John E. Gardner
Case history 14 (Seafire, 1995, etc.) in the post-Ian Fleming series pits Gardner's kinder, gentler version of James Bond against ruthless neofascists, puts Sir Miles Messervey (a.k.a. M) on the shelf, and offers additional evidence that Agent 007 should follow his boss into retirement at the earliest possible moment. Dispatched to Washington in 1990 as part of the team sent to investigate the downing of a British jetliner, Bond renews old acquaintances with Sukie Tempesta, a sometime lover who married into the Italian nobility. Now widowed, Sukie fears for her life--and with good reason; within hours of the reunion, she perishes (or appears to) in a fiery motorway accident. Although the air-crash inquiry yields little evidence of a conspiracy, Bond joins forces with US operatives whose suspicions have been aroused by the Tempesta clan. Working with the FBI, he establishes contact with Sukie's sinister stepsons at their lakeside villa in Tuscany and, during some on-site intelligence gathering, barely escapes with his life. For an encore, Bond rescues the kidnapped M from a well-organized, heavily armed, and puritanical band of American extremists known as COLD (for Children of the Last Days) by besting its charismatic leader (retired Army general Brutus Clay) in a helicopter shootout over the mountains of Idaho. Five years on, the feds have become terminally agitated by the ties that seem to bind COLD to elements of the Italian underworld. With remarkably little difficulty, they recruit Bond to parachute into the Tempesta estate, where COLD chieftains are gathering to plot the overthrow of the US government. Assisted by antiterrorist squads from the local police, Bond puts paid to the unholy aspirations of the right-wing radicals and two back-from-the-dead villains in a climactic confrontation that has all the panache of the Gong Show. A junk Bond: clumsy, predictable, and utterly lacking in the elegant insouciance that made the original palatable (if not precisely a treat).