007 MAGAZINE - The World's Foremost James Bond Resource!



CARTE BLANCHE - The new James Bond novel from Jeffery Deaver

007 MAGAZINE contributor (and Northern Ireland resident) JON AUTY takes a sideways glance at Jeffery Deaver’s James Bond novel - CARTE BLANCHE

CARTE BLANCHE - The new James Bond novel

Bond is just back from Afghanistan and he is working for a new agency. So secret that even MI5 and MI6 don’t know it exists. Bond’s orders are to “conduct an extraordinary rendition” of the Irishman back to Britain so he can be forced to reveal the nature of a bigger threat.

Hang on. The Irishman? Bond has battled the best in the past. Rosa Klebb, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Auric Goldfinger, but to my knowledge he’s never before had to tackle a little fella dressed in green carrying a pint of Guinness and muttering “so it is” at the end of each sentence. This is indeed new ground.

CARTE BLANCHE, commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate, is written by the best-selling American thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, who has decided to tackle Bond from a new angle. Growing up with the Bond films I read the books and discovered a world of intrigue, sensationalism and excitement. The stories were always able to take me to new worlds, introduce me to new food, new wine and new women, and put me in Bond’s shoes to battle the villain to the end, but here we find an entirely more humdrum henchman, a Northern Ireland villain called Niall Dunne. He is described as 6ft 2ins tall, with a strange walk, has killed and cut the throats of people getting in the way of his escape plans. Speaking as a resident of Northern Ireland that description fits at least 10 people I actually know. Three of them push trolleys in Tesco and I work with the other seven!

I also know several real flesh-and-blood Niall Dunnes living here in Northern Ireland. Would they have mixed feelings about their names suddenly being associated with an arch-villain in a worldwide blockbuster franchise? Not a chance in hell. The first is Mr. Niall Dunne the managing director of Belfast company Unichem, which has 35 employees. "I'm sure the employees will be highly amused. They might view me as a villain, occasionally," he said. Another Niall Dunne said at his home in Ballymena, "My sons are going to have great craic with this.” He joked he would not be de-railing any trains in Serbia anytime soon. This is no doubt great comfort to the people of Belgrade.

The opening sequence of CARTE BLANCHE takes place in Serbia where the gangly Irishman with a distinctive blond fringe is waiting for a train carrying Methyl isocyante (the chemical responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India) to plunge into the River Danube. If it wasn’t for the nasty chemical reference you could be mistaken for thinking that the Irishman was none other than Eighties pop sensation Fergal Sharkey waiting on the platform for a train filled with unlawful music file sharers.

Jeffrey Deaver & Chesca Miles at the CARTE BLANCHE launch

Dunne is likely to have been based on one or more of the leading figures within ‘the troubles’. The period of political conflict in Northern Ireland between the Nationalists and the Unionists that ran from the late Sixties up until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

After Licence To Kill in 1989, the world of Bond went very quiet due to financial wranglings at the highest level. Discussions were had regarding storylines and possible characters. Infiltrating the IRA was always a possibility for Bond and if a very real villain was to be found, the political situation in Northern Ireland at the time was definitely the place to look. In the end this wasn’t developed and six years later GoldenEye brought us Janus, a sort of dissident wing of the Russian hard-line.

In CARTE BLANCHE, Bond’s major nemesis is Severan Hydt, magnate of a global empire of refuse collection and recycling and the owner of one of the daftest names in literature. On a qwerty keyboard the letters HYT are so close together that you have to consider the possibility that Deaver made a typo and just decided to keep it in. Hydt is a man whose dark fascination with death makes him an all-round nasty piece of work. With the help of his old friends Felix Leiter and René Mathis, Bond follows Hydt from the Balkans to Dubai to South Africa.

James Bond author Jeffery Deaver with the Bentley Continental GT

Incidentally, CARTE BLANCHE means having unrestricted power to act at one's own discretion. It’s also the surname of Yvette, the saucy French waitress played by actress Vicki Michelle in the BBC TV sitcom ‘Allo Allo’. She is famous for her saying, “Oh René”" in a long growling tone…“Oh James” would have come naturally to her.

And finally we must mention the technology. The Aston Martin has been replaced with the Bentley GT with optional extras, even the vodka martini has been played about with to create something far too complex for any bartender to remember, but for me the key to all of this and the sign that Bond has indeed moved head and shoulders into the modern world is his mobile phone. We’ve seen how the movies use these communication devices to drive cars and create all manner of wizardry, but here Bond owns an i-phone. Actually it’s an IQ Phone, but obviously has many of the standard features. When travelling to Dubai for instance do you think Bond would log into his Facebook account and ‘check in’? Perhaps add a comment to one of the many threads already circulating for #justanotherdayattheoffice on Twitter?

The way James Bond keeps moving through my time and space is very scary. At some point Bond won’t be the fantasy figure I’ve grown up with, admired, and aspired to become. He’ll be the man at the bus stop or the guy in the library with the overdue books. Even if those books include titles like ‘Espionage – It’s a young man’s game’ and ‘The Readers Digest book of Flowers That Cause Sterility’. Do I really want this from my James Bond?

What I want is very simple. A formula that has worked for me over the last 30 years. I want glamorous locations, enough action to make the heart pump a little faster, and more girls with sensational bodies and unpronounceable names than you can shake a big stick at. Now I ask you, is that too much to ask?

Perhaps from Mr Deaver it is.

Purchase the CARTE BLANCHE Audiobook

Photographs from the CARTE BLANCHE launch at St. Pancras International Station ©MARK MAWSTON


Jeffery Deaver Q&A

CARTE BLANCHE reviewed by Luke Williams