It was certainly a good idea to get an eminent and brilliant historical novelist to write in the way of the late Ian Fleming. Sebastian Faulks's pastiche, Devil May Care, introduces the new Bond villain, Dr Julius Gorner, early on and manages to conjure a glamorous companion for Bond, although there is an avoidance of sexual congress. Scarlett – the Bond woman – is a quick learner: a brief lesson from Bond in aiming a pistol enables her to put on a good show in a gun battle, but her prowess is satisfactorily explained before the book ends.
There is the essential sprinkling of impeccably stylish dresses, long legs and exotic cocktails, all either shaken and not stirred or stirred and not shaken. Such descriptions are absent, but ever searched for by Bond aficionados. The novel is set some time around the Sixties, but the sense of period is not laboured. There may be anachronisms for pedants to get their history files out for, but the time references are too subtle to divert any experienced reader's concentration.
The book runs well and slow readers may surprise themselves with their improved reading rate. This may have Fleming turning in his grave, but it could just be Bond at his best.
Gorner, the villain, has doctorates in numerous disciplines and a first in PPE. Gorner's impressive CV also includes degrees in chemistry from ancient European universities and one year at Harvard Business School (which he gave up as it was "insufficiently stimulating"). Faulks gives him the sort of distinguishing feature common to many Bond villains: a hand "completely that of an ape" and known as main de singe. This deformity was ridiculed by a British fellow student and Gorner made up his mind to destroy Britons in revenge. Searching for the quick buck, Gorner diverts his attention to the production of heroin, at one time legally produced by the German chemist Bayer. The villainous doctor recruits workers, converting them into drug addicts who then work for low wages or none – as long as the heroin keeps coming. At one point, Bond plays a high-stakes game of tennis against Gorner, which, in spite of external interference, Bond wins.
Faulks neither lets himself nor Fleming down. He manages to ensure that every vital event can be traced back to an earlier reference in the book. There are no lazy plot jumps here. Everything is planned to perfection.
Fleming managed 12 Bond novels and all have been adapted for film. This must be too.
Derrig Ferguson, retired gas engineer, Sutton Coldfield