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Book review: Raymond Benson's novel Never Dream of Dying

By: Mats Hilli
Published:
2018-01-21
Never Dream of Dying av Raymond Benson
The last book in the Raymond Benson's Union Trilogy is special in many ways. First, it's a book whose title is entirely Benson's from beginning to end, which has not always been the case. It refers to the mysterious dream world that Bond and others in the book are confronted with in one of many interesting side tracks. Additionally, this is Benson's attempt to write his own On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS). It's the first time since Tracy's death that James Bond falls in love.

Never Dream Of Dying (2001) is the final chapter in a trilogy that has offered the best opponent in the Bond literature since SPECTRE.


You may think that the similarities between the Union and SPECTRE are many, maybe even too many. Still, this does not interfere with the stories in the trilogy. There is something very Bondian all over it. In addition, Benson is so much a writer and Bond expert that he manages to avoid the worst clichés that could arise with the clear references to Blofeld and SPECTRE. The Union and Le Gérant work entirely in its own right.

The book is largely set in the film world and the locales are mostly in southern France. The island of Corsica plays a central role, as is the Cannes Film Festival. The environments are very well researched by Benson who obviously visited them all during the writing process. He does not seem to be exaggerated of the large-scale film festival, which perhaps gave him the idea of ​​a bomb threat directed at the event.

The gallery is very rich this time. In addition to the usual characters, René Mathis plays an important role. Mathis is part of the dramatic start and we can follow him in parallel with Bond through much of the book. A dear reminder is, of course, Bond's father in law, Marc Ange Draco (the link to OHMSS is thus confirmed), but this time all meetings with him are far from sympathetic. Benson teases some Bond fans by making Draco a really mean guy in this story, but that was in fact the case from the very beginning. The battle ax was dug down only with reference to Tracy.

The secretive Le Gérant is also performing on stage and becomes a great Bond villain in the classical tradition. One of many memorable scenes takes place at the casino in Monte Carlo where Bond and Le Gérant play a game of chemin de fer. Then, as a reader, you know that Bond is back at his roots.

A somewhat sad figure in this book is the failed movie director Leon Essinger who after some success in Hollywood was forced to return to his native France to try to pick up the waste of his career. In Never Dream Of Dying, the production of Essinger's major comeback movie "Pirate Island" - a film funded by the Union - ongoing. One of its stars is the beautiful Tylyn Mignonne, Essinger's future ex-wife, who Bond also gets her eyes on. Soon, 007 finds himself amid a tense shooting, as it's evident that Essinger not only sold his film to Le Gérant and the Union but also himself. With a cover as journalist, Bond infiltrates the film team and falls in love with Tylyn. At least he thinks so. If it becomes an unfortunate love story like in OHMSS or not, every single reader must examine on his own...

The book culminates with two major finals. Bond is forced to save the entire Cannes film festival from a bomb attack. The Union is obviously behind this with Essinger as a bomber. Then it's time to take Le Gérant's fortress in Corsica, where René Mathis is in prison. Mathis has made his own investigation and traced Olivier Cesari alias Le Gérant to a well-guarded fortress on the island. One of the most exciting sections in the book is when Le Gérant experiments on Bond's eyes. Blind since children, Le Gérant has developed a diseased fixation in eyes and eyes. The fixation has led to a perpetual form of torture that will make the opponent blind, step by step.

We can of course rely on James Bond to save the day and himself at the last moment. The end of Never Dream Of Dying is very well written and exciting as Benson does not agree with anything. Bond is also forced to make up with his past (Draco) and under more civilized forms with his new love interest, Tylyn. We get very close to the character of Bond in this final Union chapter, and Benson opened ground for future books (for him it became only one more, The Man With The Red Tattoo, and the novelisation of Die Another Day) by introducing a certain Japanese gentleman who has some shenanigans going on.

Review by Mats Hilli. Translation by Anders Frejdh. Copyright © 2018 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

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