Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Devil May Care

This entry is part 4 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

This challenge has already been excellent for me.

In Horowitz Horror and Lisey’s Story I’ve now read two books that have been on my shelf for nigh on a decade, and now it’s time for Devil May Care, another unread elder of the shelf.

So, with two weeks past, I’m now ahead of schedule –

Three books down, 207 to go.

Let’s get into it.

Ian Fleming and me (and Bond)

Usually, this is the part in the blog where I talk about my previous experiences with the author, but this time around, that won’t be possible.

I’ve never read any Faulkner. I’ve heard of Bird Song (it’s about war or something? Is there even a bird?), but I’ve never read any of it.

But, of course, I’ve got a relationship with Bond, and, to a lesser extent, Ian Fleming (that’s him in the image, not Faulkner, by the way).

My dad has several of the Bond books, and I read at least the first two – Casino Royale and Live and Let Die – when I was younger.

I don’t remember much about them now, other than that we were easy reads, fast-paced, not too mentally taxing. Which can be good or bad, depending on what you’re looking for at the time.

As for the films, Brosnan was my first Bond. I watched (and loved) his Bond outings over and over as a kid. Especially the first two – GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

Since then I’ve watched all the Craig films as they’ve been released, as well as many of the older Bonds. At least one of each Connery, Moore and Dalton (though I’ve never seen the Lazenby one).

But, considering my limited experience of the books, what did I think of the Faulkner outing?

Devil May Care

James Bond is a British institution.

He’s up there with Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who and Karl Pilkington.

As such, every new release tends to come with high expectations.

Not so with me.

As a lifelong fan of the England football team, I’ve learned to douse any high hopes with those things I love the most.

They say if you have low expectation, you’ll never be disappointed. This is nonsense, of course. But while you will be disappointment, at least you won’t be surprised.

So, I went into Devil May Care with low expectations.

And I wasn’t surprised.

That’s not to imply the book is rubbish. It’s not. It’s… fine. For what it is.

It may even be everything you expect from a spy thriller. I wouldn’t know, it’s not a genre I have much experience with.

Like the original Bond books, it’s fast-paced, it’s easy to read (I got through it in three days) and there is very little in the way of surprises. (Yes, there is a sort of twist but, please, who didn’t see that coming?)

I gave it a 3/5 on Goodreads, but it’s a five out of ten. A middle of the road book. It didn’t soar above my expectations but, given what I was expecting, it didn’t let me down either.

So, in assessing the book a little further, I’m going to look at how many of the ‘classic Bond tropes’ it had under three categories – the villain, the woman, and the man himself.

Note. as my experience is, in the main, with the films, not the books, I’ll be judging it against those for my tropes.

The Villain

Julian Gormer, our story’s resident maniac supervillain is about as Bond Villain as it is possible to be.

In fact, if he had turned up in another book, I wouldn’t have been able to take him seriously until James Bond – or Austin Powers – burst through the door and started fighting him.

The James Bond – Julian Gormer timeline is also as I was expecting:

Bond hears about Gormer from M, who sends Bond to investigate.

Bond arranges a meeting with Gormer where they can compete, and each pretend they don’t know who the other is. Even though they do. (Note. The competition in this instance is tennis, and I hope you like it. The game takes up about ten pages.)

Following this farce Bond later gets himself captured through his own stupidity (more on that later). Gormer’s henchman (more on him later) takes Bond to Gormer’s lair (more on that later). Where Gormer explains his plan (more on that later) before Bond escapes.

Finally, they have one last showdown, after Bond has thwarted Gormer’s ridiculous plan.

So far, so good. But how else does Gormer stack up to other Bond villains? Let’s take a look at…

The Bond Villain Checklist

  1. A physical deformity? Tick – In this case, it’s a monkey’s hand which he hides under a white glove (presumably a modified one) and is sensitive about.
  2. A brute henchman with a horrifying backstory? Tick – Chagrin. He also has a deformity. This one covered by a beret rather than a glove, presumably because a glove would look silly draped over his face. He loves tearing people’s tongues out with pliers and smashing their eardrums with chopsticks. He underwent surgery to have his emotions removed (or something), and as a result, his ability to feel pain has been damaged. Something which is never plot relevant.
  3. An underground lair? Tick – Yep, hidden in the deserts of Iran. It’s here he produces and ships out vast quantities of heroin and assorted drugs, yet no one can find it. Go figure.
  4. A ridiculous plan with ridiculous motivation? Tick – Julian hates Britain because he felt bullied when he went to university there. So, of course, he wants to destroy the country and everyone in it. Reasonable. At first, he planned to do this by flooding the country with drugs. When that wasn’t killing Britain fast enough, he resorted to Plan B, which was even more mental. Attacking Stalingrad and the centre of Soviet Union nuclear operations to provoke them into nuking London. Why would the Soviets blame the British? Well because his very none British crew (killed on arrival) will be carrying British passports. Duh! To call all this an overreaction to being bullied in university would be a horrific understatement.
  5. A desire to explain his plan in meticulous detail to the rea- Bond? Tick – Yes! He spells out the whole thing without realising how mental he is and calling the entire thing off.
  6. A gruesome death – Yeah. It’s pretty gruesome. Serves him right, really.

The Woman

Ah, yes, what is Bond without his girls? Not quite as commercially successful, I’d imagine.

Our Bond Girl in Devil May Care is not unlike the ones I’ve become used to since I started watching and reading Bond. Jaw-droppingly beautiful, smart, able to survive almost anything and complete with an incredible ability to fall in love with Bond on their first meeting.

What differs here from a lot of other Bond stories is A) Scarlett is the only girl. (Most Brosnan films he’d bedded one girl before the opening credits rolled) and B) He falls in love with her, which feels wrong for any Bond, let alone a sixties Bond (people didn’t fall in love in the sixties, I know, I did a History degree)

The Man Himself

Bond, James Bond.

Corr, I get shivers just uttering those words. The world’s worst secret agent.

Here he is… quite flat. I’m not sure I’d remember his as the main protagonist was he not the famous James Bond.

He walks, he talks, he moves the plot along, he gives the occasional quip, but that’s about it.

He is also prone to some bouts of incredible stupidity. As I read these days, I write notes of anything interesting that comes to mind. Usually, I don’t even use them, but one note I’ve written here is: “Ch 11 – dumb plan what a twat.”

I don’t even have to look back to know what that’s referring to.

I know Bond gets captured every book/film and, yes, that’s bad enough. Someone should just kill him. But he doesn’t help himself with plans like this:

Having broken into a hanger to find Julian’s weapon, he has to do a runner because there are guards and because he didn’t bring his camera…

So he about escapes, and when he has time to regroup, what does he decide he’s going to do next?

Come back the next day.

And that’s exactly what he does. He comes down to the compound the next day, picks the lock, walks right in and then – oh my God there are about 100 men with guns waiting, what a shock!

Seriously, why isn’t this man dead?

Next time

Moving on from the world of spies, fast-paced plots and clunky writing (sorry Sebastian) we’re heading to Sydney for our next read.

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty.

See you then.

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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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