I’m a big fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of books. A prima facie consideration of the books is not unlike the general impression one gets from the movies. Thrilling action, quips, gadgets, and women. However, in the books, you get all those things, plus travel guides, hotel and restaurant recommendations, what clothes to wear, what to eat, detailed info on guns, watches, etc. Although the information is quite dated, it really is like merging a men’s magazine (like esquire) with an action movie. Admittedly, the movies have become commercialized with a lot of product placement, but you’ll never heard Daniel Craig wax poetic about sea island cotton. The movies just aren’t the same. With only 14 novels, and some collections of short stories, I’m quickly running out of Fleming to read. In fact, I’m purposefully saving certain books to read in certain locations/circumstances. So what does one read when running out of Bond?
The most obvious choice is more Bond. Ian Fleming Publications has authorized many different authors to continue the series. I just finished The Man with the Red Tattoo recently. It has the exotic locals and sophisticated tastes of Flemings books. In my opinion, Benson is the author most true to the original works. However, I also like the more recent takes on Bond, from Faulks, Deaver, and Boyd.
I’m not a huge fan of fiction, and really see it more as a vacation genre. I’ve been changing my mind of this point gradually, and decided to try out some other popular authors in the spy and thriller genres.
le Carré is perhaps the most celebrated current spy author, but I did not enjoy the book. While I imagine it is authentic and realistic, it just isn’t sexy or action-packed. It is highly regarded on Amazon and Goodreads, but I just couldn’t get into it.
Clear and Present Danger was closer to the mark, but it was too political for me. I was much more interested in the special ops on the ground than the politicians fighting in Washington. Again, no one was drinking Bollinger or shopping on Savile Row (though I believe the Cuban guy might have enjoyed a cigar and some kind of aperitif). Tom Clancy is all business and no pleasure.
Jack Reacher is an interesting character. An American protagonist created by an English thriller writer. To me, it seems that Child tried to created an American James Bond. Unsophisticated, no-nonsense, and simplistic. Its kind of an Imperialist take on Americans that Americans will likely find slightly offensive. While Reacher is self-reliant and effective, he comes off as a caricature of an American, not unlike Ricky Bobby. Reacher is on a cathartic journey of right wrongs. He accomplishes this task via personal/intimate physical violence. He is a far blunter instrument than Bond. Killing Floor has plenty of action, a love interest, and is coffee fueled (not unlike Fleming’s Bond), but it doesn’t have the class and sophistication of Bond that I love. Reacher drifts around the US unemployed and in dirty clothes, randomly getting into interesting situations. While reading The Man with the Red Tattoo, I thought I’d like to visit Japan. I thought I might want to get some sushi and try some different sakes. I ordered some Japanese whiskey I couldn’t get locally. Jack Reacher does not introduce you to new things. At least not if you live in the American south where the first book takes place. I thought Killing Floor was a good read, and I might even try another Jack Reacher book, but its no Bond.
So in conclusion, if you like bleak suspenseful and dark spy novels, you might want to give le Carré a try. If you’re more into political technothrillers, some Clancy might float your boat. If you like action and seeing bad guys get whats coming to them, Child’s Jack Reacher is your man. If you require action, style, exotic locals, black tie affairs, gambling, cars, and la dolce vita as enjoyed by a true bon vivant, you’ll have to stick to Fleming, his successors, and perhaps like me, anxiously await the next installment of Bond by Anthony Horowitz (featuring unpublished content by the man himself, Ian Fleming).
(Click the BOOKS category on the left to see more suggestions and reviews).
UPDATE: This post has been getting a lot of traffic, so I thought I’d add one more book and few more author suggestions. The book is from an up and coming author, and you’re not likely to hear about it elsewhere.
Red Stick One is an adventure/thriller about love, loss, and revenge. The plot of Red Stick One, has the protagonist on the trail of the man that killed his father figure. During the action, we get a few flashbacks to ‘Nam and a love story. The main character is an avid outdoorsman, wildlife officer, veteran, and east-coaster. The book has an Elmore Leonard vibe to it (which is another author you should look into if you’re not familiar).
More Authors: I wouldn’t call the books by the following authors Bond substitutes, but the Bond series is a manly series, so perhaps you’ll share my taste anyway: Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises, The Green Hills of Africa, etc.), Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff, A Man in Full [two of my favorite books]), Elmore Leonard (The Complete Western Stories of, Pronto, etc.). Click here to see more great book suggestions!This entry was posted in Books by rsiv with