After an unexpected hiatus, and with SPECTRE, the 24th instalment in Eon’s cinematic franchise due in cinemas in mere days, it seems fitting that this post is about the recent Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz, Trigger Mortis.
Continuation novels can be funny things. At the bottom of the argument is that sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Actually, you could argue the point of whether or not a continuation novel is necessary or worthwhile. But when they work, they work. And Trigger Mortis works.
I discovered the Bond continuations in 2008, when Sebastian Faulks wrote Devil May Care, published to coincide with the centenary of Bond creator Ian Fleming’s birth. At the time I was studying Birdsong (Faulks), but more importantly I’d just finished acquiring/reading the last of Fleming’s original series. Call it serendipity. Of course, I rushed out and bought it. But why mention Faulks’ novel? Simple. It was like I was reading something Fleming had written. The style was there. The brutality was there. The technical details. The escapism. It was the Bond I knew from the pages of Fleming, and Horowitz has achieved the same in Trigger Mortis.
In a brilliant stroke, the novel opens two weeks after the events of Goldfinger, in 1957. In another, Pussy Galore returns with deliciously wicked wit. Big news though it was, her inclusion is not such a controversial move. In previous novels, Fleming references or implies that relationships lasted longer (see Tiffany Case; quite). Undertaking a mission and domesticity do not mix for Bond (surprise, surprise) as he prepares to protect a British racing driver from SMERSH, on the Nürburgring, taking lessons from the (unknown to him) daughter of a late driver, Logan Fairfax. The set piece comes from a Fleming television treatment, and with the detail and intensity it is a wonderfully breath-taking passage to read, even as non-petrolhead. In the aftermath, the ‘real’ mission takes hold, heading to the States to combat Sin, a Korean villain who comes across as more reckless than some of his predecessors in the canon, bordering daftly so at times. He wants to sabotage an American rocket that would give the US the edge in the Space Race, and Bond is assisted/hindered by the suitably named Jeopardy Lane.
As I said earlier, this novel works. The spirit of Bond is captured almost to a tee, although some of his edges have been sanded down, and the individual components slot together well. It seems bizarre, but the literary 007 seems at his best in his original timeline, so much of it being ingrained in his habits and attitudes, as well as a useful insight into the world as seen through his maker’s eyes.
Overall, though the first part is stronger, Trigger Mortis is a joy to read, and a worthy addition to the Bond canon. A part of me wished Pussy Galore was in it for longer, but I guess there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. With this return to form cemented after Boyd’s Solo put the character back in the right direction, it’ll be interesting to see where the Ian Fleming Estate chooses to allow Bond to go next.