Book Review: Trigger Mortis


Official Tagline: Incorporating original, never-before-published material from 007 creator Ian Fleming, New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz returns literary legend James Bond to his 1950s heyday in this exhilarating and dashing thriller.

Written by: Anthony Horowitz with original material by Ian Fleming

“When the estate approached me — and I have to say straight away that I was enormously flattered and felt very privileged to be approached by them to do this continuation novel — I was the first of the modern Bond authors to be offered five television treatments that [Fleming] originally wrote for American television. These shows were never made because the films took off and suddenly a TV series was out of the question. The estate found these documents quite recently and had the idea that they would fold one of them into the new book and so I was asked to choose one. And the one that popped out at me was this story called “Motor and Wheels,” which has a Russian plot … to kill an English racing driver in order to show the superiority of their vehicles. In fact, it only contained about, I would say, 400 or 500 words that I could use. But the strange thing is … that they were incredibly valuable to me. Just to have a few words by M written by Ian Fleming, a few words by Bond himself and this scenario — it was a wonderful inspiration.”

2015 was a good year to be a James Bond fan. The movie Spectre, a new comic book series from Dynamite Comics and the novel Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz were all released in 2015. AS a leading author on the James Bond novels and films, I’m always happy to see a new film or comic or novel released. Sometimes I’m disapointeed and sometimes pleasantly surprised. Trigger Mortis falls somewhere in between.

Anthony Horowitz is best known for his young adult Alex Rider spy novels and has sighted Ian Fleming and James Bond as a huge influence on his writing career. So it would seem like a natural fit for the Fleming Estate to hired Horowitz to write a new James Bond novel based on material written by the late Ian Fleming. Horowitz writes an entertaining but not quite satisfying story. Is this continuation novel better that Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks? Yes, Devil May Care was a snooze fest. Does Trigger Mortis have a better plot than Jeffery Deaver’s Bond novel, Carte Blanche? Not really. Is Bond portrayed better in Trigger Mortis than in Solo by William Boyd? For the most part yes, though Horowitz’s Bond isn’t quite Fleming’s Bond.

The Ian Fleming Estate had the bright idea to hire bestselling authors to write new Bond novels and the results have been a mixed bag and none of the novels have been great Bond novels. I think John Gardner [at least in his earlier Bond novels] and Raymond Benson did a much better job at creating Bond stories that were entertaining and captured the flavor of a good Bond story.

Trigger Mortis isn’t a bad Bond story, but it does feel like a young adult version of a Bond story. Not that James Bond acts like a teenaged, but the style of Horowitz’s writing seems very basic and mundane in places. To the casual reader or someone who has never read an Ian Fleming Bond novel, Trigger Mortis might be a light, fun diversion for a few hours, but for someone who has read all of the Bond novels and in particular the Fleming Bond novels, Trigger Mortis comes in as a pale imitation of the master spy.

Trigger Mortis begins a few weeks after the events of Goldfinger and Pussy Galore is living with Bond in his London flat and the relationship is strained at best. The only reason why Horowitiz seemed to have chosen to bring Pussy back for Trigger Mortis is to have her dump Bond for another woman and balance the scales of Lesbianism. I never really saw Pussy Galore as strictly a lesbian, but a strong, open minded bisexual woman who judged a person by their character and not their genitals. Horowitz places Pussy firmly in the lesbian camp with buyer remorse for having a heterosexual fling. The explanation of how and why Bond got Pussy out of United Sates federal custody is farfetched and Fleming touched upon Bond having terrible luck living with someone in From Russia with Love with Tiffany Case from Diamonds are Forever, leaving Bond for a United State Army officer. There is a running theme throughout Trigger Mortis of the woman in the story are not only Bond’s equals, but his superiors as well.

The Fleming material that Horowitz used is from an unproduced James Bond television series in which Fleming had written several episode treatments. The one titled “Murder on Wheels “involving OO7 in a Formula One race to stop a Russia plan to kill a British racecar champion at the Nurburgring race track and ensure a Russian victory was selected by Horowitz. This section of Trigger Mortis is the strongest part of the novel and the Fleming influence is strongest here. To be able to compete in the Formula One race, Bond must be quickly trained by Logan Fairfax, an exceptional driver and a strong woman who has no time for Bond’s charms. But she does have time for Pussy’s charms and the two women run off to the US of A after Bond’s training is complete. Bond takes it all in stride and is soon racing the dangerous Nurburgring track and spotting shady characters around every turn.

Bond soon uncovers a connection between the Russian intelligence section, SMERSH and a Korean-American businessman, Jason Sin and suspects they are behind the threat to the British driver. The racing scenes are exciting and give a real sense of danger and tension. Horowitz seems to have given greater attention here than in other sections of the story; this may be due to working directly with the Fleming material in this section. Sin hosts a lavish after race party at his strangely furnished castle. Bond infiltrates Sin’s off limits offices and finds evidence of a plot to sabotage the United States Vanguard rocket program. Bond also runs into American Secret Service agent Jeopardy Lane {Horowitz seems to have done no research on the Secret Service of the 1950’s or he would have known that there were no females field agents at that time} who so impresses Bond that Horowitz spends a great deal of time singing her praises without actually showing any examples of why she is a better agent than Bond.

The story soon moves to the United States where Sin always seems one step ahead as Bond and Lane uncover details of the dastardly plot. It is in the second half of the novel that Trigger Mortis loses the Bond feel. There are some nice scenes, like Bond being buried alive and an attack on Bond’s motel, but there some weak scenes too. A Sin monologue scene where he reveals his plans to Bond and Jeopardy had me thinking of the movie The Incredibles making fun of villains telling the hero everything over a nice dinner. The final confrontation between Bond and Sin is also weak and has little tension or suspense.

Trigger Mortis isn’t a bad novel and has a few good scenes but many weak points too. Trigger Mortis is better than some of the other recent Bond continuation novels, but I’m hoping the next author tapped to do a Bond novel does a better job. How about following Fleming’s example and setting Bond in contemporary settings. Fleming didn’t write period pieces, he wrote Bond to live in the times the novels are written in. Fleming wrote in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but if he were still alive and writing Bond, he would have Bond working in present day and the continuation novels should be set in present day too.
Screen Writer Ink
Fade In Is Just The Beginning

Trigger Mortis isn’t a bad novel and has a few good scenes but many weak points too. Trigger Mortis is better than some of the other recent Bond continuation novels
Writing Style
Fleming's Bond?