Come Spy With Me Launches

November 3rd, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

Nobody Lives Forever is the title of one of John Gardner’s James Bond novels. Gardner, like my friend Raymond Benson, was one of the official scribes hired by the Ian Fleming estate to continue the novel series. But while, as a title, Nobody Lives Forever has an authentic Bond ring, I must disagree with its sentiment.

Sean Connery will live forever, and so will James Bond. And especially Sean Connery’s James Bond will live forever.

That makes this the right time to finally share with you the cover of Come Spy With Me, the first of a projected trilogy by Matthew V. Clemens and me about retired UK spy, John Sand, who the novel implies was the “real” basis for James Bond. We had been told, at one point, that the book would not be out until December.

But it turns out the publication date is coming right at us – November 18 – available both as a Kindle e-book title and as a trade paperback. You can pre-order it now, and I hope you will.

When I began talking to editor Paul Bishop at Wolfpack about doing original titles for them – we had already agreed on a number of backlist novels and new short story collections to appear under their imprint – I knew figuring out the right property for that particular publisher’s launch of new M.A.C. titles was a priority.

Come Spy With Me cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Paperback:Amazon Purchase Link

I also knew I wanted to do some of what I had in mind with my longtime collaborator, Matt Clemens, with whom I began kicking around ideas. One was to do a new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, but we were hesitant at this (shall we say) “moment in time.” After all, we’d already done the Reeder and Rogers trilogy in which Supreme Court justices were targeted for murder (Supreme Justice), a megalomanic populist from the private sector ran for President (Fate of the Union), and an extreme right-wing group plotted a coup of the government of the USA (Executive Order).

We were almost afraid to come up with another outlandish premise like those.

At the same time, we were putting together for Wolfpack the original collection of our collaborative short stories, Murderlized, and needed to come up with the original files for each story. In rummaging around in his hard drive, Matt came upon the opening chapters of a novel we’d started twenty years ago – about the opening third, plus a detailed synopsis. He read over the material and said he thought it was pretty good. He sent it to me and I responded likewise.

A sizeable share of the Wolfpack audience likes action and adventure, and this untitled manuscript was an homage to James Bond and Ian Fleming. I will likely write in more detail about my love for Fleming and how caught up in the spy cycle of the mid-‘60s I was, but not right now. The origins of what has become Come Spy With Me are peculiar and a little amusing.

Matt and I had been writing short stories together for a while, but had not yet embarked on the series of TV tie-ins (CSI, Dark Angel, Criminal Minds, Bones) that we’d be doing for something like fifteen years. We were, in fact, discussing doing some kind of novel series together.

And along came a strange opportunity. A new publisher was going to bring out (wait for it) erotic novels in which all of the sex was between married people. Married to each other. At the time, I pointed out to them that few married people, particularly if they’d been married a while, did their fantasizing about their mates. But this, the publisher insisted, was a time that had come.

Okay.

Matt and I kicked around the notion of, “What if at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond’s new wife (SPOILER ALERT) was not killed by his arch-nemesis, Blofeld? What if Bond got married and quit the spy game, and then got pulled back in? Adding to this was the concept that Ian Fleming had been a colleague of our “John Sand” and had based James Bond on him. We both loved that idea.

We were signed to do the novel, and got to work…but the married-people-having-sex concept turned out not to appeal (imagine that) and the publishing idea went belly up. Well, it was soft-core porn, so let’s call it “tits up.”

Matt and I were frustrated, because we really liked what we’d written. But we shelved it, as the tie-in market summoned us and, well, no project lives forever.

Or does it?

Wanting to get something out with Wolfpack as quickly as possible, we developed what became Come Spy With Me, with a few changes. We removed the soft-core porn aspect – although there are erotic moments between man and wife – and (at the suggestion of Raymond Benson) were more coy about the Sand/Bond connection, although it’s certainly implied. But neither Fleming nor Bond are mentioned by name in the novel.

And that opening third of the book was heavily re-thought and rewritten. However – it still gave us a leg up on the project (sorry if that phrase sound soft-core porny in and of itself). Soon we were seeing the possibility of at least doing a trilogy and began plotting it, as well. Our work method on Come Spy With Me, as always, was to plot together with Matt doing a somewhat short first pass and me doing a complete, fleshed-out second pass.

My initial title was Come Die With Me (the title, by the way, of a terrible Mike Hammer TV movie). Paul Bishop was not in love with that. But he responded well when I tweaked it into Come Spy With Me. Now Matt and I are toying with doing “spy” puns for any subsequent titles.

Both of us are old enough to be veterans of the initial James Bond craze. And – in this Corona Virus environment – we are happy to do novels not set in the present. The early 1960s seemed like a more fun place to spend time right now than the 2020s.

We are rather determinedly in the area of Connery’s Bond, not Moore or any other pretender, except perhaps Timothy Dalton. There are dark quips of the “Get the point” variety, but some people forget that such things began with Connery. Like Fleming’s novels, Come Spy With Me is fairly hardboiled and fans of Quarry, Nolan and Heller should not feel shortchanged.

For us, as much as we like the actors who followed in Sean Connery’s footsteps, we consider him the one and only true James Bond. Every one else is a kind of place holder, someone to build a Bond film around. But when Connery said, “Bond. James Bond,” it was forever.

* * *

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews provides this wonderful review of the second Caleb York novel, The Big Showdown.

A good place to order the new Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet collection is my old pal Bud Plant’s mail-order company, specializing in comic art and illustration.

M.A.C.

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7 Responses to “Come Spy With Me Launches”

  1. That’s great news, Max! I very much look forward to reading this first John Sand yarn.

  2. I am intrigued and looking forward to reading this one and those to come.

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  6. Steve Gursky says:

    Just wondering about your take on George Lazenby. I agree with Connery and Dalton. As Bond I thought Moore mad a superb Saint; and as Bond I thought Brosnan made a great Remington Steele.

  7. Hi Steve —

    I think Lazenby might have worked out had the producers and his own ego gotten their shit together. While Moore is undeniably a better, more assured screen presence out of the gate as Bond, Lazenby was physically in the mode of Connery and the book Bond. So we’ll never know. But OMSS is a fine Bond film.