Well now that Anthony Horowitz’s third Bond novel is out now, and while there’s nothing officially confirmed, I have a feeling it might be the last of his contributions. He’s covered the beginning, middle and now the end of the Fleming timeline after all.
Which inevitably brings up the question of what’s next for the literary Bond. Do they continue with novels set after or during the Fleming canon, which has been the norm since 2008 (Carte Blance notwithstanding?) Do they attempt another modern-day reboot?
One option which I haven’t seen discussed yet anywhere but which could be interesting is the possibility of additional prequels - but not to Bond’s early missions as 007, but rather, to his service during WW2 and/or his early post-war service.
A WW2 set novel could feature the exploits of Lieutanant Bond during the war, as part of Naval Intelligence. We’d see the beginnings of his career in espionage, and the experiences that start to transform a teenaged orphan into one of Britain’s finest agents. Or we could see Bond work with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), as it is often speculated he did.
Then there’s the post-war era of course, with Bond first joining the Secret Service. We already know, from the odd reference in the Fleming novels, that Bond spent some time on a long assignment in Jamaica after the war, working with a man called Charles DaSilva. This could be an interesting period to explore - we have a Bond who’s a war veteran but who’s starting to navigate the realities of being a secret agent just as the Cold War begins. And it would also present us with Bond in the years leading up to his becoming a 00.
Both are exciting options, with the post-war option giving us something a little closer to the kind of Bond adventure we’re used to. Of course, an argument could be made that this approach doesn’t exactly give us the ‘‘James Bond 007’’ we all know and love. But if the world can accept Young Bond, then I think a Bond who’s actually old enough to be a spy, but young enough to be a very different take on the character, could be interesting.
Yet another option is to maybe set the book across two timelines, and have Bond in the 50’s or 60’s dealing with a mission that has its roots in an earlier mission from the war or post-war period.
I thought I’d be put off a bit by the fact that “prequel” stories by their nature rule out any real suspense, but I quite liked them. Also, if you’re determined to do an “origin” for Bond, I’d prefer to see him as he’s presented in these comics: thanks to his age a little unpolished when it comes to the particulars of spycraft, but already extremely clever and inventive, and highly adaptable with nerves of steel in moments of crisis. That works better for me than the Craig era “origin” where Bond is a lumbering bull in a china shop, all muscles and rage with a LOT of rough edges to polish off.
Jeff Parker’s excellent “James Bond Origin” comics which are literally this - young Bond in WW2 being recruited into a new, special branch of naval intelligence that train him up in all the skills we see him exhibit in the books and the films. It skews a little bit closer to Movie Bond with Fleming wallpaper, but it’s wonderful, cracking fun. It’s a shame that Bond Origins from Dynamite ended because of Comicsgate. There was still quite a lot of material and ways that it could have gone. I would approve, as long as a novel or two would be set in modern day on a yearly basis.