Shaken, but definitely not stirred, over misuse of a licence to thrill
Reviewed by MARK LEWIS.
NEVER SEND FLOWERS - the new James Bond adventure, by John Gardner (Hodder and Stoughton, $221).
DEAR JOHN, From: Mr James Bond 'Dun Spyin' Home for Retired Agents Somewhere in the South of France THIS afternoon I had a most unpleasant experience - your book Never Send Flowers - the new James Bond adventure.
I appreciate there is a market for my fictional escapades, but I hope people will return to Ian Fleming's torrid tales rather than to your paltry pastiches.
It is generous of you to think I'm still up to all that leaping about, killing nasty baddies and globetrotting. After all, I'm nearing my 75th birthday, and have been suffering from arthritis since 1982, probably due to all that leaping about.
I'm flattered you should portray me as still having such a magnetic virility. Every available woman in the book appears to throw herself at me.
For your information, I abandoned promiscuity and married Moneypenny.
As my image is now in the control of the films, I keep trying to work out which Bond you had in mind. There were few clues as you never described me, presumably because it would be laughable to have a geriatric spy fondled into submission by nubile young fillies.
But using my still active brain, I picked up one clue: ''Bond now had a real opportunity to study more than Flicka von Grusse's body. Her laughing green eyes and Carly Simon mouth were her best assets.'' Carly Simon mouth! Sean Connery was a jazz man, while Timothy Dalton prefers Dire Straits (understandable if you have seen his movies). But Roger Moore, who reduced my killer instinct to a Playboy fantasy, was a sucker for Carly, even getting her to do the theme song for The Spy Who Loved Me.
One of your earlier book jackets claimed the Gardner Bond had taken in feminism. Reading Never Send Flowers, I presume that refers to Flicka's habit of saving my bacon every time there is a little action.
I seem to do a lot of standing idle or sitting around. At least dear Ian Fleming got me into scrapes virtually every chapter, where I could show my superhuman cunning, indestructibility and remove my shirt.
In contrast, I spend half of Never Send Flowers reading irrelevant files (never my strong point), and listening to uninteresting police officers.
This would not be so bad if you had given me a little of my famed ironic humour, but the only time that happens is on page 113. Otherwise, I seem little more than a gun-toting civil servant with a licence to travel.
Let's return to page 113 because I have to admit it is my favourite. Why? Easy, it is the only time you allow me to drink a vodka martini. But I remember to have it shaken and not stirred, a detail you forget.
The book could stand most of these faults if there was a halfway decent plot. What you fail to understand is that with the end of the Cold War the fictional Bond needs an enemy with the cunning of the Russians. As M laments at the book's conclusion: ''The job's changing with the world, though I personally believe the world's a more dangerous place than it was when we had a cut-and-dried Cold War.'' This is very true, but does the new threat to world peace and global harmony come from a mad actor, bumping off a few superannuated bureaucrats and a pretty agent? I have visions of my next Gardner adventure involving an evil Hong Kong noodle shop owner attempting to take over the world through lacing lunch boxes with strychnine.
Finally, I must tell you I felt sorry for your word processor, being forced to churn out this drivel. My patience eventually cracked with the following: ''Maeve Horton made a tutting sound part way between 'whischt' and 'ocht'.'' Pardon me for seeming ignorant, but I always believed a tutting sound went ''tut''.
Still it allows me to conclude that Never Send Flowers' merit lies part way between ''rapc'' and ''tsih''.
With few good wishes, James Bond