William Boyd: Solo Lyceum Theatre

Ian Fleming may be long dead, but his most famous literary creation not only lives on, but thrives. With the re-boot of the film series starring Daniel Craig as James Bond bringing the world’s best-known spy (surely a contradiction in terms there?) to a new generation of filmgoers, as well as those of us who went to see Dr No first time round, the Fleming estate have engaged respected novelist William Boyd to write an “authorised” new addition to the Bond books.

Boyd follows in the steps not just of Fleming, but of Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver, to name a few of the more prominent Bond authors. It is, it has to be said, a little surprising that he would wish to add himself to this canon, but his enthusiasm for the project came across strongly in his conversation with The Scotsman’s literary editor David Robertson (an excellent choice for the chair) at the Lyceum.

The Fleming estate, having hired him, were then pleasingly “hands-off” in their approach, leaving him to present Bond in his own fashion – as a “realistic spy novel about a realistic spy”, leaving aside the gimmicks which had dominated many of the films. He started by re-reading all Fleming’s Bond novels; the films had no influence on his writing, the film Bond being a totally different character from the literary Bond.

His interest in Fleming himself is plain to see; he finds an overlap between the author and the spy – both look at the world with great attention to detail, although obviously the writer’s life does not normally depend on this! Boyd’s Bond is set in Africa in 1969, around the time of Bond’s 45th birthday – following the original timeline, and giving Boyd the opportunity to give Bond a background of wartime experiences, D-Day, Berlin in 1945 etc, and he places Bond in Fleming’s old unit, AU30.

All in all, this was an entertaining evening for what was, as these things tend to be, a sales pitch by a publisher. And it made me want to read the book, so job done, chaps.

Jim Welsh