Flanked by vintage sports cars and glamorous flight attendants, author William Boyd on Wednesday unveiled the new James Bond novel “Solo” in which he opts for a 1960s settings for 007’s exploits.
Setting off from The Dorchester hotel in London, copies of the book were driven in a convoy of Jensen cars to London’s Heathrow Airport from where they were flown to Amsterdam, Cape Town, Delhi, Edinburgh, Los Angeles and Sydney.
Boyd said the novel, adorned with a dust cover pierced through with six ‘bullet holes’, was the culmination of a lifelong passion for the original books about the dashing British secret agent, penned by Ian Fleming.
“I was always interested in Fleming, the man, to such an extent that I had to put him in one of my novels, in 2002, ‘Any Human Heart’,” he said.
To prepare for writing the latest Bond novel, Boyd re-read all the Fleming books, “in chronological order, pen in hand, taking notes”.
“I came to admire what he’s done as a writer,” said Boyd, who decided against donning a Bond-like dinner suit for the occasion and came in a blue suit and white shirt instead.
“Solo” steps away from the cinema incarnation of Bond -- currently played by the muscular Daniel Craig -- and portrays 007 as a veteran agent sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the fictional West African nation of Zanzarim in 1969.
The plot also takes Bond to Washington, where he discovers a complicated web of geopolitical intrigue, and to a host of cities around the world.
Before packing his bags, Bond has -- naturally -- enjoyed a night at The Dorchester and the start of a potential love affair with a beautiful woman.
Boyd said the superspy’s worldly ways with the opposite sex had been an eye-opener for him as a schoolboy.
“My first encounter with Bond was with the novel, not the movie, which is quite unusual.
“I was probably too young at the time to read these books. I remember reading ‘From Russia With Love’ while I was at prep school in the north of Scotland -- we used to read it to each other after lights out, it was a kind of illicit thrill.”
Yet he insisted that Bond was a complex character who was not merely seeking quick flings.
“Bond wants relationships with women, not just casual sex,” he said.
“There is no doubt that if you read, particularly the early novels, of Fleming, that they are very reflective of the kind of unthinking attitude of the men of his class and education.
“I haven’t set out to make Bond ultra-modern but there is no doubt that he is aware of how the world has changed around him.”
Boyd is the latest big-name author to take on a Bond novel. The last two were penned by Sebastian Faulks (“Devil May Care”, in 2008) and Jeffery Deaver (“Carte Blanche”, in 2011).