William Boyd tinkers with typecast Bond in new novel "Solo"

Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:50pm EDT
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By Paul Casciato and Minnie Brookfield

LONDON (Reuters) - The women, fast cars and a glamorous London hotel set the scene for the launch of a new James Bond novel on Wednesday that sees 007 set out on a renegade mission in the pursuit of justice.

British author William Boyd signed copies of "Solo" and sent them off in see-through briefcases with stewardesses riding in vintage sports cars from one of London's poshest hotels to a London airport, just like any 007 adventure begins.

The third officially approved Bond continuation novel - in which Boyd attempts to reconcile the casual racism and misogyny of the original character for a present-day audience - sees Bond ignore spymaster M's orders as he travels from a gritty African civil war in 1969 to Washington at the height of U.S. hegemony.

Boyd, 61, a life-long Bond fan, said he set the novel in 1969 in order to create a character who remains true to type, but recognizes that the world of counterculture, Vietnam and sexual liberation is moving away from acceptance of the prejudiced upper class mores of the British imperial world.

"There is no doubt if you read, particularly the earlier novels of Fleming, they are very reflective of the kind of unthinking attitudes of a man of his class and era and education would have," Boyd said. "So, I haven't set out to make Bond ultra-modern, but there is no doubt he is aware of how the world has changed around him."

The plot of the book focuses on Africa, but spans Europe and the United States as it reveals a realistic, 45-year-old Bond based on the wealth of biographical detail taken from the original Ian Fleming novels.

Along the way, Boyd adds a few of his own touches to the fictional British agent created by Fleming, a military intelligence officer during World War Two.

He introduces his own recipe for Bond's martini and another for vinaigrette. He also eschews the Jaguar and Aston Martin cars that have been Bond-branded by the film franchise in favor of extinct British sports car marque Jensen.   Continued...

Author William Boyd poses for photographers with one of the first copies of his new James Bond book 'Solo,' in front of a Jensen car outside the Dorchester Hotel, both of which feature in the book, in London September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett