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#31 Bon-san

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 07:20 PM

Personally, I find that littany of criticism excessive. It's certainly valid, but it seems a bit like taking a howitzer to a dove hunt.

In the past, I have enjoyed reading a Benson novel the week after reading a Le Carre. Perhaps crucially, I had different expectations for each of them.

#32 dunmall

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 03:53 AM

My first Benson was The Facts of Death the first I could find(Bond novels, even new ones, are notoriously hard to find in Australian book stores for some reason!) and to be frank I thought it was a pile of B.S.
If I wanted to watch a Bond movie I wouldnt be trying to read a Bond novel.

I generally felt that his other books were better with Never Dream of Dying being his best, but on the whole it seemed a touch to film Bond for me. Now since he was told to write them that way, the blame does not rest solely with Benson.

Basically they were a fun diversion but could have been better.

#33 Lazenby880

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 09:32 PM

Personally, I find that littany of criticism excessive. It's certainly valid, but it seems a bit like taking a howitzer to a dove hunt.

In the past, I have enjoyed reading a Benson novel the week after reading a Le Carre. Perhaps crucially, I had different expectations for each of them.

Eh? I didn't like the book *at all* and simply listed the reasons why. How on earth that can be construed as 'taking a howitzer to a dove hunt' I'm not quite sure; if you don't like something surely you would say so?

Expectations didn't have anything to do with my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of Zero Minus Ten. I did not begin reading expecting Fleming or Amis or anyone else; I tried to enjoy the novel but didn't and thought I'd post my opinion just as Benson fans post their opinion.

[size=1]P.S. John le Carr

#34 belvedere

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:01 PM

OK, I have to weigh in here.

I personally liked Benson's novels - I thought they were better than the last few Gardner novels.

Hitch, I would read High Time to Kill - I have read it twice and it holds up nicely. Really interesting book. By far my favorite of the Benson series.

The problem that all of you in this thread have missed is so obvious. James Bond of 1953 has changed over the years. Unless you write a character piece set in the 1950's, in the drab London scenery so vividly described by Ian Fleming, you are NOT going to read Fleming's Bond anew. And how is this for sacrilege? I don't want to read it. If I want Fleming, I'll read his books!

I want Benson to give me his take on the character as much as I want to see Daniel Craig give me his take on the movie version. I don't want to see Craig imitate Connery. And I don't want to read a writer trying to copy Ian Fleming.

Each iteration of the character changes somewhat with the times: here you have a writer's paradox... A timeless character caught in an evolving time frame. It cannot and will not make sense and as such there must be change. Gardner made him more PC, had him stop smoking, less cruel (hey, it was the 80s!). He changed guns. He drove Saabs. (Saabs? OK, maybe that was a mistake...) Fine! I didn't trash it as rubbish, as many did Kingsley Amis' take (which I found terrific, if not an attempt at imitating Fleming, but I read it in 1983 for the first time, not 1968). I accepted that here was another take on our favorite literary hero. Different? Yes. Rubbish? No.

If you think that paradox is not omnipresent, I ask this question: what is happening to the movie franchise? They rebooted because they went off on a tangent from which there was no satisfactory return. They got away with doing it once - For Your Eyes Only - but apparently, there was no story suitable to bring Brosnan back to the ground again. So they updated the character, threw out the time scale, even created a "makes-no-sense" paradox by retaining Judi Dench as M.

But it's all good - it's James Bond, Agent 007 of the Secret Service!

I agree with the above posters that Benson wrote the movie Bond in his novels. I argue that Gardner did as well. (I always pictured Moore in Icebreaker and Role of Honor, for example.) How could he not? How could a writer totally separate the two - the book Bond and the literary Bond? I think it is an impossible task unless the writer never saw a Bond movie. And that I would find hard to believe.

So, in conclusion, it is OK to like or dislike whomever you want. (I don't mean to sound pompous) But to criticize it by saying, "It's not Ian Fleming" is ridiculous! I am happy that I got the continuing adventures of James Bond to read. If another writer comes by and gives a take, I'll give it try, and I'll like it, too. But will I think it worthy of Ian Fleming? No, not if it is set in the modern times. And that is fine by me.

