New lease of life for 007's licence to kill
WE'VE been expecting a new novel, Mr Bond. Fifty-five years since Ian Fleming's best-known creation put on evening dress and strode into the casino at Royale-les-Eaux, the Secret Agent is to be reborn.
Plans for a one-off, new James Bond novel, to celebrate the centenary of its creator, are being finalised by the estate of Ian Fleming.
As yet no author has been chosen for the project, but following the surprising worldwide success of Charlie Higson's young Bond novels, Ian Fleming Publications say they are keen to commission a big, established name.
Early favourites to be approached include British thriller writer Lee Child, spy novelist John le Carr and The Day of the Jackal author Frederick Forsyth.
Zoe Watkins at Ian Fleming Publications said: "To celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth in 2008 we are looking at a wide range of different activities and one of those is a new adult Bond novel.
"We are still in the planning stages, but at the moment the idea would be to have it done by an established author - potentially a big name."
Watkins says the new book will be a major departure from the light-hearted nature of the films and mark a return to the dark, complex character of the early novels.
She said: "The literary Bond is something we want to focus on and any work would have to be in keeping with the literary aspects of the books. If it was successful there could be scope for further novels."
The world was first introduced to 007 in 1953 with the publication of Casino Royale, the first of 14 books penned by Fleming about the secret agent. Despite the often formulaic nature of the films, the early novels received generous reviews by the critics at the time. The Spectator described the debut as "lively, most ingenious in detail" while The Listener called it "supersonic John Buchan". Since then the franchise has spawned 20 Bond films that have grossed more than 1.6bn worldwide.
In 1997, the controlling share of Fleming's estate was bought back by his family, 33 years after the author sold 51% to the Booker Group.
This allowed the group to fully exploit the brand. Next year will see the publication of BloodFever the second in the young Bond novels written by Charlie Higson.
It will largely be set in Sardinia where the teenage Bond runs into a group of Sardinian bandits and a mad Italian count who is trying to restore the Holy Roman Empire.
Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said the key for any potential author would be to get a great set of villains.
"Bond is an iconic figure, he is a great brand, and publishers obviously see a mileage in trying to extend the story.
"From Russia With Love is a novel with a fantastic cast of villains. My personal inclination is to really update where Bond is operating and what he is trying to do - the obvious subject matter is terrorists in the post-communist world and grappling with the issues that come out of that. In terms of the character I would still play it fairly straight down the line.
"I think there would be quite a few writers who would be interested in doing it, but it's not going to be your literary gent, it will be a professional writer. I think they would go for writers who have a background in writing thrillers, like Freddie Forsyth.
"But the real key to it all is to have a great villain or a great set of villains, because it is the villains that people love."
Bond historian Graham Rye doubted that anyone would want to pit Bond against the terrorists of today.
He said: "In the same way that it appears at the moment that not many people want to take on the role in the next movie, I can't see many people wanting to take this on. It is a very difficult character, and in terms of authors it is a bit of a poisoned chalice because you can't ever repeat the novels of Ian Fleming.
"Al-Qaeda would be too political. A Bond villain has to be a completely abstract creation. Perhaps it is coming to the point where the series is running out of steam."
Edinburgh Book Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: "The difficult thing would be not to do it as a spoof, because it would be very easy to parody the Fleming novels. But to do it seriously? I would say John le Carr would be the dream person."
The unquenchable thirst for more Bond has led to a number of sequels to Fleming's original series.
The most successful was Colonel Sun by 'Robert Markham', the pen name of Kingsley Amis. Published in 1968, four years after Fleming's death, it was more successful than the later series by British mystery novelist John Gardner, and American author Raymond Benson.
Last night Gardner ruled himself out of the equation. He said: "Sorry, but for me Bond is very much in the past. No more comments, no more interviews."
Technology and terror key to next chapter
WE asked Ian Rankin, Scotland's bestselling crime writer, what he would do with a commission to write the next James Bond novel:
"There is still obviously a lot of mileage left in the series. You only have to see that by the amount of people that are still going to the movies. If there is still a role for a James Bond movie there is still a role for a book. There is always a role for an action hero.
The parameters might have changed and if you want to move it along you could have someone like the thriller writer Lee Child, who is English but sets his novels in the USA.
"I think if I was writing it I would give it a little twist. That is what they did in the movies when Pierce Brosnan came along, they made M a woman for example.
"But it really needs a good spy writer who is interested in technology because people who are interested in the Bond books tend to be technophiles - which sort of counts me out as I can hardly work a word processor.
"Charlie Higson would be very good. He has probably done as much work as anyone on Bond's motivations and what makes him work and he would probably be good at doing the adult James Bond as well and put a bit of humour in it.
"But there is scope for more ambitious plot lines. We have all manner of terrorists around the globe but there are also environmental catastrophes all the time and that is something the spy world doesn't seem to have really tackled yet - the causes of environmental catastrophes and how to stop them and how they could be used by terrorists in the future."
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