Am I the only spy alive that loves this book?
Published in 1968, the first Bond continuation novel rather annoyingly remains a diamond in the rough and one can only wonder why?
Perhaps it didn't come out at the optimum time?
It had been four years since Fleming's death and four years since the last decent Bond book (YOLT). In the interim, we'd only had the very shallow TMWTGG and a collection of short stories (O&TLD) most of which had been published elsewhere.
Furthermore, Connery had resigned his double 0 number and the spy game had moved on.
Peter O'Donnell's "Modesty Blaise" franchise was in full swing, Len Deighton's dour Whitehall warrior had made his mark, John Gardner's Boysie Oakes series was going great guns, Callan's light bulb was swinging and Adam Hall had launched the terrific "Quiller". Furthermore, there had been a number of other very creditable entries into the genre from the likes of James Munro, Adam Diment, John Le Carre etc..
The literary spy scene had developed, had fragmented and had become very competitive and for the first time our hero's crown was slipping and he was in danger of loosing his place as Britain's top secret agent.
Against this back drop, "Colonel Sun" was up against it from the get go and the Fleming estate made a difficult mission even more precarious by taking the ludicrous decision to launch the book under the pseudonym of Robert Markham rather than taking advantage of Kingsley Amis' considerable literary chops.
That said, the book itself is fantastic and is a must read for any Bond aficionado . I won't give a synopsis because it is well described on this fabulous site but suffice to say it is only only bettered by Fleming's own FRWL & OHMSS.
The secret lies in the fact that Amis clearly loved Bond and dedicated himself to giving us a flat out, credible spy thriller, the like of which we had not seen since FRWL. Bond breaks sweat, saves 'M' and wards off a potentially devastating terrorist attack. It is as relevant today as it was then and I certainly hope that William Boyd reads it as part of his research because, if set in '69, his book will chronologically follow this gem of a mission and if he learns from the late, great Amis, this will be no bad thing !
Meanwhile, whilst you are waiting for the next continuation novel, do yourself a favour, read the best and let me know what you think.