#35 Bon-san

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:06 PM

[quote name='Lazenby880' post='587848' date='15 August 2006 - 17:32']
[quote name='Bon-san' post='586990' date='14 August 2006 - 20:20']Personally, I find that littany of criticism excessive. It's certainly valid, but it seems a bit like taking a howitzer to a dove hunt.

In the past, I have enjoyed reading a Benson novel the week after reading a Le Carre. Perhaps crucially, I had different expectations for each of them.
[/quote]
Eh? I didn't like the book *at all* and simply listed the reasons why. How on earth that can be construed as 'taking a howitzer to a dove hunt' I'm not quite sure; if you don't like something surely you would say so?

Expectations didn't have anything to do with my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of Zero Minus Ten. I did not begin reading expecting Fleming or Amis or anyone else; I tried to enjoy the novel but didn't and thought I'd post my opinion just as Benson fans post their opinion.

[size=1]P.S. John le Carr

#36 Lazenby880

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 11:23 AM

OK.

You didn't like my comments. I figured you wouldn't. But I stand by them.

Liking or disliking your comments is entirely irrelevant Bon-san, I merely thought your statement fairly odd when others are discussing the Benson novels. If you disagreed with something why not say so instead of describing my genuinely held opinions as 'excessive'? Had I written something disparaging about Benson personally (as I undersand has happened in the past) I could understand, but I didn't. Benson (or one/some of his particular work/s) has plenty of fans on the forum who often eloquently detail their positive conclusions; what is the problem with an opposing viewpoint?

Is it my inarticulate ramblings regarding Zero Minus Ten to which you are spcifically averse, or criticism of Benson per se?

As to le Carre, I enjoy his books.* But then, I enjoy a lot of things that other people say are rubbish. In fact, if I made it a point to only imbibe things that had never been referred to as rubbish by someone on the internet I suppose I'd have nothing to do at all.

The sentence about Mr Cornwell was supposed to be a bit of a joke, personally I cannot stand his novels. Incredibly pretentious and incredibly boring, in my opinion.

I too like lots of things other people think are rubbish: George Lazenby as Bond; 'mere' thriller writers like Alistair MacLean and Duncan Kyle; The O.C.; Whitesnake; Daft Punk and the Conservative party to name but a few. However, if other people want to criticise them 'till the cows come home I would not have a problem whatsoever; variety is the spice of life after all. :)

Edited by Lazenby880, 16 August 2006 - 12:34 PM.


#37 Bon-san

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 01:31 PM

OK.

You didn't like my comments. I figured you wouldn't. But I stand by them.

Liking or disliking your comments is entirely irrelevant Bon-san, I merely thought your statement fairly odd when others are discussing the Benson novels. If you disagreed with something why not say so instead of describing my genuinely held opinions as 'excessive'? Had I written something disparaging about Benson personally (as I undersand has happened in the past) I could understand, but I didn't. Benson (or one/some of his particular work/s) has plenty of fans on the forum who often eloquently detail their positive conclusions; what is the problem with an opposing viewpoint?

Is it my inarticulate ramblings regarding Zero Minus Ten to which you are spcifically averse, or criticism of Benson per se?

As to le Carre, I enjoy his books.* But then, I enjoy a lot of things that other people say are rubbish. In fact, if I made it a point to only imbibe things that had never been referred to as rubbish by someone on the internet I suppose I'd have nothing to do at all.

The sentence about Mr Cornwell was supposed to be a bit of a joke, personally I cannot stand his novels. Incredibly pretentious and incredibly boring, in my opinion.

I too like lots of things other people think are rubbish: George Lazenby as Bond; 'mere' thriller writers like Alistair MacLean and Duncan Kyle; The O.C.; Whitesnake; Daft Punk and the Conservative party to name but a few. However, if other people want to criticise them 'till the cows come home I would not have a problem whatsoever; variety is the spice of life after all. :P



Laz,

Without going on and on, as I said I felt your critical comments were valid. I just found the sheer volume unnecessarily large. The point was made in the first ream. :)

I have not taken on the job of protector of Benson. I just make little comments about all sorts of things when the fancy strikes. I can't often help myself, and then I end up in one of these little exchanges. Damn me.

