Back in the 1990s, Eon Productions worked with a number of writers to develop the story for the follow-up to Goldeneye. One of those writers was Donald Westlake, legendary author of over 100 crime novels, the perhaps most famous of which were the Parker books (under his pseudonym of Richard Stark). Westlake also worked as a screenwriter off and on, and 1990’s The Grifters netted him an Oscar nomination.
In 1995, before Goldeneye was even released, Westlake turned into Eon two treatments for “Bond 18.” Both his treatments apparently used as their backdrop Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty to China. In one of the treatments, Westlake had 007 facing off against Gideon Goodbread, an American businessman who planned to level Hong Kong after robbing its banks – a revenge scheme for the death of his missionary parents at the hands of the Red Chinese. Westlake described his Bond villain as “John Goodman with a Southern accent”, and likened him to the lead character in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. Goodbread commanded an army of Amerasian orphans he called “the Children.” (For more details about Westlake's two takes on the Bond franchise, check out Philip Poggiali's excellently researched piece in Issue 32 of MI6 Confidential.)
Westlake floated the following titles for his Bond adventure: Dragonsteeth; Nobody Dies; Forever And A Death; Never Look Back; On Borrowed Time. That last title was prophetic; the time-sensitive nature of the Hong Kong chanegover backdrop was deemed unsuitable, we got Tomorrow Never Dies instead, and Westlake's script was shelved.
Now Hard Case Crime has resurrected this lost story, which at some point Westlake rewrote as a novel - Forever And A Death. It’s no longer a James Bond story of course, and we're not sure how many (or indeed, if any) of the details described above will be included, but the vestigial elements of the story seem to be in place, and at any rate a new novel by the late Donald Westlake is nothing to sneeze at. As a bonus, the novel will contain an afterword by one of the Bond producers, describing the history of the project.
The cover, which we’re proud to share with you for the first time anywhere, is by artist Paul Mann. It’s an image which richly (and clearly) evokes the double-oh DNA contained within.
The orange wetsuit, that gun pose, the comma of hair above the eye - stop twisting my arm, Hard Case!
Hard Case Crime will release Forever And A Death next June.