Fans of the beloved Westlake (1933-2008) will rejoice in this unexpected treat: a novel based on a treatment for a 1997 James Bond movie that the Chinese government’s displeasure prevented from going into production.
Approached by movie producer Jeff Kleeman, who provides an informative afterword here, about writing a sequel to Goldeneye, the first of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds, Westlake (The Getaway Car, 2014, etc.) spun out a doozy of a premise: a businessman who’s been tossed out of Hong Kong just as the Chinese take over the British colony plots revenge by using a soliton to create mega-waves that will flood tunnels bored into the landfill beneath parts of the island, bringing much of the place down in piles of rubble as the villain escapes with a fortune in looted gold. (You can see why the Chinese objected.) Unfortunately for scheming construction king Richard Curtis, his warm-up, in which he uses the soliton on his own private island off the Australian coast, is witnessed by Jerry Diedrich, the environmental activist of Planetwatch, who has a special reason for keeping a close eye on Curtis, and volunteer diver Kim Baldur, who leaps into the water in defiance of Curtis engineer George Manville’s no-trespassing warning moments before the soliton starts churning the waters. Against all odds, Kim survives the shock waves that follow. Curtis wants her dead anyway; Manville struggles to keep her alive. So begins a tale that caroms from Brisbane to Singapore to Hong Kong in the sturdiest Bond tradition, with all the obligatory double-crosses, counterespionage, and action set pieces you’d expect from a franchise entry that ticks off every Bond box except for Bond. What’s most fascinating here, in fact, is watching Westlake thriftily remix the ingredients he originally assembled for a franchise entry into a stand-alone that’s all his.
Not as tough as Westlake’s Richard Stark stories about Parker, not as humorous as his tales of the hapless thief Dortmunder, but a posthumous bonus fans will cherish anyway.