‘Bears the signature of a master craftsman’ – Solo by William Boyd

wbsLike the Royal Family and the established churches, James Bond is a British institution. And as any successful institution knows, the key to longevity is to stay relevant; to reflect the ever-changing national mood whilst retaining a traditional core. Indeed, the on-screen Bond has pulled this off with such aplomb, other, less successful institutions could surely analyse the franchise as a how-to case study.What all this means is that today, Bond’s face, attitude, his moments of darkness as well as his triumphs, are all embedded in the chiselled features of Daniel Craig. In fact, so indelible is the image that anyone attempting a new Bond novel is faced with a huge problem – they are working on a canvas that is already part filled in. So what should the writer do? Adhere to the design already laid down? Toss the canvas out the window and start again? Somehow, William Boyd has achieved both.

The author, aware that most readers will be approaching the novel as a set-piece affair – guns, girls, cars, espionage – flatters to deceive in the opening chapters. Indeed, he teases us, setting up one money shot scene after another: will Bond ravish the woman in the elevator? Will he defeat the Boche single-handedly and save his friend? However, he repeatedly pulls back at the last moment. But this doesn’t deflate the reader. On the contrary, it gives time and space to get acquainted with this Bond. Boyd’s Bond. The author is making us forget what we already know, which in turn allows us to immerse ourselves in his creation. And it works perfectly. What emerges is a 360° character; a far cry from the Boys’ Own jack-off sum of parts, that we are familiar with. All of which makes this Bond, and the ensuing story, all the more compelling.

Any Cop?: Bears the signature of a master craftsman.

Tamim Sadikali


About this entry