Devil May Care

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am

Devil May Care
by Sebastian Faulks
Penguin, HK$114

Sebastian Faulks is the perfect choice to be the 21st-century Ian Fleming. His books nod at the highbrow but are strong on action (Charlotte Gray), sex (Birdsong), spying (Charlotte Gray, The Fatal Englishman) and slightly clunky prose (all of the above). Written to celebrate Fleming's 100th birthday last year, Devil May Care sends Bond back to the future: to the late 1960s and the height of the cold war. The action begins, with a typical Faulks flourish, en Paris, where a man called Hashim is murdered with a pair of pliers. Bond isn't in much better shape. This isn't the cheeky, knowing 007 a la Roger Moore but Fleming's bitter, misanthropic widower constantly on the verge of resignation, in all senses of the phrase. 'You're played out. Finished,' the spy tells himself in what seems to be a moment of playful self-reference. The baddie, Dr Julius Gorner, is also typical Fleming: an Anglophobe with pretensions to rule the world. Throw in gorgeous twins (the Papavas), unrest across the Middle East, an extensive drug operation and some blunt prose ('It was a wet evening in Paris') and Bond is back. All over again.