Here’s a story that’s almost too good to be true, coming from a blog I had never heard of until today, Birth. Movies. Death. It seems that in the 1990s, Donald E. Westlake—the prolific author perhaps best known from his series about a professional thief known as Parker (The Hunter), who had also scripted the 1999 film The Grifters (based on Jim Thompson’s 1963 novel of the same name)—sought to make a contribution to the film series based on Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. According to Birth. Movies. Death.,
In 1995, before [the 17th Bond film] GoldenEye was even released, Westlake turned in to Eon [Productions] 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 take on the Bond franchise, pick up Issue 32 of MI6 Confidential.)This book is due out next June, with stunning cover art by Paul Mann. Click here to read an excerpt from Forever and a Death.
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 changeover 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.
(Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)
READ MORE: “Donald E. Westlake’s Sort-of James Bond Book Coming Out Next Year,” by Matthew Bradford, aka Tanner (Double O Section).