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Topic: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

The book will be released in two days in the U.K., and I'm surprised there are no advance reviews by either the press or the fans. I understand two chapters have been published in The Times. Has anyone read it? What's your impression? What has Deaver wrought?


Richard

The top 7 Bond films: 1)  Dr No.   2) From Russia With Love.  3) Thunderball.  4) On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  5) For Your Eyes Only.  6) The Living Daylights.  7) Licence to Kill.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I read the first section, you can read it on the other thread but I thought it was Flemingesque with plenty of well-researched detail to give it versimilitude and a few brand names chucked in. Like Deaver's other work, it's gripping enough when you read it but once you put it down there's no real desire to pick it up again. His is a slightly cold world, which plays upon the idea that something ominous is about to happen. You don't totally warm to it.

I've heard there's not much sex in it either, which fits as I don't think it's Deaver's forte (on the page I mean.) This is a perennial Bond continuation problem, certainly with Gardner. Woods was v good at it, Amis not bad though you only had one sex scene there.

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Well, I've read it, and I have to say I enjoyed settling down in the evening for a couple of chapters or 50 pages worth of reading for the last fornight or so. No spoilers for this post, to speak of. What did I like? The first 50 pages, the opening setting in Serbia with the freight train carrying a load of highly dangerous material and the thoughts of the driver who, in the best Fleming tradition, probably isn't long for this world one senses. I liked the way Bond is introduced into this setting, the description with the comma of hair and three-inch scar on his face clearly signalling this is meant to be Bond. I liked how the Irishman, as he's named, seems to be ambivalent about the deaths about to be caused. I liked the way Bond's operation is bungled by Serbian associates who mess up, I shouldn't say it but it has that whiff of xenophobia and self-righteousness that gets you going, especially the stinging pay off of this episode. Cracking stuff.

Then I liked how you have some of the brands thrown in, and the guessing game with Bond's favourite restaurant (off Charing Cross road, okay, well that's J Sheekey's right? Oh no hang on, that's off St Martin's Lane strictly speaking. Well, then it could be Cafe Boheme but that's really Soho isn't it to anyone who knows. There are loads of restaurants around there but you can't see Bond taking a date there. Deaver doesn't really get that does he, being American? Oh, hang on. The Ivy. Yep, okay, fair enough....  ajb007/embarrassed  )

I'm sure we'll all be taking a shower like Bond, warm at first then standing under the freezing cold for a good few minutes. Or looking out for a razor with an ivory handle. Or taking care not to shave twice a day. Or waking up with an alarm from our mobile phone. Yep, mobile phone, Yanks! Right at cher.

But then it all starts to go very wrong.

First we have the description of M. He's the same guy as from the Ian Fleming novels. "His face was joweled and his head crowned with a sparse constellation of birthmarks, evident through the thinning, swept-back brown and grey hair." Hmmm, well, that's not quite how we remember him, but maybe Deaver has been watching Bernard Lee on the Blu-Ray of Goldfinger. The problem is in Deaver's unpleasantly forensic, dispassionate descriptions, which work for villains but maybe not for character's we're meant to warm to. And warm to him we don't. That's why Lee was so good in the role - decades in the films til I realised what a craggy, beaky nose he has, like Magwitch out of David Lean's Great Expectations. You don't notice it because it's his presence that counts. Deaver just doesn't know how to describe people in that impressionistic way. Instead, it's like looking at a picture on a photofit almost every time.

That's why, when Bond is held up at an airport, Deaver has to drop it in that his assailants are wearing a brown and a blue suit, like that information matters. It gets you in a bind, he struggles to drop in information in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself.

It's the same when we meet Bond's associate, Ophelia Maidenhead. Or Philly, for short. He does a big description of her, but somehow she just doesn't really come to life as a real person. This is the next bind. The next 50 pages are set in London, but it doesn't really ring true for me. Largely, as Deaver's London office and the flirtations are straight out of the 1950s. There's even a reference to 'teasing' though whether it applies to the newly introduced Moneypenny, Miss Goodnight, or Maidenhead I can't locate, and we are treated to a succession of these rather prim, English Roses, I mean a little goes a long way, y'know? But I suppose to Deaver the American they are all exotic.

I mean, 'teasing'... yuk. It reminds me of a line from Friends when Ross talks about 'wooing' a girl, and smarty pants Chandler says, 'Hey, here's an idea, why don't you go back to the 18th Century when people actually talked like that....' There's a cringey ad for Eurostar with a couple who won't see 55 again, the woman looking on as he naps, anticipating 'Teasing, dancing under the stars....'

