William Boyd: Solo's James Bond keeps his 'bad habits'
- 25 September 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
James Bond retains his "bad habits" in his latest literary outing, according to its author William Boyd.
"He drinks, he smokes, he does everything you'd expect of the classic Bond," said Boyd, the latest writer to take on the 007 legacy.
Set in 1969, Boyd's novel Solo sees Ian Fleming's spy sent on a mission to halt a civil war in West Africa.
The book, launched earlier at London's Dorchester hotel, is published in the UK on Thursday and the US on 8 October.
Jeffery Deaver, Sebastian Faulks and John Gardner are among the other authors to have written officially-sanctioned Bond novels since Fleming's death in 1964.
Boyd sets the opening scene of his novel at the Dorchester, where Bond is found celebrating his 45th birthday.
Outside the hotel on Wednesday morning, a line of vintage Jensen cars waited to transport the first seven copies of the book to Heathrow Airport.
From there they will be flown to Bond-related locations around the world, including Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Sydney and Zurich.
In Solo, Bond takes a Jensen FF for a spin from a car showroom on Park Lane.
Speaking to the BBC at Wednesday's launch, Boyd said he had not toned down Bond for a modern audience.
"He has all the bad habits that Fleming gave him - he's a huge drinker," the author explained.
"I was counting his drinks as I read the Fleming novels like an anxious wife married to an alcoholic."
Boyd, who re-read all of Fleming's books in chronological order before writing Solo, said he had taken the commission "extremely seriously".
"I've now achieved Mastermind status in Bond studies," he joked.
The writer, whose novels include A Good Man in Africa (1981) and Brazzaville Beach (1990), used Fleming as a character in his 2002 novel Any Human Heart.
Admitting he'd be "a fool" to ignore the most popular aspects of the Bond novels, Boyd said Solo featured appearances from Bond's boss M, his CIA colleague Felix Leiter and "a frosty exchange" with Miss Moneypenny, M's secretary.
Boyd said he first encountered Bond in the novel From Russia With Love while at prep school in the north of Scotland.
"We used to read it to each other after lights out as a kind of illicit thrill," he recalled.
The first writer to follow Fleming was Kingsley Amis, who published Colonel Sun in 1968 under the pseudonym Robert Markham.
Boyd, whose novel follows Faulks' Devil May Care (2008) and Deaver's Carte Blanche (2011), said he thought Bond had a long literary life ahead.
"I think he can go on and on because there are so many nuances and aspects of him that you can explore," he told the BBC.
"In this novel I've investigated his World War II history in some detail for the first time, so I think there's no end in sight in my opinion.
"I've aged him up to 45, but Daniel Craig is 45, and he's in great shape, so Bond's got a another 20 years in him, I reckon."
Boyd directed Bond actor Craig in 1999 film The Trench. But were Solo to be made into a film, he said, he would cast triple Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis.
"He actually resembles the Bond that Fleming describes in the books," Boyd explained. "That's someone who looks like the American singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael - a tall, lean, rangy, very dark-haired, good-looking man."
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Fleming's first James Bond novel Casino Royale.
He wrote 14 Bond books in all, and the series has sold more than 100 million copies.
Fleming's niece, actress Lucy Fleming, said her uncle would have been "thrilled" with Boyd's new addition to the Bond universe.
"Nobody - least of all Uncle Ian - could have guessed what could have come from that day in early 1952 when he sat down in front of his typewriter in Goldeneye [his estate in Jamaica] and wrote the first sentence of Casino Royale.
"He must be looking down - or possibly up - at us in amazement with, I hope, a big grin on his face."