A big thanks to Bond Scholar Ajay Chowdhury for sending in this review of Raymond Benson’s DoubleShot. Should you wish to discuss this review or anything to do with James Bond literature please visit the Literary 007 Forums. DoubleShot is the second novel in the ‘Union Trilogy’ of Ramond Benson novels.
EARNEST FLEMINGWAY – RAYMOND BENSON’S DOUBLESHOT
REVIEW by Ajay Chowdhury
Geo-political tension. A summit meeting in one of the most strategic points on earth. The situation is critical. The crisis must be resolved. Characters assemble – lethal pieces on a deadly chess board. A security officer, vigilant for terrorist attack, freezes as he sees peril. James Bond 007, “one of the most dangerous men on the planet” must be stopped. And stopped before he plunges the world into turmoil?
Raymond Benson’s fourth James Bond continuation novel, DoubleShot (Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0 340 75168 1) starts with a stylish experiment in structure giving us the end at the beginning – a cliffhanger – to be picked up only in the last chapter. This device frames an ingenious story involving an all too human James Bond, physically and emotionally weakened by his last adventure, High Time To Kill, at odds with the Service, his colleagues and his very sanity. Convinced he is losing his grip on reality and believing he has seen his doppelganger, his exact double, James Bond must discover what is happening to him in order to regain his reputation and clear his name. However, Bond is a mere pawn in a greater scheme plotted by the blind Berber, Le Gerant, and his terrorist organization, The Union. The Union has colluded with Domingo Espada (a fervent Spanish nationalist, political populist and his nation’s favourite toreador), who is planning to destabilize the world by staging an audacious coup.
Bond follows a trail that leads him through: a shoot-out in Soho, dinner at the Ivy in London, a secret base in Casablanca, a train journey from Tangier with a buxom pair of twins, a raid on a camp near the Rif Mountains in Morocco, a fortress-like toreador training estate in Marbella, Spain, a beautiful but deadly equestrian, a fight in an abattoir and a meeting with the Governor of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Benson keeps continuity with Fleming and Gardner’s Bond as well as the developments in his own series. Bond is motivated by the revelations at the end of the last novel and there is a pleasing development of character. However, Benson’s masterstroke is his depiction of bull fighting, symbolic of the dance of death between James Bond and Espada. Fleming would surely have cast an eye on the sport. Benson’s writing style could be described as “earnest Flemingway” and the story echoes From Russia With Love and Nobody Lives Forever. His British scenes and dialogue are sometimes a bit clumsy while Bond’s world of espionage and politics is presented in broad, naïve brushstrokes. However, the novel is an entertaining, fun read, written with attention to detail and passion.
In the new Millennium, fans of James Bond as created by Ian Fleming have a choice. Ian Fleming was an incomparable storyteller and writer and purists should limit their Bond reading to his 12 novels and 9 short stories. However, those who still pine for the heady world of the literary James Bond will always look forward to the continuation James Bond novels with an open mind and interest – pre-requisites if one is to enjoy them. Raymond Benson has stepped comfortably into the role vacated by Kingsly Amis, John Pearson, Christopher Wood and John Gardner. That role? To re-breathe life into the Ian Fleming’s stunning creation. James Bond is dead, long live James Bond.
© Ajay Chowdhury, 2000