In Praise Of Colonel Sun

edited June 2012 in Literary 007 Posts: 267
Fellow Agents,
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.
Regards,
Bentley
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Comments

  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe Still waiting for the Jena Malone Batwoman movie that's never going to be made.Moderator
    edited June 2012 Posts: 11,951
    I've never actually read Colonel Sun, but i'm running a literary Bondathon alongside my cinematic Bondathon and CS is one of the books i'm really looking foward to reading.

    I'll make sure to post my thoughts when i've read it.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Riding a white swan to Matera
    Posts: 12,175
    I asked this forum a while back about what nonFleming Bond novel they would suggest and Colonel Sun was it. I will get around to reading it later this summer (I skipped most of your post because I don't want to know much ahead of time). Apparently it is popular with many on here.
  • Posts: 6,601
    must say, I like the Colonel, we have on here. Does more for me then any novel...
  • Posts: 406
    I really liked it. I read the Fleming novels a few years ago and only started the continuation novels last year so I can't compare them but I really enjoy CS and also the first few gardners
  • NicNacNicNac Administrator, Moderator
    Posts: 7,447
    I haven't read it for many years but I remember the impression it left, because I thought, as @Bentley does, that it was the best non-Fleming Bond book, and the most credible as it didn't need to explain how Bond was failing to age. He was still in his pomp (well,almost).
  • Posts: 278
    Having read the continuation novels, apart from the first few Gardner ones, Colonel Sun is definately up there and worthwhile.
    Try reading it then Devil May Care one after the other. They are both set around the same time yet worlds apart in terms of quality.
    May have something to do with the familiarity of Fleming as in 1968 it would still be relatively fresh in people minds as they were still quite new reads.
  • I've just managed to find a pre-owned copy on line for a couple of quid, so I've ordered it, I'm looking forward to reading it.
  • Posts: 267
    dchantry wrote:
    Having read the continuation novels, apart from the first few Gardner ones, Colonel Sun is definately up there and worthwhile.
    Try reading it then Devil May Care one after the other. They are both set around the same time yet worlds apart in terms of quality.
    May have something to do with the familiarity of Fleming as in 1968 it would still be relatively fresh in people minds as they were still quite new reads.

    Dear dchantry,
    How right you are!
    When you compare the two, the quality gap is huge.
    Amis was a self confessed Bond afficianado and a literary icon who loved Fleming's work (he was also a huge Modesty Blaise fan). He gave CS the TLC it deserved. In fact, the plot is good enough to warrant an update for a Craig film.
    Faulks, who enjoys a similar reputation amongst the literary intelligencia simply took the money and ran.
    The six million dollar question is what will Boyd, a similarly feted author do? Personally, I have a good feeling. He is no stranger to the genre and having just finished "Ordinary Thunderstorms" and "Waiting For Sunrise", I can confirm that there is a certain Flemingesque tone to his writing and he will definitely be able to capture the era and ambiance. Will he be able to put the to pace it up and thrill us? We will see.
    In any event, I'll be at the front of the cyber que on launch day.
    Regarding Gardner, who you also mention - I can thoroughly recommend the first five in his continuation series. He was a good author in his own right and did a great '80s reboot. He really captured the zeitgeist and gave us some creditable character development. The best are available in a beautiful hardback set with the original art and I think they are also releasing them one by one in e-book format.
    Regards,
    Bentley


  • Posts: 152
    I love Colonel Sun, I think its maybe the best continuation novel. I have started buying and reading the new prints of the John Gardner novels, I have read most of them before about 15 years ago and am now on For Special Services and its quite silly I must say. Colonel Sun is by far better than most of the others.
  • acidie wrote:
    I love Colonel Sun, I think its maybe the best continuation novel. I have started buying and reading the new prints of the John Gardner novels, I have read most of them before about 15 years ago and am now on For Special Services and its quite silly I must say. Colonel Sun is by far better than most of the others.

    I recently re-read all of the Flemings and I read CS to boot. To read them all in a fairly short time together gave me even more appreciation for CS. While not a pastiche of Fleming - you can tell by the style that it's a different author - there are enough similarities that it fits in well with "the canon" IMHO. I could almost believe that it was a book that Fleming wrote had he taken some time off and evolved, rather than changed, his style.

    I'm curious to read Licence Renewed to see how it fits in with everything preceding it. I read a bit of Gardner when I was a young teen and thought the books just okay. I read a couple of Bensons at the insistence of a friend and thought they were terrible...

  • Posts: 469
    This was my first Bond novel and I loved it :)
  • Lancaster007Lancaster007 Shrublands Health Clinic, England
    Posts: 1,874
    I still (after all these years) have not read Colonel Sun, for shame! But it seems to be out of print, and some of the second-hand ones are just a little too expensive! I am currently re-reading the Fleming novels and would like to read this one when I get to the end. Anyone know where I can get a copy I'd be grateful. Cheers.
  • Posts: 406
    I still (after all these years) have not read Colonel Sun, for shame! But it seems to be out of print, and some of the second-hand ones are just a little too expensive! I am currently re-reading the Fleming novels and would like to read this one when I get to the end. Anyone know where I can get a copy I'd be grateful. Cheers.

    Ebay, thats where I got mine for a few ££s

  • Lancaster007Lancaster007 Shrublands Health Clinic, England
    Posts: 1,874
    Alan007 wrote:
    I still (after all these years) have not read Colonel Sun, for shame! But it seems to be out of print, and some of the second-hand ones are just a little too expensive! I am currently re-reading the Fleming novels and would like to read this one when I get to the end. Anyone know where I can get a copy I'd be grateful. Cheers.