I love Duncan Kyle's A Cage of Ice. My uncle gave me a copy when I was a lad and I found it thrilling. Read it again a few years ago and still found it thrilling. [have not read his other stuff--any good?] Let's stop there on a common bond. :P

#38 Lazenby880

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 03:29 PM

Laz,

Without going on and on, as I said I felt your critical comments were valid. I just found the sheer volume unnecessarily large. The point was made in the first ream. :)

Was it that long? (That's the first time I've seen myself asking that). :P

To be fair, I was criticising different aspects of the novel, all of which I found pretty terrible. I don't think I was labouring on about the same thing paragraph after paragraph, although I have read other reviews of Benson that do so with a wit and eloquence to which I can only hope to aspire.

I love Duncan Kyle's A Cage of Ice. My uncle gave me a copy when I was a lad and I found it thrilling. Read it again a few years ago and still found it thrilling. [have not read his other stuff--any good?] Let's stop there on a common bond. :)

A Cage of Ice is probably his best as well as being his first, although many of his other novels are almost as thrilling and gripping.

Whiteout is great fun, set in the Arctic circle. Harry Bowes, the protaganist, goes up to Camp Hundred in order to try to demonstrate its military benefits in the location. The camp, however, displays a number of problems suggesting that it is the victim of sabotage. Harry is a typical Kyle/MacLean/Bagley type hero; tough and resourceful. He becomes the target and the latter part of the novel is especially action-filled. Kyle is particularly gifted at setting and creating a sense of place, and this is evident in Whiteout as the sheer cold and isolation of the camp is brutally, though evocatively, brought to life. Reminiscent of MacLean's Night Without End.

Green River High is a great little thriller about the attempt to find plane that crashed during the Second World War in Borneo as it is filled with treasures of gold and rubies. The central character is George Tunnicliffe and it was his (now deceased) father who helped stuff the plane with such treasures, something that is brought to his attention by two people who knew his father when Tunnicliffe is recovering in a hospital having been wounded during a bank robbery. It sounds a bit implausible, but it reads well. The most interesting character is Charity, a sixty year old woman who nursed Tunnicliffe's father in Borneo after the war. It is a gripping read, and again the setting is vividly described, the harsh and near-inaccessible density of Borneo leaps off the page.

I would advise you to avoid the later ones, such as Exit and The Honey Ant. Flight Into Fear, his second, is also a bit convoluted with some dialogue that only a pilot could understand. Black Camelot you might enjoy, although it is set towards the end of the Second World War showing a Nazi plot to drive a wedge between the United States and the United Kingdom, originating in the Arthurian castle 'Black Camelot'. A bit difficult to get into, that one.

Actually, Duncan Kyle was a more-than-competent thriller writer who could have made a decent stab at a Bond novel. I mean if Geoffrey Jenkins can apparently do it... :P

Edited by Lazenby880, 16 August 2006 - 03:37 PM.


#39 spynovelfan

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 04:05 PM

A Kyle Bond novel wouldn't have been much different from a Jenkins one. They were pretty similar writers in many ways. Jenkins even had a book called A GRUE OF ICE. But Jenkins knew his Bond, knew Fleming, and had more of a taste for the macabre.

I'll shut up now. :)

#40 Lazenby880

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 04:24 PM

A Kyle Bond novel wouldn't have been much different from a Jenkins one. They were pretty similar writers in many ways. Jenkins even had a book called A GRUE OF ICE. But Jenkins knew his Bond, knew Fleming, and had more of a taste for the macabre.

I'll shut up now. :)

Interesting. I'm pretty unfamiliar with Geoffrey Jenkins (other than having read your fascinating article on him). However, I had assumed he would be in the same cul de sac as adventure thriller writers like Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Duncan Kyle. Is that assumption correct?

