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.
“It wouldn’t be a Bond novel if it didn’t have these things in it, but they’ve all got my own particular spin,” Boyd said.
“Solo” will be published in Britain on Thursday by Jonathan Cape - Fleming’s original publisher - and available from HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corp, in the United States and Canada from October 8.
Fleming published his first Bond novel, “Casino Royale” 60 years ago and penned 13 more before he died in 1964 at the age of 56.
But to keep the literary Bond brand alive, his estate has invited various authors to continue the Bond story. The Bond catalogue is one of the most prized in publishing, with global sales of more than 100 million copies.
“Nobody, least of all uncle Ian, could have guessed what would come from that day in early 1952 when he sat at his typewriter in Goldeneye and wrote the first sentence of ‘Casino Royale’,” Fleming’s niece Lucy said at the launch.
Most recently, U.S. thriller writer Jeffery Deaver wrote “Carte Blanche” in 2011, and novelist Sebastian Faulks wrote “Devil May Care” to mark Fleming’s 100th birthday in 2008.
Boyd has won acclaim for writing page-turners with complex plots often set in unique historical milieus, from World War One-era East Africa to 1936 Los Angeles.
The author manages to work some of Fleming’s own real-life military history into Bond’s back-story by placing the younger Bond into a commando unit that was created by Fleming during World War Two.
“There’s a nice coincidence but it’s rooted in historical fact.”
Boyd said he wrote the novel without any thought of a film treatment and was complimentary about current Bond actor Daniel Craig, though he said he would actually select British/Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis to play his character in “Solo”.
“I think Daniel Day-Lewis actually resembles the Bond that Fleming describes.”
Editing by Mark Heinrich