He was selected as the author of Solo, the most recently published book in the James Bond franchise, and as the creator of an interactive digital adventure story, The Vanishing Game, for Land Rover featuring a courier and a battered Defender.
Now at work on a new novel, Sweet Caress, to be published in fall 2015, Boyd took time out of his schedule to discuss learning to drive in Africa, giving up on driving altogether, being involved in a nefarious minicab wreck and choosing the ideal vehicle for Bond.
Brett Berk: How did you learn to drive, and why did you give it up?
William Boyd: I learned to drive at around the age of 17, as most people do, in my parents’ car, taught by my father. This was Nigeria, and I remember happily whizzing around the country roads with no provisional license. But then I went to university, where I couldn’t afford to drive, and then met and married my wife, Susan – who could drive – so whenever we needed a car we rented one and she drove it. We actually didn’t buy our first car until we were in our late 20s – a Citroën 2CV –and by then the indolence problem had kicked in.
As someone who doesn't drive, how did you get in the mind of a car lover such as Bond?
I am actually quite interested in cars. For a long period of my non-driving life I employed a local minicab firm. I came to know many of the drivers really well, and when you’re in the back of a minicab, talking to a driver, what do you talk about? Cars.
When it came to my Bond novel, Solo, I knew I’d have to burnish my car-interest significantly. I decided that my Bond – the book is set in 1969 –would be thinking about replacing his old 1933 Bentley convertible. What was the coolest car in 1969? The Jensen Interceptor.
Bond likes big, roomy, powerful cars, so small nippy sports cars are not his thing at all. Even an E-type Jaguar is not really for Bond. [James Bond series creator Ian] Fleming was a lover of American cars – he owned a Ford Thunderbird – so the fact that the Jensen was an English design with an American engine seemed an ideal marriage. Also, aesthetically, the Jensen is a beautiful looking car. I also have Bond drive a Ford Mustang Mach 1 hardtop when the story takes him to Washington DC, and he quite likes the Mustang. At the end of the novel, he’s still deliberating whether to buy the Jensen or not.
What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you in a car?
Well, it’s back to minicabs again. I was being driven at night to a meeting in central London in one of the minicabs from this firm. It was raining. And then at a junction, we were smashed into by a black cab. Side on. No seat belts in those days, so I was sent flying. I stepped out of the car, feeling very shaken, but uninjured.
The driver of the minicab came up to me. Police had been called. The black cab was badly damaged, its front stoved in. My driver whispered in my ear: “Will, mate, would you mind buggering off? My insurance is a bit dodgy. It would be better if I didn’t have a passenger on board – know what I mean?” So, to do him a favour, I meekly wandered off, dazed and confused, into the rainy night. I think I was still in a state of shock. However, I made a point of asking that particular driver not be assigned to me in future whenever I ordered a car.
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