No, there's only one erotic context I want to read tease. "Ophelia Maidenhead knealt before him, her long deft fingers experty unzipped him and felt inside. Bond moaned softly as she slowly extracted his large, throbbing member; she paused, savouring the antipation and poking her tongue forward, gently began to tease..." okay, you get the picture.

Now you're probably thinking, why is Napoleon Plural banging on like this? And worse, why is he referring to himself in the third person? But it's all like this. Even the name rubs me up. I mean, it can happen, I happen to work with a woman called Ms Cumming, which is a kind of suggestive name really, and she's good looking as it happens, so it can happen, but in this context Deaver's creation seems phoney. Worse, it's quite possible that Maidenhead is posh, but Deaver doesn't factor this in or show how Bond might react to it. She's just English to him. And the flirting, it's like watching your parents at it. "She sat forward, crossing his legs, and Bond believed he heard the appealing rustle of nylon.' And another time he ponders whether she wears stockings or tights. Does anyone think like this any more? I haven't heard that phrase since school, and even then it has a comical, self-deprecating context, as one pupil stood up and mock pompously asked Mr Dodd, who had a thing going with the new raven-haired French teacher, "Sir, we were all wondering whether you could tell us whether Miss Thomas wears stockings or tights..." before Dodd exploded with fury.

Otherwise, it doesn't take a creative genius to describe Goodnight as looking like Kate Winslet, righty-ho, fair enough then. You take no emotional impact from these physical descriptions.

And the same applies when it comes to meeting Deaver's villain, Severan Hydt. Oh, what a charmer he is. Well, Goldfinger was obsessed with gold. Klebb was an ageing lesbian. Mr Big, voodoo. Hydt? Oh, he runs a garbage concern in East London. He likes to retrieve dead bodies, corpses and bury them in a shallow grave so he can retrieve them and caress them carnally. This is just totally disgusting, and oddly enough there isn't even a gothic horror element to it that Fleming might have introduced. It just reads like a nasty, tacky 1970s book in all the wrong ways. Hydt gets his customary description from Deaver that somehow conveys less than it ought. 'He was a tall man - six foot three - and broad-shouldered... his massive head was covered in thick, curly hair, black streaked with white, and he wore a matching beard.' It's fellow Bond scribe, Christopher Wood! Or maybe that bloke of the cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here? For some reason I thought of that. Or the Yorkshire Ripper. I dunno. 'His yellowing fingernails extended well past his fingertips, but were carefully filed; they were long by design, not neglect.'

Well alright, but at no point do I get much emotional impression from any of this. Later, whenever he's described Deaver takes care to mention his yellow long fingernails but nothing in his body language or speech or vocabulary conjurs up any impression of this character. Deaver's done his photofit, and that has to suffice.

Anyway, I'm going to bed, will pick up my rant tomorrow.

Last edited by Napoleon Plural (8th Jun 2011 12:51)

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Okay, final lap.

Deaver has plenty of twists, pointless to complain as this is what he does. But I've picked up on ChrisNo1 reviews, I do get this sense that one feels a bit miffed by them, you get fooled because a) the twists are kind of far-fetched and that's why you don't see them coming and b) Deaver's writing doesn't demand you pay full attention in the first place.

Chapter after chapter, as it goes on, picks up with Deaver being the smarty pants, showing that he fooled you with what went on in the previous event. This gets repetitive, but it also goes against the grain of Fleming's world, where people are pretty much as they seem.

I've lost count of the number of characters who seem to be good guys, but then turn out to be bad guys, or vice versa. Often I can't even remember how they end up, friends or foes. It's all very well, but it does make Bond look a bit of a clot, like he really has no instincts regarding people at all.

There is a sense of place, but when Bond goes to Dubai there isn't much description that resonated with me and it all seems a bit rushed. Felix Leiter pops up for the hell of it. You don't get much sense of him as a character, he may as well be the Norman Burton one in  DAF. There is a good description of Bond's nemesis in South Africa, Captain Jordaan, a black woman who takes an instinctive dislike to Bond. You do get a sense of who she is through her body language and way of talking. She's real. But they're meant to be allies, and the problem is that Bond has issues with his work colleagues simply because he hasn't engaged with anyone villainous yet, so they have to make up the bulk of opprobrium. There's also the suspicion by now that of course there'll be a twist and Jordaan won't turn out to be so bad after all, it's all part of Bond's PC learning curve.