I must read A Twist of Sand and see what all the fuss is about. :P

#41 dee-bee-five

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 05:12 PM



I'm currently going through my once-a-year stint of accepting that Ian Fleming still hasn't written any more Bond novels yet, the lazy so-and-so, so could someone please recommend one of Mr Benson's books? This curmudgeon needs tuxedo-shaped entertainment. :) )


All of Benson's books have pros and cons, in my opinion. They are fun, though, and ultimately that's what I'm looking for in James Bond books and films. I would recommend starting at the beginning, with Zero Minus Ten.


I don't get how you go into a Bond novel expecting fun. I go in expecting sadism, violence and some thrills


That sounds like my idea of fun, actually...


If you want further adventures of Pierce Brosnans' interpretation of James Bond that weren't filmed - much like, I guess, Dr Who, Star Wars and Star Trek have their spin-off novels - then you will not be disappointed by Benson.

If you are expecting Fleming's James Bond, however, forget it. It continues to amaze me when I read posters on this very site who think they can see Fleming's man in Benson's.

He just isn't there.


I disagree. Benson's Bond isn't quite Fleming's Bond, but he's a damned closer than Gardner's Bond ever was. I actually enjoyed the Bensons for what they were, but the Gardners bored me rigid.

#42 Loomis

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 05:22 PM

Benson's Bond isn't quite Fleming's Bond, but he's a damned closer than Gardner's Bond ever was. I actually enjoyed the Bensons for what they were, but the Gardners bored me rigid.


My view exactly.

BTW, excellent post by belvedere a while back. "I want Benson to give me his take on the character as much as I want to see Daniel Craig give me his take on the movie version. I don't want to see Craig imitate Connery. And I don't want to read a writer trying to copy Ian Fleming."

#43 TortillaFactory

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 05:54 PM

I can almost - almost - understand how Benson fans might feel that those of us who dislike him are belabouring the point. But, um, seriously - he's bad. I think the reason we can't shut up about it is that people will insist on saying he's bearable, or even good. Most of the time, when I read a Benson thread, I find myself thinking: are we reading the same books? Most of the time, I keep my mouth shut. I realise we'll all have different opinions about different things. But really, the experience is tanamount to that of a gourmand surrounded by people who insist that Tuna Helper is a perfectly acceptable dish. "Your only problem is that it's not lightly poached King salmon with dill!" Tuna Helper is no good. Not because it's not salmon - because it's bad. The fact that it's not salmon is a symptom, not the disease.

Comparisons to Fleming are inevitable. Benson is, after all, writing Fleming's character. Presumably. And therein, I think, lies the problem: in an attempt to marry FilmBond with BookBond, Benson has lost sight of both. IFP wanted a literary Bond who'd make sense to modern audiences - they should've stuck with film novelizations, and let the ghost of LitBond rest in peace at last. Granted, they put Benson in a very bad place. They wanted books about Bond, but they wanted them to be palatable to those who know him only from film. In this, I think IFP is to blame for underestimating the film audience.

I really believe people could have accepted a literary Bond in the order of Fleming. The man who likes boiled eggs and sometimes vomits from anxiety may seem miles removed from the film incarnation, and maybe he is. But are we not already used to this sort of thing? Doesn't Hollywood always bastardize the source material? I really don't think it would have been that much of a shock to simply recreate the Fleming-like characters and settings, rather than revamping the thing entirely.

Then there's the oft-raised argument that, if IFP had chosen to go this route, Bond would've had to be set back in the 50s and 60s. I assume there's a feeling that men like Fleming's Bond can't, won't, or simply don't exist anymore. Either that, or there's an assumption that modern audiences wouldn't stomach Fleming's Bond because he might seem racist, sexist, or just plain crude. Both fears are invalid, but for different reasons.

There's really nothing special about the character Fleming's Bond. He was meant to be an ordinary man who had extraordinary adventures. Quirks of temperment are hardly cause for saying he couldn't be a modern character; he's always been a bit of an oddball, and he can continue to be so.

