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Anvar Alikhan reviews the latest James Bond [Images] novel to hit bookshelves -- Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks.
Ian Fleming winced. He put down the latest James Bond novel, lit his thirtieth Gitane Filtre of the day and exhaled with a long, harsh sigh. Who was this man Sebastian Faulks, and why was he trying to impersonate Fleming?
It was a cheap imitation that wouldn't have passed the scrutiny of any professional. This couldn't possibly be the work of SPECTRE, or even SMERSH. Those were worthy opponents. This was perhaps the work of that third-rate Bulgarian outfit he had once encountered in Vienna [Images].
Picking up the red telephone, Fleming called an unlisted Fleet Street number, and asked a couple of terse, incisive questions. Then, having got the information he needed, he hung up.
God, this was worse than he thought. It was his own bloody family that was behind this shabby fraud. They had acquired the copyright to his work. And in a shameless effort to cash in on it, they'd commissioned some Oxford-educated twit of a novelist to write this fake new James Bond book.
The man's only credentials were that he had written a couple of reasonably successful novels, Birdsong and Human Traces. But what did he know about life? Or death? Or the dark places in the heart that you discover only after you have killed a man in single combat?
Fleming flicked through the pages again contemptuously. It was just an anaemic cut-and-paste job from his own books. He could spot them at a glance. A couple of pages stolen from Dr No, a couple stolen from Thunderball. A character here from Moonraker, an episode there from Goldfinger, an observation somewhere else from For Your Eyes Only. A trite plot, a caricature of a villain, an insufficiently appetising heroine and a James Bond who -- oh horrors! -- obviously suffers from erectile dysfunction.
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The only redeeming feature perhaps was a single line where Bond stipulates that his pepper be "crushed, not ground". Fleming grunted.
Faulks was a just a mercenary. And a bad one at that. God knows how much he'd been paid for this book, which he confessed to have dashed off in six weeks flat. It was hard to believe that this fraud had, with clever marketing, positioned itself alongside his own vintage classics. Live and Let Die. You Only Live Twice. Diamonds Are Forever. On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Fleming savoured the sound of the titles.
As he put down the book, he paused for a moment at the dedication. It was to someone named Fali Vakeel. An Indian! Interesting! But why?
His face tightened into a saturnine mask as he remembered something else. Suddenly, it struck him that it must have been these same relatives of his who had been responsible for all those betrayals over the years: Those grotesque, though popular, James Bond films; those vulgar marketing gimmicks; the whole tawdry creation of a James Bond 'brand'. Yes, it all fell into place now.
There was only one solution, Fleming knew. He slid open the drawer of his desk and slowly, almost lovingly, pulled out a Glock .357 with a sawn-off barrel. He smiled ruthlessly at the memory of the last time he had squeezed that familiar, comforting trigger.
Then, picking up the shiny paperback, he looked for a long, hard moment at the author's photograph, burning the image into his mind's eye. "Sebastian Faulks". He spat out the name in a mixture of disgust and hate. So it was now time for action. He smiled his cold, sardonic smile.
Then, very deliberately, placing the gun in his mouth, Fleming tilted it precisely 35 degrees upwards and blew his own brains out. No, he could never live with this shame. Jamais de la vie!
The sound of the gunshot would echo in the room for a long, long while.
Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks is published by Penguin; it is 295 pages long and is priced at Rs 395.
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