The release of Spectre, the 24th Bond film and the fourth to feature Daniel Craig as 007, isn’t the only thing on the secret agent’s dossier this autumn. On Sept. 8, two months before Spectre makes its worldwide debut, Harper Collins will publish Trigger Mortis, a brand new Bond novel by Anthony Horowitz incorporating previously unpublished material written by Ian Fleming for a never-filmed television series, Murder on Wheels. Though there have been dozens of Bond books commissioned by the Fleming estate since his death in 1964 – he didn’t actually live to see very many of his iconic creation’s cinematic exploits – Trigger Mortis is the first to be set during the original timeline created by Fleming since 1968’s Colonel Sun.
That book, written by brilliant British author Kingsley Amis under the pen name Robert Markham, was a bit tricky for some Bond fans though elements of Amis’ plot were later used in filming The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Though he had also published two other Bond-related works, a literary study called The James Bond Dossier and the cheeky The Book of Bond, Amis wrote no other Bond novels. A fictional autobiography of 007 by John Pearson appeared in 1973 followed by novelizations of The Spy Who Loves Me and Moonraker in 1977 and 1979. Then the torch was passed to British novelist John Gardner, an ex-Royal Marine Commando, who went on to write sixteen Bond books between 1981–1996.
Gardner, who’s stated mission was to “bring Bond into the 1980s”, managed to employ Fleming’s formula fairly successfully, and his books starting with License Renewed make for entertaining reading if not quite fully Fleming-worthy. As with the Bond films, the ages of Bond and the other characters Fleming created remained the same though the years and settings changed. From 1996–2002 American author Raymond Benson, author of The James Bond Bedside Companion, picked up the torch, and some critics credited him with a closer rendering of Fleming’s style. This six-novel era was actually the debut of the more ruthless Bond we know today as played by Daniel Craig. Which brings us to 2008 when the Fleming estate commissioned accomplished British author Sebastian Faulks to do the next one.
Faulks’ novel Devil May Care disregarded Gardner and Benson’s increasingly ridiculous timeframe with 007 morphing into a sort of Dorian Gray, and set his book in the 1960s in keeping with Amis’ Colonel Sun. A good read, unfortunately it turned out to be a one-off. This may have had something to do with Faulks having pissed off Eon Productions, producers of the Bond film franchise since the beginning. Speaking about Skyfall and Quantum of Solace, Faulks sniffed, “The films’ attempts to show a deeper and sensitive side to James Bond have not been successful because that’s not how he works.” He said he’d tried to do the same thing in his book, but “It was unconvincing. It made him look not thoughtful but slightly gay.”
Bond secretly gay? So much for Faulks, despite great sales of Devil May Care. Bestselling American thriller-writer Jeffrey Deaver came in next with Carte Blanche, featuring far too modern a treatment for our tastes. And in 2013 the excellent British novelist William Boyd added his worthy two cents in the form of Solo, also set in the Sixties, and also unfortunately a one-shot deal. Which brings us to Anthony Horowitz and Trigger Mortis. The use of the the unpublished Fleming material makes it the most important development in the Bond book saga since Amis’s offering. In Trigger Mortis we’re brought back to 1957, just two weeks after the events taking place in Goldfinger, which was published in 1959.
Without giving too much away, SMERSH plans to sabotage an international Grand Prix race at the famed Nürburgring track in West Germany, where Bond discovers their evil plot to bring America to its knees with the help of a notorious Korean billionaire. Also making a return appearance is Goldfinger’s Bond Girl, Pussy Galore. The British Horowitz has had some experience with this sort of thing, having written two Sherlock Holmes novels among other works including the UK TV series Foyle’s War, which earned him a knighthood in 2014 for services to literature. If you’ve read all of Fleming’s originals, we suggest you get hold of Colonel Sun, Devil May Care, and Solo for starters – and pre-order Trigger Mortis, which we think could well end up being the best of the bunch. Bond girls don’t even have risqué names these days. What’s not to like about more Pussy Galore?