What’s the future of 007 continuation novels?

007 continuation novel authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

007 authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

Another James Bond novel has been published. So where does the series go from here? Ian Fleming Publictions (formerly Glidrose) has been all over the place.

From 1981 until 2002, continuation novels by John Gardner followed by Raymond Benson were published pretty much on a regular basis.

A new regime then took control of the literary 007 and that changed. The literary secret agent went on hiatus while novels featuring a young James Bond and The Moneypenny Diaries were published.

Since 2008, and the return of an adult Bond, Ian Fleming Publications has veered from period piece (Devil May Care) to total reboot (Carte Blanche) back to period piece (Solo).

The only thing the novels have in common is name authors: Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd.

The question is whether that strategy is working. There were reports (such as THIS ONE ON THE MI6 JAMES BOND FAN WEBSITE) that sales have tailed off in the U.K. since Faulks’s Devil May Care, published the same year as the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth.

Novels written by John Gardner and Raymond Benson attempted to maintain a sense of continuity, with stories playing upon one another. The current IFP management seems to prefer one-off adventures that have no connection to each other.

Part of that stems from the choice of employing big-name authors — their James Bond will only live once.

“They find it fun and enjoyable but they’ve got their own books to write.” Corinne Turner, Corinne Turner, managing director of IFP, told The New York Times in a story PUBLISHED THIS MONTH.

Strictly a guess, but don’t expect another adult James Bond continuation novel soon. IFP has announced a new Young Bond series, with Steve Cole taking over from Charlie Higson. So IFP will be busy.

Also, based on The New York Times story, IFP doesn’t sound like it intends to change direction for the literary adult 007. So, if IFP opts to keep going for big-name writers, perhaps it will keep 007 off the market for a while to let demand build back up.

For the moment, there’s no incentive to make a major change. Eon Productions has made clear it has no interest in using continuation novels as the basis of 007 movies.

Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson criticized the Gardner novels in the 1980s and ’90s. Meanwhile, John Logan, one of Skyfall’s screenwriters, was hired to write the next two movies, the first of which won’t be out until two years from now.

So the next time you read about a 007 author saying his story has “been sent to Eon,” the best-case scenario was the novel was placed on a shelf.

REVIEW: Solo by William Boyd

solonovel

Solo, William Boyd’s turn at penning a James Bond continuation novel, tries to thread a needle: giving fans of the literary 007 what they want while putting his own spin on the proceedings.

Boyd succeeds, at least most of the time. The author’s tale, set in 1969, uses a thinly disguised version of the Nigerian civil war as a setting and manages to provide readers a sampling of his world view without seeming too preachy.

Meanwhile, Bond drinks a lot of alcohol and a lot of different kinds; he periodically smiles grimly to himself; and he’s still fussy about what he eats (including having his own salad dressing). What’s not to like?

Well, in his drive to make Bond a real person who makes mistakes, Boyd occasionally has 007 commit Homer Simpson moments.

Bond goes rogue, makes his own fake passport but — D’OH! — forgets to come up with a fake U.S. driver’s license until he’s already arrived at Washington’s Dulles airport. Later, Bond curses how he doesn’t have coins to throw to create a diversion until — D’OH! — he suddenly remembers he’s carrying (and has been for some time) a sock with $10 worth of nickels and dimes to use as a weapon.

Also, at one point, Boyd actually writes this piece of Bond reflecting: “Revenge is a dish best served cold, he reminded himself.” Evidently, Boyd’s Bond is a great secret agent but not an original thinker.

To be fair, that’s quibbling. Overall, the story holds the reader’s interest. Boyd keeps the reader turning the pages. The author demonstrates knowledge of Fleming’s Bond. He drops in references to Ian Fleming novels in such a way that long-time readers will pick them up but doesn’t bog down the narrative.

Boyd doesn’t attempt to provide a Dr. No/Auric Goldfinger/Ernst Stavro Blofeld mastermind villain. There isn’t even a Kronsteen/Rosa Klebb opponent. Given the geopolitical theme Boyd inserts, that’s probably for the best. Boyd’s interest is the geopolitics. There is a villain, Kobus Breed, but he’s at best in the Red Grant class.