But will modern audiences tolerate him? I think so. Political correctness is a favourite whipping-boy already, and Fleming's Bond would fit right in. He might ruffle some feathers, but in an era where "House, M.D." wins an Emmy, I think feather-ruffling can't be a bad thing.

So, IFP shouldn't have done what they did. It was a bad decision. I hold them fully responsible for it, and I don't blame Benson for being stuffed inbetween the rock of Fleming's canon and the hard place of the film tradition.

But even within those confines, a really good writer could have done something with it. Made it work, at least marginally. It wouldn't have been great, but it would have been good, or at least okay. Maybe IFP didn't want this - maybe they just wanted someone who would be dedicated to his job and churn something out that remained within their specifications. Maybe they really didn't care about quality, and trusted that the name of Bond, James Bond would pull them through.

After all, he always does.

#44 OmarB

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Posted 16 August 2006 - 08:53 PM

Great post!

#45 Harmsway

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 03:41 AM


Benson's Bond isn't quite Fleming's Bond, but he's a damned closer than Gardner's Bond ever was. I actually enjoyed the Bensons for what they were, but the Gardners bored me rigid.

My view exactly.

BTW, excellent post by belvedere a while back. "I want Benson to give me his take on the character as much as I want to see Daniel Craig give me his take on the movie version. I don't want to see Craig imitate Connery. And I don't want to read a writer trying to copy Ian Fleming."

I guess that's true. I'd never hold it against Benson to change up Bond a bit - I'm all for new versions, as long as they're decent versions (Gardner's Bond was just a flat, dull, nonentity, and that's why his version of the character wasn't worth anything).

But that said, I do admire a good attempt to imitate Fleming, ala Kingsley Amis in COLONEL SUN or Christopher Wood in JAMES BOND AND THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (and I enjoy both of those novels more than any of the Benson books).

#46 Simon

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 11:12 AM

Maybe IFP didn't want this - maybe they just wanted someone who would be dedicated to his job and churn something out that remained within their specifications. Maybe they really didn't care about quality, and trusted that the name of Bond, James Bond would pull them through.


And just as Eon are, if not relaxing their grip, at least allowing or encouraging a riskier route, so too are IFP with Diaries and the new quality period novel in 2008.

It appears that quality is now the commodity to be sold over and above safe and non-descript, and for this I applaud.

#47 Robert Watts

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 10:15 AM

I think the notion that you can dismiss his Bond's flaws on saying it is his take on the character is somewhat a flawed arguement considering the obvious effort to go out of his way and mention and use things from Fleming's books throughout.

#48 marmaduke

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 01:31 PM

Wow Mr Benson really does invoke strong feelings within these forums compared to Mr Gardner! :)
At the risk of being burned at the stake I will bravely offer my views on High Time to Kill which I have just completed reading. Another refreshing adventure from the Benson . I enjoyed the locations featured. Yes I admit Benson was

#49 zencat

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 03:44 PM

Hey, don't be afraid to say you're enjoying Benson, marmaduke. This thread is about your reactions to Benson -- the feelings of someone new to the books -- and I am not surprised at all that you are enjoying them. I loved each and every book as they came out. Yes, there are those on these forums who never tire of ripping Benson (and can never let a Benson thread exist without jumping in and doing so), but I wouldn't let that color your own opinions anymore than the "Craig can't be Bond because he's blonde" crew can guide your thinking about CR. Read the books, judge for yourself, and know that there are MANY fans who find the Benson books very enjoyable Bond adventures. :)

Now I will ignore that 20 rabid Benson bashing posts that will no doubt follow, and look forward to your next post on Doubleshot. :P

#50 dunmall

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 01:53 AM

I'm currently re-reading the Union Trilogy right now and unfortunately I must say that while I did enjoy the novels when i bought them on their release, they just don't do it for me anymore. I am half way through DoubleShot and while they are enjoyable and a nice diversion during the train ride to and from work they are not firing my imagination the way they did a few years ago.
Roland Marquis & Bond's relationship from High Time To Kill was particularly disappointing I felt for a minute that I may have been reading the latest Young Bond because of their attitude to each other.
And as has been discussed else where the sex scenes are awkward, it would have been better if Benson stopped a paragraph or two early in most cases and left it up to the reader to imagine what happened. But that's just my opinion. :)

#51 manfromjapan

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Posted 15 September 2006 - 02:09 PM

Just finished reading Zero minus ten. Really enjoyed it. Fun stuff, on to red tattoo next. can't imagine any of the other books bettering it (although Tomorrow never dies came close).