Worst of all, imo, there's new guff about Bond's parents, as this is a comprehensive reboot. It's all a bit Harry Potter. Was his father a spy, were his parents' deaths assassination? It's all a bit of sleight of hand by Deaver but it can't be undone by the end of the novel, so whoever takes up the next book will have to ignore it or follow the ramifications.

The sex occurs eventually, but Deaver has no form on this. The woman, Felicity Willing, is quite well described but actually doesn't seem very attractive to me for all that. There's not an ounce of vulnerability or warmth there. Bond bangs her after knowing her for, ooh, a few hours, and somehow in this context it seems distasteful.

I sort of give ten out of ten for effort on Carte Blanche, and it's quite exciting towards the end it must be said. But with a couple of exceptions, I didn't feel I was reading about real people. It's all too politically correct, which I don't mind in principal, but it shouldn't really be Bond's first instinct in life. Overall it feels a bit like the film YOLT - Bond on a tight leash, being PC, CR - a reboot that feels a bit unnecessary, and NSNA - lots of 'fooled you!' anti-climactic moments. With the plot convolutions of Octopussy. Rather like a series of Russian dolls, you're left with a feeling of emptiness once the show's over.

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

**NO SPOILERS**  (And yes, I'm copying my post from another thread)

I absolutely loved the book.  I live in the States but was fortunate enough to be on my annual vacation (or holiday, as you all say there) in London on the week the book came out.  I therefore was sure to snag a ticket to the opening day Q&A event/signing. 

Anyway, long story short, I devoured the book and am on my second reading of it now.  Deaver, IMO, completely nails Fleming's style (although his descriptions of places and landscapes are, admittedly, less poetic).  Bond's inner monologues and thought processes are great.  The requisite elements - Bond girls with delicious names, gadgets, locations, food, wine, etc. - are all there, along with what I can only say is the best 007 plot since Fleming's demise.  It twists and turns wonderfully, and is really ingenious when you stop to think about it. 

All the stuff about Bond's parents (won't say more than that) is very interesting as well, adding even more layers and depth.  I think my only slight disappointment (aside from the aforementioned lack of poetic descriptions) is that Deaver never really explores the "Carte Blanche" theme as much as I hoped he would.  I don't think Bond was ever really put into a position where he had to ask the hard questions about his job and how far he would go to "protect the realm." 

Overall, though, this is a book that begs both to be eaten up and to be savored.  I hope and pray Deaver gets another crack at Bond, because Carte Blanche is a delight from start to finish.

Last edited by PDJamesBond (8th Jun 2011 14:44)

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I can agree with most of the posts so far, I enjoyed Carte Blanche, but did work out One Major twist early on. Felix Leiter and Mathis seem to be shoved in to the story. It's not in Flemings league but is up there with Some of the best of Gardner IMHO. I hope There is another One soon.  ajb007/martini

“I didn’t lose a friend, I just realised I never had one.”

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

While I enjoyed Carte Blanche, I must disagree with those who say it's in Fleming's league.  Unfortunately, it's not even close.  However, it's probably the best we're going to do for some time.  Too many authors are going to avoid the Bond series like the plague.  We'll be lucky if a writer of Deaver's quality comes around - that is, of course, unless the sales exceed expectations - anytime soon.  A one-off book by a different writer might attract a few writers out there, but it will be hard to stick to a specific story arc, or at least, that's how I see it.

Back to Carte Blanche . . . it's more or less what I expected.  I've read two of his novels (The Bone Collector and Garden of Beasts) and found them both to be ho hum.  This reads like standard Deaver with a cardboard cut out of Bond inserted - not to mention those of Leiter and Mathis.  Fortunately, Deaver has churned out a product far superior than those written by Benson and Faulks.  To me, Carte Blance reads like early Gardner, when he still had some interest in writing the books.

I can't imagine where the series goes from here.  Hopefully, IFP can attract some quality writers and continue what Deaver has started.  I, like most of you here, would desire a new novel every 1-2 years, which I don't think is unreasonable.  I have zero confidence in Higson after reading Chris no1's reviews.  Lee Child, whom I've yet to read, but who I've heard is pretty awful, has no interest.  I doubt someone like Frederick Forsyth would be interested.  It might be a complete surprise, much like the announcement of Deaver.  I guess we'll have to wait and see how the sales pan out.

If I had to rate the novel I'd give it 3 out of 5.  It's a fast, fun read, but not a great Bond novel.

