In Kim Sherwood's Double or Nothing, an authorized continuation of Ian Fleming's James Bond series, 007 is missing, clearing the stage for a new generation of MI6 super agents. Below, Sherwood names books that inspired her planned trilogy.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
As a teenager, I scoured secondhand bookshops for crime and spy fiction. I loved how Raymond Chandler positioned his hero, Philip Marlowe: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." I also loved Chandler's unique poetry. At that time, I was falling for P.G. Wode house for the same reason. Both are writers who create their own linguistic landscape. Buy it here.
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (1990)
Mosley's subversion of Chandler's white 1940s California revitalized noir by bringing in previously hidden perspectives. This is the first book in the Easy Rawlins series, following the Black war veteran turned private eye, and it is dynamite. What I admire about Mosley is how he explores intersections of experience, and what happens when people with distinct priorities collide. Buy it here.
From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming (1957)
This is the first Bond novel I read, around age 12. It remains my favorite not only because it started my Bond obsession but because we see Bond so cleverly from the opposition's perspective. Buy it here.
Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell (1965)
While consuming Fleming's novels, I turned to Modesty Blaise and fell for another icon. She's often called a female Bond, but she's so much more than that. Having started life as a child escapee of a Greek refugee camp, Modesty Blaise is a criminal turned spy, supported by her loyal lieutenant, Willie Garvin. I love her effortless coolness and courage. Buy it here.
The Night Manager by John le Carré (1993)
Le Carré's spy novels are state-of-the-nation reports. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I love this masterful character study. We follow Jonathan Pine's journey from invisible helper to hero — except, of course, it's not that simple ... Buy it here.
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)
This spy novel, which draws on Bowen's experiences in wartime London, captures the paranoia and divided loyalties of a claustrophobic city under constant hammering from bombs. Tense, luminous, and thrilling, Bowen's novel ought to be in every conversation about the evolution of spy fiction. Buy it here.
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