A Novel Return… But How?

We all know that James Bond will return. After all, we’ve been told as much by 23 movies. 007 originated in 1953’s novel Casino Royale and has been off and on the page ever since.

James Bond will return

For the most part, one adventure followed another and Bond slowly aged throughout the series. After 2002’s The Man With The Red Tattoo and the novelization of Die Another Day, the literary 007 got significantly more chronally challenged.

Bond went back to basics in 2005, way back, with the start of the Young Bond series, Silverfin, which saw a 13-year-old James go on adventures that would shape who he would become. Written by Charlie Higson and set in the 1930s, five novels were written and released in the span of 4 years.

2008 marked Ian Fleming’s centenary year and brought Bond back to adulthood with Sebastian Faulks, writing as Fleming, in the novel Devil May Care. Devil May Care was set in the 1960s and picked up where Fleming left off with The Man With The Golden Gun. Despite the loss of any 21st Century trappings, modern readers didn’t mind and Devil May Care sold over 44,000 copies in its first week.

Much fanfare was made over the next 007 thriller, Carte Blanche, released in 2011. Author Jeffery Deaver not only brought Bond back to present day, but rebooted the series as well. This new time line has 007 born in 1979, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan, and a former smoker. Gone is the cinema famous Aston Martin. Bond is now back in a Bentley, as he was originally under early Fleming. Deaver even drove up to his book launch in one, the novel’s logo emblazoned on its side. Also making returns are Mary Goodnight and M, the latter of which presumably being Sir Miles, not the Judi Dench inspired version that appeared at the end of Gardner’s and Benson’s tenure.

With Carte Blanche debuting with over 16,000 copies sold and the 60th anniversary of Casino Royale on hand, William Boyd brought Bond back to 1969 and started the novel with Bond celebrating his 45th birthday. With general print sales on the decline, Solo opened with over 8,000 in sales its first week out the gate. Whilst a personal best for Boyd, sales on the 007 novels continue to fall at a time when the films’ box office grosses are rising.

Ian Fleming Publications has announced that Young Bond will return Fall 2014, under the pen of Steve Cole. Four novels will be published starting where Higson’s By Royal Command left off and featuring a Bond aged 14 to 15.

What of the adult 007? As of yet, IFP has not announced their plans, if any. The last two films, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall did not get novelizations, which would have been warranted given that the short story Quantum of Solace took its title from had little to do with the film, save the name. It’s doubtful that Bond 24, which sees release in late 2015, will get a novel either.

What I would like to see happen would be something akin to the Deaver reboot. Obviously, there has to be something of a sliding scale, akin to Superman or Batman, where Bond is not pinned down to one time frame. He must always be of the now. One cannot have a ninety-year-old secret agent do the things 007 traditionally does. In this regard, the films got it right by not being too specific. Bond would not need a birth year to lock him in place historically. That would only serve to be overturned in a decade’s time.

The series could also benefit with some consistency. Yes, the Young Bond novels are steady in their voice, but the adult adventures have bounced between 4 different authors over the last four books. Much pomp and circumstance has been given to each new writer taking the helm and it’s nice to see 007 get publicity, however one can still have that every release without switching horses, as it were. A solid, singular voice and direction could help propel the series back to the heights it deserves to be at.

Along with a singular voice, the series needs to remain in the present, whether or not IFP decides to acknowledge prior cannon. The bouncing back and forth between the 60s and now seems unbefitting Bond, no matter how well done. In that regard, I’ve always felt Bond should remain fresh, whilst someone like Sherlock Holmes remained rooted in the past. Given that Holmes himself is now undergoing re-imaginings in modern day media, it seems silly to have 007 be an anachronism.

Worldwide, book and comic sales are in decline, yet motion pictures based on those characters earn millions. How much of those sales are unaccounted for due to digital purchases is unclear to the general public. Are Solo’s comparatively low numbers due to a disinterest in literary Bond, the novel’s setting, or e-books being the now preferred method? I, for one, enjoy seeing the hard covers adorn my bookshelf.

Regardless of what IFP decides to do, be it back to the past, soldiering on, or starting anew, one thing is certain – James Bond WILL return.

Javier E. Trujillo is a communications medic and lifelong fan of all things Bond. He can be reached on Twitter at @JaviTru

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