Last edited by dlb007 (8th Jun 2011 15:21)

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Good to read, dlb007 - but

Spoilercould you insert a spoiler for just one line - forth line, second paragraph?
"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I finished it yesterday, and....well, I can't really say it was memorable in any way. It won't stay with me like the fleming books have. Sounds daft but I did enjoy some of it though. And I agree with most of what Napoleon Plural said in his far better written posts.

"Yes,dammit,I said "was".The bitch is dead now."

"It's not difficult to get a double 0 number if your prepared to kill people"

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Clearly I am more enthusiastic about the book than some people on here, but perhaps even if we disagree on certain points, we can at least ALL agree that Jeffery Deaver is a far better stand-in for Fleming than Raymond Benson?

Last edited by PDJamesBond (8th Jun 2011 19:11)

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Finished reading it. Not a bad thiller, but it could have been anybody in the lead role. Didn't really feel like a 007 novel for me. Much preferred Devil May Care. Overall slightly disappointed.

"Mm... Royal Beluga, north of the Caspian."

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I interviewed Deaver before the book came out - he's a nice guy but master of misdirection. He talked about how Bond was in Dubai, he meets a woman who is an acquaintance and knows not to 'give her a big hug'. Well, the nearest you get to that is when his plane touches down and he remembers not to give the air stewardess a kiss on leaving, though really who does so anyway when leaving the plane?

He was also shy of revealing the big secret about the final location, I assumed it must be Russia, though that had been done in Devil May Care. Nope, it's a South African rubbish dump!  ajb007/biggrin

Another thing to carp about - the scene where a son of a rich Arab friend is getting bullied by kids with Asbos (anti-social behaviour orders). Bond recalls how he met the teen hoodies out of school hours and sorted them out, from then on the kid gets new respect and Bond's Arab friend can't do enough...  ajb007/rolleyes

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I just picked up the book last week and am about 9 chapters into it.  I am enjoying it much more than "Devil May Care." I like the descriptions and it has a Flemingesque flair to it.  Devers does seem to try a little to hard to incorporate Bond's lifestyle and products into the writing.  Not quite as smooth as Fleming, or is it that I just notice it more since the long wait to read a new Bond novel that you focus on each nuance?  I don't know.  However I am enjoying it, and have no issues with he book.

Bond: "But who would want to kill me, sir?"
M: "Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors . . . the list is endless."

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I enjoyed the book and to some extent the modernisation of 007 was successfull. The ODG and the updating of the 00-section worked. Mathis and Leiter have real reasons for being in the story. In earlier books you sometimes think: " what is Leiter really so good at?" Being a runner of agents and contacts makes sense. I think they should have kept Major Boothroyd as Q and turned May into a Pakistani woman. I imagined a backstory where she was the widow of a Pakistani police chief who was killed by the taliban in an operation where Bond was involved. Bond gave her a job as a housekeeper to get her out of teh country and she turned out to be very good at it.
The action scenes tend to be shootouts and not very imaginative. In my opinion, the scene in the collapsing house is the best action scene. There are many twists and turns in the plot, some would say too much. I miss the coldblooded bastard side of Bond. In one action scene he shoots the guards in the leg and she turns down sex because the woman is on the rebound. This nis not the Bond I know! I also think there are too many raised eyebrows and lame quips in Carte Blanche.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

My review:

http://www.thebookbond.com/2011/06/book … ivers.html

www.thebookbond.com - New Look. New Book. Pure BOND.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Getting a copy today. By the looks of it a great Bond read.

http://www.007collection.blogspot.com check it! All my 007 autographs, toys, cars, books and more!

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Just finished it and unfortunately was a bit disappointed. I had fairly high expectations and although the general storyline is quite good, there were just too many things that grated - not least being some of the product/food/drink selections made by Deaver. Even given that Bond has been taken from the 1950s/60s and transplanted to the 10s, I still found some of his choices very un-Bond. Yes, it may be completely unrealistic, but I want my Bond to continue to eat, drink, use and wear the best and here there were just too many mediocre elements for my liking. In too many cases it often felt like the literary equivalent of product placement rather than a selection based on suitability and the taste of the character. His expansion of the life and death of Bond's parents was completely unnecessary: it's one thing to transpose their lives to the current day but another altogether to re-write Fleming's history of them. Finally - and this may be nitpicking on my part - I found that Deaver tried a bit too hard at times to be British or to properly know South Africa. His general descriptions were good, but sometimes he went too far and 'became more British than the British' or in trying to paint South Africa opted for certain stereotypes that sadly betray a superficial knowledge of the country rather than a genuine understanding. All in all I do recommend it to anyone interested in post-Fleming Bond literature and it was certainly an enjoyable read, but I feel like I've just eaten a finger-bowl of crisps rather than the filet mignon I was craving.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Wow if this was a disappointment what must you of thought about Devil May Care ?
I have just finished it (saved it for vacation reading) and was pleasantly surprised. I think it was about as good of an update/re-boot as we are likely to get. Sure some of the plotting was clunky,it sagged in the middle, and the twists would not surprise anyone. That said the character felt like our man, M Felt like Bernard Lee and some of the detailing was nice.
It's clearly set up for a sequel which I would like to see him delivered. For me it's a solid 3 out of 5.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Why does he go into all the name breands, Oakley, Rolex?  It's funny the Rolex he puts on Bonds is way too small