#52 marmaduke

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:06 AM

I have just completed reading

Edited by marmaduke, 28 September 2006 - 11:09 AM.


#53 manfromjapan

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:42 PM

The novelisations are great too, particularly TND.
I also read The Man with the Red tattoo and i thought it was excellent. It will be hard to beat it.
Currently reading The Facts of Death.

#54 License To Kill

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:58 PM

[quote name='marmaduke' post='616175' date='28 September 2006 - 07:06']
I have just completed reading

#55 Qwerty

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 12:29 AM

The novelisations are great too, particularly TND.
I also read The Man with the Red tattoo and i thought it was excellent. It will be hard to beat it.
Currently reading The Facts of Death.


Definitely. I really enjoyed Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough.

#56 marmaduke

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 05:43 PM

OK guys,when i have finished reading Benson's NDOD and TMWTRT in order to complete my 'Bond reading fest' started in January 2005 with CR, i will read both the Gardner and Benson novelisations. :)

#57 ACE

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:53 PM

Read the books, judge for yourself, and know that there are MANY fans who find the Benson books very enjoyable Bond adventures. :)

What he said.

The thing is that the Benson books offer up interesting, original situation and stories, colourful characters and are served with passion and detail and flair. I agree the writing may be clumsy at times and there is the odd Americanism, but the stories are excellent and they certainly add to the world of Bond. Remember those Connery purists who "suffered" the Moore films and now admit they're actually quite good? Well, Benson wrote entertaining Bond novels reasonably well and did so without hubris or complacency. I was entertained and amused by them and they certainly had a positive effect on the world of Bond. Benson isn't Fleming (who is?), but the books give pleasure to some LitBond fans who want their Regents Park/Sir James Moloney/May fix. I know after devouring the Gardner's each year, I enjoyed the Bensons.

We all understand the critics but I would suggest that those who have not read them, try them out and decide for yourself. You'll be pleasantly surprised and if you don't like them take comfort in a Fleming or whomever you like. But do try first!

#58 Bon-san

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:59 PM


Read the books, judge for yourself, and know that there are MANY fans who find the Benson books very enjoyable Bond adventures. :)

What he said.

The thing is that the Benson books offer up interesting, original situation and stories, colourful characters and are served with passion and detail and flair. I agree the writing may be clumsy at times and there is the odd Americanism, but the stories are excellent and they certainly add to the world of Bond. Remember those Connery purists who "suffered" the Moore films and now admit they're actually quite good? Well, Benson wrote entertaining Bond novels reasonably well and did so without hubris or complacency. I was entertained and amused by them and they certainly had a positive effect on the world of Bond. Benson isn't Fleming (who is?), but the books give pleasure to some LitBond fans who want their Regents Park/Sir James Moloney/May fix. I know after devouring the Gardner's each year, I enjoyed the Bensons.

We all understand the critics but I would suggest that those who have not read them, try them out and decide for yourself. You'll be pleasantly surprised and if you don't like them take comfort in a Fleming or whomever you like. But do try first!


Well said, ACE. :P

#59 dinovelvet

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 09:16 PM

[quote name='marmaduke' post='616175' date='28 September 2006 - 04:06']
I have just completed reading

#60 marmaduke

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 10:06 AM

I have just finished Never Dream of Dying. Another triumph for Mr Benson IMO!
I liked the continuation factor regarding The Union and their leader Le Garant.I thought Le Garant warrants a place in the hallowed realm o classic Bond villains. Oh and the torture scene! The threat of being blinded must surely rank as one of the most feared torture threats. I thought that Benson wrote the torture scene with great skill. The fact that his torturer had no interest in extracting information , only




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