Jun 14, 2011

New Spy Novels Out This Week: James Bond and Tom Clancy

This is a huge week in America for high-profile spy novels.  Two of the biggest names in the genre go head-to-head at bookstores today giving spy fans plenty of pages to keep them engrossed on the beach this summer: James Bond and Tom Clancy.  And both of them have help.  Bond is aided by the highest-profile and bestselling author to pen a 007 continuation novel since Kingsley Amis, American thriller writer Jeffery Deaver.  With no offense intended to John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Charlie Higson and Samantha Weinberg (each of whom penned some terrific entries in the series), this is probably the first time since Colonel Sun that a James Bond continuation novel has boasted a "marquee value" author capable of selling a ton of books without the Bond name, and therefore capable of drawing legions of new readers to the brand. Clancy, meanwhile, is aided by co-author Peter Telep, whose previous novels span all genres.  Since returning from his seven-year hiatus following The Teeth of the Tiger, Clancy has opted to work with collaborators.  (Grant Blackwood co-wrote last year's Jack Ryan novel Dead or Alive.)

It was a little over a year ago that we first heard the exciting news that Ian Fleming Publications had tapped Deaver to pen the first contemporary James Bond continuation novel in nearly a decade.  (Higson, Weinberg and Sebastian Faulks had written period pieces set roughly in the timeline of Fleming's original novels; Benson was the last author to tell a Bond story set in the present day.) Then, this book was known only as Project X. In the interim, it's gained a real title, Carte Blanche, and been released in Britain, last month, to very favorable reviews.  The plot finds a Bond firmly rooted in the 21st Century driving a Bentley, traveling to Serbia, Dubai and South Africa, and taking on a villain who built his empire on refuse! I only just received my UK edition (a lousy Second, grumble, grumble) from Amazon, so I'm only about 100 pages in, but I must say, so far I'm loving it.  Interestingly, I picture Daniel Craig when I read Deaver's Bond.  In other books, I've always pictured a literary 007 quite separate from any actor.  I'll post a full review when I finish, but I don't want to rush; I want to savor the new James Bond novel!  Order Carte Blanche from Amazon here.

Deaver's book may well clock in as the longest Bond novel ever at 432 pages (in the US edition), but it's got nothing on Clancy's and Telep's tome, a typical 768-page behemoth!  This one caught me by surprise when we first heard about it a few months ago, because Clancy just had a novel out late last year which isn't even in paperback yet! I haven't yet picked up Against All Enemies, but it's my understanding that this novel does not feature Clancy's perennial hero Jack Ryan.  Instead, it introduces a new hero, CIA agent (and ex-Navy SEAL) Maxwell Moore. Moore's mission takes him from Pakistan to another desert in America's own backyard: Mexico.  According to the book's copy, "Here a drug war rages between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. The landscape is strewn with bodies, innocents and drug dealers alike, but is there an even deadlier enemy lurking in background? Into this deadly brew, Moore leads a group of specially selected agents whose daring actions reveal shocking answers and uncover an unholy plan—a strike against the very heart of America."  It sounds like a vintage Clancy plot, and I'm excited by it.  Despite a couple of less than stellar later books, I'm hopeful that this one will represent a return to form for the man who ruled the spy genre in the 1980s. And while the next Jack Ryan movie remains in limbo (as reported recently), now Clancy fans can at least get their fix in print!  Order Against All Enemies from Amazon here.

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