Mr Horowitz, if I’m not mistaken?” The voice was low, studiously charming, a burr as soft as Scottish heather. Bond separated the syllables as if the writer’s name was a private joke: Mister Horror-Wits. “Shall we?”
Perspiring freely, Horowitz followed the dove-grey silk and wool suit to a corner table. “Now tell me, Mr Horowitz, what makes you think you will succeed where others have stumbled? Not quite your usual line of work is it?” The cat smile again. “And the stakes are so high, aren’t they? Mind you, I like a man with a taste for risk.” The writer felt a bead of sweat form on his brow and prayed it would not run down his nose. All appetite lost, he wondered for the first time if this had really been a good idea.
Oh yes, it was! Anthony Horowitz has written a humdinger of a Bond story, so cunningly crafted and thrillingly paced that 007’s creator would have been happy to have owned it. The screenwriter and novelist, a life-long fan, knows that, when he wanted to, Ian Fleming could turn on the literary juice with the best of them. The French beach scene that opens On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a brilliant piece of atmospheric writing, at once innocent and sinister like Fleming’s whole project, and the ending of You Only Live Twice, with its debt to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fable “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, is so unexpectedly off-kilter that, in the film, producers Saltzman and Broccoli had to replace it with the psycho-ferret Donald Pleasence version of Blofeld whizzing through his fake volcano on — the latest thing! — a monorail. But from his brilliant first chapter on, Horowitz is a pitch-perfect mimic of the Fleming one-line punch: “Rain swept into London like an angry bride.” “Silence sat in the room, an uninvited guest.” He even gets the clichés spot on. “Just he and the Maserati, plunging into the green hell.”
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