I must thank Ajay Chowdhury, a good friend of mine and a Bond scholar, for sending in this review of Raymond Benson’s Never Dream Of Dying. Should you wish to discuss this review or anything to do with James Bond literature please visit the Literary 007 Forums.
SLEEP WHEN IT’S READ
RAYMOND BENSON’S NEVER DREAM OF DYING
REVIEW by Ajay Chowdhury
Raymond Benson’s fifth James Bond continuation novel, NEVER DREAM OF DYING (Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99, ISBN 0 340 79259 0) is the finale of what can loosely be called “The Union Trilogy” in which Bond finally confronts his arch-enemy from the previous two novels, Olivier Cesari aka Le Gerant.
A “New War” has broken out between SPECTRE nouveau, The Union and the world’s security forces. 007 and his old French ami, Rene Mathis botch a raid on the old Bisset film studios in Nice (suspected of being a front for arms dealings) in which innocent people are killed. Bond is transferred to another assignment but has to plead to stay on the trail of the Union. Mathis is suspended but continues to make his own personal efforts to track down Le Gerant. Their work meets to reveal that the Union is using notoriously successful film producer, Leon Essinger’s next blockbuster, “Pirate Island” (Waterworld meets Cutthroat Island) to launder funds and smuggle stolen explosives. After a clue garnered from Belmarsh Prison, Bond follows the trail to Paris and then the South of France where he eventually gets involved with Essinger’s estranged spouse, the beautiful actress-model, Tylyn (rhymes with “smilin'”) Mignonne, has a “formal” meeting with his ex-father-in-law, Marc Ange-Draco which in turn leads him to a duel of chemin de fer in the royal casino of Monte Carlo with a certain Pierre Rodiac. Soon Bond is performing his own stunts on the ocean-bound set of Pirate Island off the coast of Corsica and tracking down his prey in the haunting paisan terrain of rustic Corsica before the full threat is revealed. With isolated episodes in the US (Sunset Boulevard, Buffalo Grove – the author’s home town near Chicago) and the Japanese Kuril Islands near Russia, the novel’s journey finally ends at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently the new HQ of the Union.
It is hard to be original in a James Bond story but Benson has managed to come up with some new ideas: an anti-terrorist assault on disused film studios, retinal tatoos, 007’s capable male secretary, a chase through a TV set being used for a dog show, a deadly waterbound chase intercut with a fake film sequence, an undersea ride on a gadget-laden sled, an ingenious jail-break, a fight in a grand cinema, a full-scale commando raid and the most painful torture sequence since 007 met that carpet-beater!
Of course, Benson is having fun too. The novel features a Dr David Worrall, a French agent named Collette, a French Commander Perriot, Schenkman, “the killer from the Bronx”, a boat chase in which Bond performs a barrel-roll and submerges his vessel and a film festival name-checking Sophie Marceau and Carole Bouquet!
Benson continues to earn his martinis! Bond’s unlikely affair with Tylyn is a wonderful love story which is refreshing for its rarity. Draco’s entrance is well handled. The evocation of dream imagery and Corsican myth and vendetta gives the story thematic appeal. The globetrotting makes logical sense and Benson does conjour up a sense of place and local colour. As usual with Benson, the writing sits awkwardly on the page in places. The central idea of a major film production being used as a criminal front is smart in these days of $100 million plus budgets but underdeveloped. Mathis’ characterization is weak and his investigation strand is a non sequitur. However, the novel is well crafted and plotted: after the extremely exciting, prolonged ending, the resolution is cleverly neat, genuinely surprising and bittersweet. Benson has fashioned an inventive and richly complex tale of international intrigue, fate and revenge in which a range of matters in the life of James Bond 007 are satisfyingly resolved.
© Ajay Chowdhury, 2001