Open Channel D: William Boyd’s Fleming research gap

William Boyd

William Boyd

For more than a year now, fans of the literary James Bond have been told how William Boyd is the right man to do a new James Bond continuation novel.

For example, an APRIL 12, 2012 story in the U.K. newspaper the Telegraph had this passage:

Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, said: “William Boyd is a contemporary English writer whose classic novels combine literary elements with a broad appeal.

“His thrillers occupy the niche that Ian Fleming would fill were he writing today and with similar style and flair. This, alongside his fascination with Fleming himself, makes him the perfect choice to take Bond back to his 1960s world.” (emphasis added).

Apparently the author’s fascination with Ian Fleming himself didn’t extend to titles. Boyd said April 15 that his 007 novel will be called Solo. In a written statement, Boyd said that Solo is “also a great punchy word, instantly and internationally comprehensible, graphically alluring and, as an extra bonus, it’s strangely Bondian in the sense that we might be subliminally aware of the “00” of “007” lurking just behind those juxtaposed O’s of SOLO…”

Of course, many people who are fascinated with Ian Fleming know he used the very same title — but for a television series, not a novel. While Fleming left the heavy lifting to others (principally writer Sam Rolfe), there were title pages for scripts and presentation materials that said “Ian Fleming’s SOLO,” featuring a character named Napoleon Solo, co-created by Fleming and producer Norman Felton.

The series, of course, became The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ran from September 1964 to January 1968. The reason it wasn’t called Solo was 1) Fleming, under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, pulled out of the TV project, selling his interest in the series for 1 British pound; 2) Broccoli and Saltzman unsuccessfully attempted to shut down production of the TV show, claiming their rights to Goldfinger (including a minor villain named Mr. Solo) had been violated but settling for the title being changed.

The Solo that William Boyd forgot

The Solo that William Boyd forgot


This is not an especially hard piece of information to find. Andrew Lycett, one of Fleming’s biographers, reminded his Twitter followers of the connection in a POSTING ON THE SOCIAL NETWORK SERVICE.

Andrew Lycett‏@alycett1
#IanFleming discussed Bond style tv series in US with producer Norman Felton, then backed out. Sold name Napoleon SOLO to Felton for £1.

Apparently, Corinne Turner also forgot about Solo and Ian Fleming (or, for that matter, the Mr. Solo character in Goldfinger). Here’s a Turner quote from the official PRESS RELEASE (VIA THE BOOK BOND WEB SITE): “Ian Fleming had a great aptitude for naming his books and his Bond titles have become true classics. Solo is a simple yet striking title which fits perfectly alongside the other books in the Bond canon.”

Now you might say, “Hey, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t been broadcast for 45 years now.” True. “Hey, that’s just a footnote in Ian Fleming’s career.” Not really. Fleming was involved with the TV show from October 1962 to June 1963. It wasn’t just a passing fancy. He was seriously interested for a time. More importantly, it’s not just the name of an old television series. It was the name of an old television series that Ian Fleming was a participant. Some people might even find that fascinating.

6 Responses

  1. Some of the things that William Boyd has been saying has also given me cause for concern about his Bond knowledge. For example, From Russia, with Love (the novel) apparently provided inspiration for his novel Waiting for Sunrise. He claimed, though, that Fleming’s novel has fewer gimmicks and gadgets than the others. As none of the Bond books are exactly overwhelmed by gadgets, it seems to me that he’s confusing the books with the films. William Boyd also thought that the young Bond was raised by an aunt in Wiltshire. Here he’s perhaps confusing Bond’s childhood home with the county in which Fleming’s buried, but it’s an easy enough fact to check. While I’m generally optimistic about Solo (I’ve enjoyed Boyd’s other novels), I’m slightly worried that it’ll be marred by basic errors in Bond lore.

  2. It is a little odd to me that these people forgot all about SOLO name, provided that we had had a shock to hear that Tom Cruise might be starring in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. film, just a few weeks before.

  3. […] as noted here before, Solo isn’t unique at all to James Bond-related matters. Ian Fleming used Solo as a character […]

  4. […] OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP […]

  5. […] spring, of course, Boyd boasted why Solo was such a good title for a Bond novel while seemingly unaware that Fleming had used Solo not once, but twice: as a character in Goldfinger and as the name for […]

  6. […] April 2013: OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP […]

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