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I'm very late to the party (and indeed the boards - my recent AJB activity has been sorely lacking due to, well, life) but I've just finished the book and have to say, I enjoyed it very much. It was indeed a superior read to Devil May Care and was both contemporary and gripping.

A few gripes though. What irritated me the most was Deaver's incessant use of repetiton. Every other page recited a line from somewhere else in the book (50% of the book is made up of the line "The man who thinks of everything'). Its as though Deaver is desperately trying to show us what a clever-clogs he is but it comes off as patronising.

Some terrible jokes in there too. "Bond once quipped that up-market pubs were more ghastly than gastro". I sincerely hope he didn't...

Finally, the ending. Too many twists! I'm not the most observant reader but I don't think it was my fault that by the final final final confrontation, I myself was rather lost.

BUT, otherwise, a very enjoyable read - some lovely detail and characterisation, and Deaver is very good at establishing pace. I look forward to another!

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

I picked up an old paperback by Frederick Forsyth, short stories called No Comebacks, and I have to say reading it just felt like Fleming really, or Christopher Wood. It felt more like reading Bond than any of the continuation novels, so really I wonder if it's not just a macho style of writing that you had in the 60s and 70s and don't get anymore. The thing about Deaver, he's good but I don't think he's a natural writer, I don't think he has flair. His main point is his narrative, what happens, and he obliges to insert some descriptive stuff cos that's what writers do, whereas the likes of Fleming and Forsyth have an attitude and point of view about the world they want to put across, and the plot evolves from that.

Last edited by Napoleon Plural (11th Jul 2011 13:34)

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

In case someone has not read the Book, There is a slight SPOILER Here.
I fully agree with the "too many twists" statement of others, and feel Deaver has fallen ( or has been told to )
in to a kind of grown up Harry Potter. Inthat having his parents Death now not an accident but rather Killed in an old espionage case. Making it seen as if Bond was Born to be the Best secret agent in all the world and at some up coming Novel have to deal with the group who killed his parents.

“I didn’t lose a friend, I just realised I never had one.”

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Napoleon Plural wrote:

... so really I wonder if it's not just a macho style of writing that you had in the 60s and 70s and don't get anymore..

I'd say that's it right there, in Fleming's case anyway. No one can write it like Fleming, because none of these guys were assistant to the DNI during WWII, none of them planned missions, started commando units, lost a crap load of money at the casino and woke up with pounding hangover and ridiculous credit card bill or smoked 70 cigarettes and drank half a bottle of hootch a day.

Fleming had a unique insight that allowed him to write genuinely and believably in a way that has you going along with it even if it's a wacked out crazy plot.  He also undoubtedly knew men during the war that had Bond's skills and attributes.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Mr_Ice wrote:
Napoleon Plural wrote:

... so really I wonder if it's not just a macho style of writing that you had in the 60s and 70s and don't get anymore..

I'd say that's it right there, in Fleming's case anyway. No one can write it like Fleming, because none of these guys were assistant to the DNI during WWII, none of them planned missions, started commando units, lost a crap load of money at the casino and woke up with pounding hangover and ridiculous credit card bill or smoked 70 cigarettes and drank half a bottle of hootch a day.

Fleming had a unique insight that allowed him to write genuinely and believably in a way that has you going along with it even if it's a wacked out crazy plot.  He also undoubtedly knew men during the war that had Bond's skills and attributes.

I'd say that you nailed it.

DG

So, what sharp little eyes you've got...wait till you get to my teeth.
http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee124/DonaldGrantPhotos/image_zps6a725e59.jpg
"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."  Richard Grenier after George Orwell, Washington Times 1993.

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Re: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver -- what do you think?

Spot on. And, Fleming could actually write.  Chances are, if someone today had lived a life as exciting as Fleming's they'd have to hire a ghostwriter to pen it for them...and then you lose the integrity of the writing.