    Ebay, thats where I got mine for a few ££s

    Thanks, I'll have a look see sometime.
  • Posts: 1,817
    I'm a purist: I don't read non-Fleming Bond novels.
  • DB5DB5
    Posts: 408
    Just finished it! I agree it's up there with the best of Fleming (CR, FRWL, OHMSS). You also feel that this is in fact Bond's next adventure aftter TMWTGG. Amis mentions Bond's time in Japan in YOLT and also references FRWL, CR and LALD. "Colonel Sun" really is a thrill a minute that that keeps you on the edge of you seat. If you can't buy it ask your library to obtain it for you. It certainly is much better than the two other continuation novels I've read (Gardner's "Nobody Lives Forever" and Deaver's "Carte Blanche").
  • Posts: 267
    Pleased you enjoyed it DB5 and you are right, it's up there with the best of Fleming.
    Ironically,legend has it that TMWTGG was unfinished when Fleming passed away and Gildrose got Amis to complete it.
    Reputedly, he wasn't enamoured with the task because he considered it to be fare from Fleming's best work.
    Doubtless that spurred him on to knock one out of the park when he got his chance.
    Brilliant it undoubtably is!
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • Bentley wrote:
    Fellow Agents,
    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.
    Regards,
    Bentley

    I hope Boyle takes Bentley's advice and takes CS on board - after the bilge we've suffered from Faulkes and Deaver, we need something good.
    Too bad they didn't let Charlie Higson take his series on through the war years. That would have been brilliant.

  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    Posts: 13,305
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Too bad they didn't let Charlie Higson take his series on through the war years. That would have been brilliant.

    Higson has a plan to do that one day. It just may take longer than we'd like to see happen.
  • edited December 2012 Posts: 42
    Colonel Sun is not just the finest continuation novel - it's one of the best Bond novels, full stop.

    I haven't re-read it for some years now (ever since my prized copy was destroyed by a vengeful ex!) but I will get round to finding another copy and giving it another go after I have made my way through the Flemings - I have just begun again from the top, and am currently part-way through Casino Royale.

    Would love to see CS adapted as the next movie - Daniel Craig would have a ball with it.

  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,351
    Bentley wrote:
    you are right, it's up there with the best of Fleming.
    Absolutely agree. It was awesome.
    Here's my copy that I found at a used bookstore back in the T2 days...

    SANY6606.jpg
  • Samuel001 wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Too bad they didn't let Charlie Higson take his series on through the war years. That would have been brilliant.

    Higson has a plan to do that one day. It just may take longer than we'd like to see happen.

    Doubtless Higson would like to do it. It's a natural continuum but will IFP let him?
    It would mean that he would be transitioning into adult Bond mode and normally, post Gardner, IFP reserves that privilege for the unknown and untalented (Benson),the disinterested (Faulkes) or trashy (Deaver).
  • Villiers53 wrote:
    Doubtless Higson would like to do it. It's a natural continuum but will IFP let him?
    It would mean that he would be transitioning into adult Bond mode and normally, post Gardner, IFP reserves that privilege for the unknown and untalented (Benson),the disinterested (Faulkes) or trashy (Deaver).
    Of course, Pearson already covered some of that ground in his book James Bond: The Authorized Biography.

  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    Posts: 13,305
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Samuel001 wrote:
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Too bad they didn't let Charlie Higson take his series on through the war years. That would have been brilliant.

    Higson has a plan to do that one day. It just may take longer than we'd like to see happen.

    Doubtless Higson would like to do it. It's a natural continuum but will IFP let him?
    It would mean that he would be transitioning into adult Bond mode and normally, post Gardner, IFP reserves that privilege for the unknown and untalented (Benson),the disinterested (Faulkes) or trashy (Deaver).

    It would still be under the title of Young Bond. After the five Eton books, Higson plans a trilogy at Fettes before concluding with the War. That brings things right up to Casino Royale in a way.


  • It would still be under the title of Young Bond. After the five Eton books, Higson plans a trilogy at Fettes before concluding with the War. That brings things right up to Casino Royale in a way.[/quote]

    Bond loosing his virginity, getting kicked out of school and having his wallet stolen in a Paris brothel is going to make the "Young" brand a little redundant. N'est pas?

  • In case any of you are looking to get hold of CS, you should be aware the IFP have published it as an e-book and it's available from Amazon.
    Great move - most unlike them!
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    edited December 2012 Posts: 13,305
    Villiers53 wrote:
    Samuel001 wrote:

    It would still be under the title of Young Bond. After the five Eton books, Higson plans a trilogy at Fettes before concluding with the War. That brings things right up to Casino Royale in a way.

    Bond loosing his virginity, getting kicked out of school and having his wallet stolen in a Paris brothel is going to make the "Young" brand a little redundant. N'est pas?

    Bond is older, yes, of course but the books would be under the 'Young Bond' brand so Higson tells us. I didn't decide it, so don't blame me!
  • I don't think Higson said that they would be specifically "Young" but rather that they would be a natural continuation.
    One of the great things about Higson's terrific novels is that he completely respects Fleming's creation and I don't think a "virgin" Bond would get through another book.
  • Posts: 2,348
    I'm going to re-read this on my holiday in Cyprus in a couple of weeks time, and really looking forward to it. Its been years since I last read it.

  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,725
    I'm going to re-read this on my holiday in Cyprus in a couple of weeks time, and really looking forward to it. Its been years since I last read it.

    I look forward to your future contribution to this thread and my one on the increased levels of violence in Colonel Sun. As I may have said, I'm currently writing a lengthy article on the Amis Bond novel entitled 'The Strange Death of Colonel Sun' which will appear in time on The Bondologist Blog.

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