Imagine, reading the opening of Devil May Care, Sebastian Faulks’ enviable (and yet, somehow, unenviable) assignment—to write AS Ian Fleming and bring Bond back somewhere between 007’s GOLDEN GUN mission and the events of COLONEL SUN. One could get fast annoyed with Faulks’ overuse of French idioms—Fleming smattered some foreign terms into his books but didn’t deluge the reader (pun intended). Soon, however, Bond enters the picture, and the picture grows brighter fast for us addicts of the genre.

The world is all as it should be—40-plus years before today. M is a crusty salt and Bond can bloody well wait for him to light his pipe, women’s lib hasn’t quite yet been invented and the CIA will do anything, anything at all, to win in Vietnam. Bond and the people of his Faulksian world are highly xenophobic, snobbish, sadistic and sexual. Faulks’ pastiche is a veritable mélange of decapitations, dislocated shoulders and gruesome deaths—I have a strong stomach but was revulsed by some of his passages—and yet, of course, this edginess on the reader’s part is part and parcel of the Fleming effect.

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