No, Boyd want to make a broader point about How the World Really Works and how Bond, Breed, Felix Leither, M and other characters are all having their strings pulled.

Fleming’s originals, published from 1953 into the 1960s, were a then-new take on St. George and the Dragon. For Boyd, St. George and the Dragon are pawns on the chessboard of life. It’s just a part of how Boyd sought to make 007 his own. GRADE: B.

Earlier posts:

April 2013: OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP

August 2013: THE AFRICAN WAR THAT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED BOYD’S SOLO

Boyd discusses Solo with The New York Times

William Boyd

William Boyd

The New York Times THIS WEEK examined continuation novels in general and 007 continuation novels in particular, focusing on the latest, William Boyd’s Solo.

The reporter, Sarah Lyall, posed the question why readers would buy a continuation novel featuring one writer’s take on another author’s character.

“I think it’s a reader-driven thing,” said Mr. Boyd, who was interviewed on the phone from London and later in person in New York. “If people like the characters and like the stories, they want more of the same. Because authors are finite creatures and stop writing and fall off their perches, these rebootings can satisfy readers’ needs. People want to find out what Elizabeth Bennet did next.”

Boyd, meanwhile, told Lyall, that he was given enough leeway by Ian Fleming Publications to make the project worth his while. “I wanted to write a gritty, realistic spy novel about a human being, not anything fantastical or silly, with organizations trying to rule the world,” he told the Times.

As for IFP’s perspective, Lyall provides this:

“This is bringing a fresh, new interesting life to Bond,” said Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications. It’s “about the heritage,” she said, not the money.

The story notes that IFP’s copyright on the literary Bond lasts until 2034, or 70 years after Ian Fleming’s death.

The story examines a number of other continuation novel projects, including one where Sebastian Faulks — author of the 2008 007 continuation novel Devil May Care — is a participant. You can CLICK HERE to read it. The story ran on page one of the Oct. 23 print edition of the paper.

The African war that may have influenced Boyd’s Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the new James Bond novel by William Boyd, according to U.S. publisher HarperCollins, is set in 1969 and takes place in “Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation” that “is being ravaged by a bitter civil war.” Bond is assigned “to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.”

It sounds as if Solo’s story may concern a fictional version of a real war. From 1967 to 1970, THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR raged, after the southeastern provinces of Nigeria, a former U.K. colony, seceded to form the Republic of Biafra. (To see a Wikipedia map, CLICK HERE.) Nigeria, with U.K. support, took back Biafra. That civil war also produced MANY DISTURBING IMAGES, including those of starving children.

Boyd has written a number of stories set in Africa.

If Solo is using the Nigerian civil war as the basis for the plot, it won’t be the first time a spy novel has done so. The 1967-70 conflict was a setting in the 2009 novel FREE AGENT by Jeremy Duns. The novel’s lead character is Paul Dark, who “is a seasoned agent for MI6 when a KGB officer turns up in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war wanting to defect.”

In the publicity materials for Free Agent, the story is endorsed by William Boyd, who calls the tale a “wholly engrossing and sophisticated spy novel.”

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns, in a reply to yesterday’s post about the HarperCollins plot summary, provides a LINK to the plot summary of Solo by the Curtis Brown literary and talent agency. It reads thusly (with the part in boldface type added emphasis by this blog):

It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.

A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, DC, where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.

Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his ever waking moment.

To view Wikipedia’s entry for the Nigerian Civil War, CLICK HERE

To view a promotion for Free Agent along with an excerpt, CLICK HERE.

Earlier post:

BOYD’S U.S. PUBLISHER PROVIDES PLOT SUMMARY OF SOLO

Boyd’s U.S. publisher provides plot summary of Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

HarperCollins, the U.S. publisher of William Boyd’s upcoming James Bond novel, Solo, has provided a synopsis of its story line.

THE BOOK BOND WEB SITE spotted the PLOT SUMMARY earlier. The summary reads:

It’s 1969, and, having just celebrated his forty-fifth birthday, James Bond—British special agent 007—is summoned to headquarters to receive an unusual assignment. Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation, is being ravaged by a bitter civil war, and M directs Bond to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.

