Monday, 11 January 2016

TRIGGER MORTIS - Reviewed


Ian Fleming was an amateur. Let me clarify that; when he entered the World of Naval Intelligence in the War he wasn't a professional intelligence officer. As with so many of his generation, he had to jump in and swim. Read any of the biographies and it becomes clear he was an ideas man, but not a practical one. Schemes such as 'Operation Ruthless' show both how desperate Britain was at that stage of the war and how far-fetched Fleming's thinking could be. So, an amateur intelligence man; but I'm English and many of you are not which falls on me to explain what an amateur actually is in merry old England. To us, an amateur is a sporting chap (or chappess) who takes the crease at Cricket, the field at Rugby and generally does their best to try to beat the other chap.

Like all amateurs, Fleming admired a pro and he was certainly influenced by them when he wrote James Bond into our lives. Bond is an amateur himself – at least in the sporting sense and Fleming had this in mind when he sketched the outlines of a television series, abandoned at the outset of the films. One of these shows was to be titled 'Murder on Wheels' and you'd probably never have heard of it had the writer Anthony Horowitz not been approached by Ian Fleming Publications to produce a new book; Trigger Mortis.
Anthony Horowitz photograph by Mark Rusher

Anthony Horowitz OBE is a TV Screenwriter and author of The House of Silk and Moriarty, as well as the Alex Rider childrens books. He created Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War, which is the only of his works I'm barely aware of; – it featured Michael Kitchen, Bill Tanner in the Brosnan Bonds.

Trigger Mortis has been out awhile, but I've only just finished it (It was a Christmas present from my Wife) and I have to say I'm impressed. The book features original material written by Ian Fleming and this isn't as easy to spot as you might think; Horowitz writes as Fleming very convincingly. The setting is the late Fleming's original idea featured Stirling (Now Sir Stirling) Moss at risk of a typical piece of SMERSH nastiness at the NΓΌrburgring. Horowitz replaces him with a fictional driver and Bond takes to the track as a playboy amateur driver...

The book – perhaps unwisely, brings back a certain Ms. Galore, only to dismiss her after she's provided us with a spot of uncharacteristic damsel in distress. The main love interest comes in the form of Jeopardy Lane, American like Pussy, but on the right side of law enforcement. This is more like it; Lane is both attractive and capable. She digs Bond out of the soup in more than one instance and is genuinely memorable. At last a female more Felix Leiter than Mary Goodnight (And if you don't know, don't bother finding out!). Providing the menace along with SMERSH is a shadowy Korean, known as Jason Sin. Sin is – without giving too much away, a psychotic monster without soul or human warmth. The action takes us from Europe to America, where the military is about to launch a Vanguard missile. Aware something terrible is on the cards (But not how terrible those cards can be), Bond tries to warn the authorities, but gets the brush off. To prevent a tragedy of international proportions, 007 and Jeopardy have to penetrate the mysterious Sin's empire and Bond's life rests on the turn of a card...

Bond is presented as Fleming wrote him, but for today. Gone are the racism and sexism that so shock modern readers when they pick up an original. The book has been extensively researched, with few errors or gaffes to mar the illusion. I've read criticism of the decision to place this book firmly in the 1950's, but it fits nicely with the originals and is far more interesting placed with Fleming's works. I've read a few of the continuation novels and, for me as a life-long Fleming buff, Trigger Mortis is as good as they come; Ian Fleming would surely be proud.

Trigger Mortis is available everywhere; Orion Books, ISBN 978-1-4091-5913-1 and priced at £18.99 in the UK.

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