For Special Services (1982) – John Gardner

John Gardner’s second 007 novel, updating Ian Fleming’s James Bond for the 1980s, is on the book shelf this week, and delivers the crisp, solid, sex and violence filled thrill ride we’ve come to expect from England’s top spy.

This story, set largely in America, sees the return of Bond’s old nemesis, SPECTRE, with the revelation that it is being led by a new Blofeld. M assigns Bond to the case, being the foremost expert on the subject of the criminal organisation, and he is joined by a CIA agent with a familiar family name,

It seems Felix Leiter had a daughter, Cedar, who followed in the family’s footsteps, and now she’s been assigned to work with 007. Of course, she’s intent on having a relationship with the agent, but, happily, Bond is of the mind set that she’s his best friend’s daughter, and almost akin to a daughter himself.

With a cover in place, or so they think, they head to New York, and from there on to a remote secured hideaway in the middle of the Texas desert.

There they soon learn that SPECTRE’s plans are as dangerous as always, this time focusing on NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, and the attack satellites known as Space Wolves.

The identity of Blofeld is kept from the reader, as we are introduced to the prime suspect, Markus Bismaquer, his wife, Nena, who takes to Bond, as one would expect, and his skeleton-like right hand man, Luxor. Using drugs, and violence, SPECTRE’s plan runs full tilt, with only Bond and Cedar Leiter in the way.

There are car races, assignations, chases, fisticuffs, and even the occasional gadget – the novels always seemed able to keep these more in check than some of the films at the time.

There’s a new, SPECTRE headquarters hidden away in the bayous of Louisiana, which is introduced at the beginning of the story, and serves as part of the climax, but its inhabitants, portrayed on the cover, never get to centre as much as one would hope.

The reveal of the new Blofeld doesn’t come as a real surprise, its not quite telegraphed throughout the tale, but it’s rather obvious from the beginning, though Gardner dies his best to dissuade you of that.

The story moves along at a brisk and engaging clip and works solidly as a 007 tale, Gardner has a nice handle on the character, and unlike Wood’s adaptations of his own screenplays, strikes a nice balance between the literary version of Bond, and the big screen version, recognising that some of the newer readers may only know the film image.

I’m still not a fan of Bond’s new car, the Saab 900 Turbo, but it does get a moment or two to shine. Still, not my choice of car for Bond.

There are still more adventures to come as James Bond Will Return in…


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