Author: Damian Stevenson

Publisher: Avatar Press


We've been here before. Fictionalizing the life of Ian Fleming has been going on for decades. According to Jack Beckers  "Ian Fleming as Fictional Character" in James Bond in World and Popular Culture: The Films are Not Enough, there were at least 20 such uses of Fleming as a cameo or major character in print as of 2009. In most cases, the focus was on Fleming's World War II service as in the 1990 TV movie, The Secret Life of Ian Fleming starring Jason Connery, son of Sean. Last year, Aaron Cooley continued the tradition with his SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: The Secret Files of I__ F______, Code Designate 17F. Like most of the yarns before him, Cooley's fantasy featured real and heavily fictionalized characters or situations portrayed as foreshadowings of what Fleming would include in his 007 novels.

Damian Stevenson's new Operation Armada is the latest novel to join this sub-genre of Bondiana, and it's a decent fast-paced thrill ride. Set in June 1940, Naval Intelligence operative Commander Ian Fleming, a.k.a. "17F," is a bored desk-bound intelligence officer serving under Admiral John Henry Godfrey who talks and acts suspiciously like the "M" of the 007 books. In very short order, Fleming finds himself parachuted into occupied France with supposedly enough gold to buy France's navy under the command of the strangely independent Admiral Darlan. Fleming hooks up with a band of French Resistance fighters including the alluring Denise Astier.

Naturally, matters go awry very quickly as Fleming and the French fighters battle Nazis, escape France, and end up in Algiers where Fleming and the Brits take on Darlan's armada. Naturally, the femme fatale isn't all she seems to be. Naturally, Fleming is forced to live through a gruesome torture scene. Naturally, some events are obvious precursors to what happens to Mr. Bond in the Fleming novels. Take, for example, the ski chase of Bond and Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service . . .

Of course, it's all in great fun and no one should assume for a moment more than a few paragraphs draw from Fleming's actual biography. In the early chapters, Stevenson tries to emulate aspects of Fleming's literary style, especially the detailed descriptions of meals. But, in the main, the story progresses so quickly the reader isn't going to have the chance to ponder the implausibles, learn much about the supporting characters, or understand how everything happened in a mere four days.

Apparently, Operation Armada is planned to be the first of a series, assuming, that is, the Fleming estate doesn't step in to protect their rights. Till then, if then, we can enjoy these flights of fancy for what they are—entertaining, imaginative light reading.

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