A few thoughts about With a Mind to Kill

Anthony Horowitz has completed his James Bond continuation novel trilogy. While there’s a lot to recommend it, there are some things to consider.

Horowitz is a pro. He paces his stories well. He’s done his research on Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories. And, with his first two Bond novels (but not With a Mind to Kill), he got to mine some unpublished Fleming material.

At the same time, Horowitz closely ties his Bond adventures to Fleming’s timeline. Essentially, he provides extended annexes to Fleming. Forever and a Day takes place shortly before Casino Royale. Trigger Mortis occurs shortly after Goldfinger. With a Mind to Kill starts two weeks after The Man With the Golden Gun.

Horowitz’s ending for his final Bond novel builds a wall between it and Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis, the first Bond continuation novel published in 1968. In fact, Horowitz, in the acknowledgments doesn’t refer to Amis but his pen name, Robert Markham. Horowitz’s ending is intended as the final word on Fleming’s Bond.

Writing a Bond continuation novel isn’t easy. Detractors say some books are James Bond in name only. Other critics will say other Bond continuation books are mere pastiche, a faded copy of an original.

Even a gifted writer such as Horowitz, in With a Mind to Kill, felt the need to use footnotes. It’s a more restrained version of the editor’s notes that Stan Lee used in Marvel comic books to clue new readers into the events of prior issues.

Is With a Mind to Kill worth a reader’s time? If the reader is a fan of the literary Bond, certainly.

Still, after completing this new novel, I was reminded of how Ian Fleming was an original. Fleming crammed 90 years of living into a little more than 56.

Horowitz himself acknowledges this.

“Bond is a unique creation,” he writes in the acknowledgments. “The books have had an extraordinary impact all over the world. It makes me proud to think that from now on I may be a footnote in his history.”

That won’t stop Ian Fleming Publications. Kim Sherwood’s upcoming “James Bond novels without James Bond” are coming up.

Still, I think of a friend of mine. He tells me he re-reads the Flemings every year. He calls it rereading the Scriptures.

2 Responses

  1. I just finished this book and really did like it. I think Horowitz comes very close to the Fleming style, maybe the best writer to do that so far. His insertion into the Bond timeline worked very well. This last book felt like something from the original novels. I am still mulling over the ending.

  2. LOVED your friend calling them ‘The Scriptures’. That is SO cool and so appropriate (after looking up the actual designation for that term).
    Cool guy!
    My Limited Edition book arrives this week and cannot wait.
    Aside from Higson (which the snobs out there do not understand), I think Horowitz if the best writer for the series since Ian Fleming.
    Thanks for the posting.

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