Bond’s arrival in Africa marks the start of a feverish mission to discover the forces behind this brutal war—and he soon realizes the situation is far from straightforward. Piece by piece, Bond uncovers the real cause of the violence in Zanzarim, revealing a twisting conspiracy that extends further than he ever imagined.

Moving from rebel battlefields in West Africa to the closed doors of intelligence offices in London and Washington, this novel is at once a gripping thriller, a tensely plotted story full of memorable characters and breathtaking twists, and a masterful study of power and how it is wielded—a brilliant addition to the James Bond canon.

Does Boyd’s novel delve a bit more into politics than other 007 tales, even if the author is using a fictional African country? The part about Bond being assigned “to quash the rebels threatening the established regime” raises that possibility. Ian Fleming’s original novels, of course, were penned during the Cold War and make occasional references to events. But 007’s creator also created larger-than-life villains and devised escapist plots.

Boyd’s BACKGROUND includes writing novels with an African setting such as A Good Man in Africa, where the author ALSO WROTE THE SCREENPLAY FOR THE MOVIE VERSION.

To read The Book Bond’s post, CLICK HERE.

Previous posts:

JAMES BOND AND BREAKFAST

OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP

James Bond and breakfast

"Are the scrambled eggs ready yet, Q?"

“Are the scrambled eggs ready yet, Q?”

Ian Fleming Publications this week disclosed A PROMOTION FOR THE UPCOMING 007 NOVEL SOLO. It involves the DORCHESTER HOTEL IN LONDON.

To quote the press release:

Breakfast is, of course, Bond’s ‘favourite meal of the day.’

To celebrate, from Thursday 26 September until Saturday 30 November 2013, (Dorchester) guests quoting ‘SOLO’ whilst making a breakfast reservation will receive a free copy of the book or can choose to listen to the audio version read by British actor Dominic West on an iPod over breakfast.

Indeed, in Ian Fleming’s original novels, we’re told a fair amount of Bond’s eating habits at breakfast. In novels and short stories, meals are a way for an author to work in a character’s internal thoughts and feelings. He or she can mull over events or other characters while eating.

Movies, of course, are a different medium. Internal thoughts have to be conveyed with an expression or a look. Eating also doesn’t always provide the best visuals. The 23 James Bond films produced by Eon Productions since 1962 don’t spend much time dealing with breakfast, even if it was 007’s favorite meal.

In Dr. No, Bond and Honey Rider are served breakfast by the villain’s staff but they pass into unconsciousness from drugged coffee before they can partake of the meal. In From Russia With Love, Bond puts in an advance breakfast order of green figs, yogurt and “coffee, very black,” for the next morning. In Goldfinger, 007 gets out of a planned dinner with Felix Leiter and sets up a breakfast meeting instead. In Live And Let Die, Bond only has time for some juice before investigating a key clue. Overall, the movies don’t deal much with James Bond and his breakfasts.

According to the Ian Fleming Publications press release, Solo author William Boyd wants to bring back the 007 breakfast tradition. “Set in 1969, the story opens to 007 treating himself to a typical Bond breakfast of `four eggs, scrambled with pepper sprinkled on top, half a dozen rashers of unsmoked bacon, well done, on the side and a long draught of strong black coffee’.”

Meanwhile, a number of 007 Web sites are providing tips about you, too, can enjoy a 007 breakfast. Check out posts by THE MI6 JAMES BOND FAN SITE and the THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER.

UPDATE: Got a reminder about Licence to Cook, which has receipes based on James Bond. For more information, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE II: The James Bond Memes blog provides the Dorchester TIPS HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE A 007 BREAKFAST.

MAY 2011 POST:
OUR (NOT SO SERIOUS) BOND 23 PRODUCT PLACEMENT SUGGESTIONS

(A breakfast scene would offer some product placement opportunities.)

49 years ago…

Fleming-obit

Not much more to say. James Bond has continued on, of course. But things were never the same with the death of his creator. Ian Fleming didn’t live to see the character’s biggest successes in the cinema.

Today, the movies made by Eon Productions comprise the center of the 007 universe and the continuation novels commissioned by Ian Fleming Publication are off to the side. Both, of course, made possible by a former journalist and Naval officer who knew how to tell a tale.

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