Forever and a Day is a James Bond novel by English novelist and screenwriter, Anthony Horowitz, promoted as a prequel to the original Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale. That’s a tall order, with it needing to show Bond earning his status as a double-0 agent (by killing a WW2 traitor in Stockholm in a suitably brutal way), before having a cracking new adventure, set mostly in 1950s France.
Before I read a page, I felt I would like the novel. Horowitz is a known quantity as a writer, and the 1950 setting really appealed to me. This is “real” James Bond to my mind. It’s only five years after WW2 and Bond, as an ex-serviceman, has an added layer we don’t really think about with the screen Bonds. Even Connery, for example, I never really thought of as a WW2 veteran in the films.
All of that said, I was really surprised when the plot for this novel – or at least the motivation for the bad guy – is nearly identical to the motivation of the bad guy in the last Bond novel I read; Devil May Care. That novel was set in the late 1960s, featuring a guy who wanted to flood Europe (but mainly the UK), with heroin. In Forever and a Day, the bad guy wants to flood the US with heroin.
I’m kind of dumbfounded that no editor at the publishing company held up a hand and said, “Hey Anthony, we’ve kinda done that already…” Still, Devil May Care came out 10 years before this one, so maybe no one was thinking about it any longer? Who knows. Still, it just felt a little sloppy to me, especially as mentioned, Devil May Care was the Bond novel I literally read just before this.
Style-wise, I have no complaints. I felt Horowitz had a little freedom with this Bond, being on his first double-0 mission, to be slightly unsure in situations and even cock things up from time to time. I don’t want to give the impression this sort of thing is overplayed; far from it. But from time to time you get the feeling that this isn’t Bond-by-numbers; he’s a little different to the usual Bond we’re used to.
I must say I was surprised at how quickly the main storyline resolves itself once we get towards the end of the novel. It feels like a very, very long lead up to a quick “wham-bam” ending. This is balanced out with a kind of coda at the end which brings the novel together quite neatly after your initial feeling, as the final pages approach is, “Wait, is this it? Was that what we were leading up to?”
Compared to Devil May Care (with its similar bad guy plot), I preferred this. It feels more Bond than the other book, which had some scenes which were believable in a general sense, but didn’t feel right in a James Bond story. Meanwhile, every scene in this felt “right” and kept me turning the pages.