Forever and a Day: A James Bond Novel
Publisher: Jonathan Cape/Waterstone's, London, England; First Edition (2018)
Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton
Beginning with John Pearson's 1973 James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, Ian Fleming Publications has licensed a number of pre-Casino Royale Bond stories as part of their ongoing series of James Bond continuation novels. In addition, a number of unsanctioned books, often fictionalized versions of Ian Fleming's World War II experiences, have been published as alleged foreshadowings of the literary material Fleming would use in his James Bond yarns.
The longest-lasting sanctioned pre-MI5 Bond stories began with Charlie Higson's 2005 "Young James Bond" books which author Steve Cole took over in 2014.
In terms of the adult Bond, after long runs of Bond continuation novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson, in which the character of Bond was "frozen in time" and emulated the cinematic aspects of the films, Ian Fleming Publications opted for a course change in 2014 beginning with Sebastian Faulks's Devil May care in a new series featuring books by various authors sticking as closely as possible to the spirit and flavor of the Fleming books, using settings and events occurring in the 1960s.
Then came Anthony Horowitz's well-received 2015 Trigger Mortis which took Bond back to the '50s, and included unused material by Ian Fleming himself. Horwitz, Bond, and a bit more unused Fleming material returned in 2018 with Forever and a Day, the latest offering set before the events in Casino Royale.
007 literary aficionados have been divided in their responses to Forever and a Day, with many a reader praising the book for its keeping close to the style and flavor of Fleming, its comparatively subtle introduction of many Bond tropes of the original novels, its revealing how James Bond got the 007 number, and the characters introduced by Horwitz, notably the love interest between Bond and "Madame Sixteen."
Add me to the list of critics who really, really liked Forever and a Day. I don't see much to complain about, especially as so many continuation novels were entertaining, readable, and completely forgettable. For me, Madame Sixteen is now one of my all-time favorite Bond girls, although calling her a "girl" isn't close to accurate. She's well-developed--in the literary sense--mature, resourceful, as good as an action companion as 007 could ever ask for.
True, that scene where supposed acid turns out to be merely water and some of the incursion scenes are a tad contrived, and nothing could be more contrived than Irwin Wolfe's rationalization for his motivations. But when was Ian Fleming ever flawless?
I'd wager most Bond literary fans have already read, evaluated, and passed judgement on Forever and a Day. It's the rest of you this review is for. If you're not a habitual reader of either Fleming or the continuation novels, is Forever and a Day a good read for you? Is it a good starting point, now being the first authorized 007 adventure in the chronological sequence of the canonical Bond?
Naturally, every reader should start with Fleming himself, and I recommend Dr. No, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, or Casino Royale. (Not coincidently, these became the best films.) In terms of continuation novels, yes, Forever and a Day is now an ideal starting point. It's the most memorable yarn in many a moon. More Horowitz, please.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on June 15, 2019 at: