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Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 8:51:56 AM
by mark brown
Boyd and his Bond: British novelist and screenwriter William Boyd with his new James Bond novel Solo, which was launched with fanfare on Thursday at one of London’s glamourous old hotels, complete with vintage car. — EPA
William Boyd is the latest to follow in Ian Fleming’s footsteps with Solo, which charts a Bond ‘recklessly motivated by revenge’.
WE may have got James Bond slightly wrong. Yes, he is a prodigious drinker, heavy smoker and consummate killer, but when it comes to his womanising, the author of his new incarnation believes the spy was more honourable than some think.
“It seems to me he wants a relationship,” says William Boyd. “It is not just casual sex.”
Boyd is speaking at the launch of his new Bond book, Solo, at which he was asked who his favourite Bond girl was.
“I’m not too keen on the expression ‘Bond girl’ because I think Bond has relationships with women,” he says. Having said that, he names the character Honeychile Rider – “nothing to do with Ursula Andress playing her in the movie ... I think she is a very interesting Bond woman”.
Boyd should know, having reread every Bond novel to the point where he now has a quiz show-level knowledge of them. It was all preparation for Solo, published on Sept 26 in Britain, in which Boyd joins Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver in succeeding the 14 Bond novels written by Ian Fleming, who died in 1964.
Solo was launched at the Dorchester Hotel in London as a nod to Boyd’s Bond, who early on celebrates his 45th birthday in the hotel. In the book, Bond has dinner alone – pan-fried Scottish scallops with a beurre blanc sauce accompanied by a bottle of Taittinger Rose 1960 followed by fillet of beef, rare, with pommes dauphinoise and a bottle of Chateau Batailley 1959. Across the room, he spots a beautiful woman.
The book then charts a Bond “recklessly motivated by revenge” and sees him travel to the war-ravaged west African nation of Zanzarim to stop a civil war, and Washington where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue.
Boyd, author of novels including Any Human Heart and Restless, says he had been given “no instructions, no remit” by the Fleming estate or the publisher. But he adds: “It is my invention, but you’d be a fool not to nod to certain aspects of the Bond novels we love.”
M is there, as is Bond’s CIA friend Felix Leiter. There are weapons, cars, snappy clothes and “a lot of eating and drinking”. But Boyd says he had included some very personal touches in the novel, including his methods for the perfect vodka martini.
Boyd admits he had experience of the heavy drinking culture that Bond inhabits, because of his upbringing in Africa: “My father, who was a doctor for heaven’s sake, would come home from his clinic and have two very large pink gins before lunch ... and then drink whisky in the evenings.”
He says: “The thing is with the literary Bond, as opposed to the cinematic Bond, is that he’s a very complex character. I mean he is a cool, capable guy and he’s a very successful operative, but what makes him fascinating for readers is the darker side. He’s troubled, he makes mistakes, and I think that three-dimensional portrait of him you get in the novels explains why he’s not just some cardboard caricature spy.”
The writer agrees there were elements of racism and misogyny in Fleming’s Bond: “There’s no doubt they are reflective of the unthinking attitudes a man of his class, era and education would have.”
Boyd says he had not set out to make his Bond ultra-modern but the book is set in 1969, a time of huge shifts in attitudes when “an intelligent man such as Bond could not be unaware of the way society and values were shifting”.
The book was launched extravagantly. Boyd signed seven copies that were each placed in locked briefcases to be driven in seven vintage Jensen cars to Heathrow airport in west London. From there they would accompany British Airways pilots, in their cockpits, to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Zurich, Los Angeles, Delhi, Cape Town and Sydney where they would be handed to a designated recipient.
Boyd does not expect Solo to become a film, not least because they are now set in the present day, but if it does he at least knows the actor he would want to play Bond; as Fleming once said, 007 looked like the swarthily handsome American songwriter and performer Hoagy Carmichael. – Guardian News & Media
Tricky assignment – but Boyd is rather brilliant
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Lifestyle, Author, William Boyd, Bond books
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