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  13 August 2022  
Guest reviewer DONOVAN MAYNE-NICHOLLS runs his critical eye over author
KIM SHERWOOD’s first in a trilogy of novels introducing a new generation of Double-O agents in DOUBLE OR NOTHING.
Double Or Nothing Kim Sherwood
If the future of the 007 franchise is to kill James Bond, congratulations IFP, you have finally succeeded!

There’s a very good reason you may never have heard of 1983’s Curse of The Pink Panther. Granted, the film was abysmally bad but even bad sequels have a built-in audience willing to embrace them for the sake of that disease called ‘completism’. The real reason for that film having pretty much dropped from the radar is that they had the ‘brilliant idea’ of making a Pink Panther movie without Inspector Clouseau. Need I go any further? Which brings me to the latest desperate attempt from the people at Ian Fleming Publications to resurrect a franchise where there’s never been one. Let’s be honest here, the last time a ‘normal’ person purchased a new James Bond novel was back when John Gardner started writing them in the 1980s. I still run into the odd used copy at book sales, and I don’t even live in an English-speaking country! Efforts by other writers I’ve only come across because I happen to be a Bond fan, but I’ve never actually bumped into a continuation novel because, sadly, nobody is really asking for them.

James Bond in missing | Double Or Nothing | Meet the new generation of spies

The oddest thing happened while reading this book: I got as far as the 2/3 mark by sheer momentum, reading non-stop in the garden on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but when I resumed the following day (it is a long volume, otherwise I could’ve read it in a single day), I suddenly realised that the plot didn’t make any sense and that I couldn’t care less about any of its protagonists. Kim Sherwood states in the book’s acknowledgements that it had been the dream of a lifetime to write a Bond novel - and I can only wonder why. Surely, the book is littered with gratuitous references to Fleming’s stories, as well as anachronisms - she keeps mentioning that Bond stayed past the mandatory age of retirement, 45, but it’s impossible to believe that an agent who was active during the height of the Cold War can be less than 90! Why not simply make Bond younger? But it all amounts to little more than lip service. She evidently does not understand (or even like) the world of espionage. For instance: one of the protagonists, Dryden, infiltrates the villain’s organisation as a mercenary and as such travels to some former Soviet republic (don’t ask me to reread the book, once was enough!), where he immediately becomes targeted for being black and openly gay.

Doble Or Nothing gold foil edition

In real life, intelligence agencies do not send black operatives to such places because the whole point of being a secret agent is to remain more or less unnoticed - and if they did, said agents would be professional enough not to draw attention to themselves by parading foreign attitudes that are frowned upon - but in Ms Sherwood’s PC fantasy world it is more important to pray the message of inclusivity than to provide the text with a modicum of believability. She goes even further by making the character handicapped. It is laughable and, sadly, not isolated. Not a single chapter goes by without the author giving us another edifying message about diversity. If you believe the narrative, there’s no white people left in the UK - certainly not in the intelligence world and armed forces. Other than the classic characters of Moneypenny and Tanner (who gets the ultimate disrespect in a twist that must be read to be believed), MI6 is populated by minorities who resent the country in which they live. Funnily enough, the Blu-ray edition of Matthew Vaughan’s The King’s Man (2021) includes a rather touching extra feature about the institutions that support down-on-their-luck army veterans. I didn’t spot a single minority member among those who devote their lives to serve their country. As is typical with liberals, Sherwood’s world is more London than Britain, more US than UK, to the point that even her lexicon is Americanized in the UK edition of the book (‘buddy’ instead of ‘mate’ etc.).

Structurally, the book does not show any signs of judicious editing. It’s long for length’s sake and jumps between three different stories without much concern about whether the reader will remember what happened to the other protagonists three chapters back. As written by a liberal, there’s zero sense of cynicism. The whole thing is dead serious in condemning corporate greed as the only evil in the world. The author exhibits an utter ignorance of how the espionage world operates, and the most she can come up with is the obligatory mole within the Service, a concept which is okay if you’re setting your novel during the 1960s - like The Moneypenny Diaries, which proves a woman can write a James Bond novel - she only needs to have some talent.

This brings us to the sad realisation that it’s too late in the game to insist on reviving Bond as a literary character. If authors have no clue of what this world is about, who are they writing it for? Sherwood mentioned in an interview that she became a Bond fan after watching GoldenEye. Well, after the PC atrocities we’ve endured in the last three films starring Mr. Craig, I look back fonder than ever on the good ole days of Pierce as Bond. Kim Sherwood may have become a fan back in 1995 but that doesn’t make her a suitable writer. This tripe supposedly took three years to write, and in three years from now, it’ll be just another forgotten volume gathering dust in a Bond completist’s collection, never to be read again.

Kim Sherwood

Donovan Mayne-Nicholls was born in 1971. He graduated as a bachelor in English language from the Pontifical Catholic University, Chile, with a thesis analysing the short stories of Ian Fleming. He occasionally writes about movies for local online publications.



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