The name’s Boyd, William Boyd: a date with the new James Bond novelist
The man behind ‘Solo’ talks about Bond’s drinking and misogyny and names Daniel Day-Lewis as a perfect fit
Author William Boyd holding his new James Bond novel, Solo, in front of a Jensen FF outside the Dorchester hotel in London. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
In Solo, the new James Bond novel, the spy observes a beautiful woman wearing a catsuit as they both occupy a slowly descending lift in the Dorchester Hotel, before he settles down, alone, to a large breakfast.
There is much about food and drink in Solo, written by William Boyd. It is set in 1969, and begins with Bond staying in the Park Lane hotel celebrating – alone – his 45th birthday over a dinner of pan-fried scallops with a beurre blanc sauce, followed by fillet of beef, rare, with pommes dauphinoises.
The meal in the hotel’s dining room, preceded by a couple of dry martinis in Fieldings’ private casino, is washed down with a Taittinger rosé 1960, followed by a Château Batailley 1959 to accompany his main course.
In reality, for the launch of the book, the Dorchester fare is less plentiful: juice, coffee and a boiled egg (to be eaten standing up), surrounded by TV cameras and a bevy of young women wearing 1960s-style air- hostess uniforms, waiting for the launch of the latest work.
“There is a lot of eating and drinking in it. There is a lot of interest in clothes, Bond is a sensuous man. There is also a lot about automobiles and weaponry and, of course, two beautiful women he has relations with.
“It wouldn’t be a Bond novel without those things in it,” the author tells journalists gathered for the launch, the first of a series to take place this week around the world.
Between 1952 and his death in 1964, the spy’s creator, Ian Fleming, wrote 14 novels, beginning with Casino Royale. The author’s demise – accelerated by heavy smoking – was in Sandwich in Kent, far from his Goldeneye paradise retreat in Jamaica.
Boyd is the latest in a long line of writers to take up the Bond mantle. “When invited I didn’t hesitate, I accepted at once. For me, the prospect appeared incredibly exciting and stimulating,” Boyd says.
Time has brought its own connections. If Boyd is now adopting the Fleming role, it repays a decade-old compliment when he included the one-time naval intelligence officer as a character in one of his own novels.
Fleming looms large
Equally, he has brought some of Fleming’s own life into the book, by making Bond a member of the Royal Commando’s 30 AU unit – the same one Fleming set up in the second World War to capture German intelligence records and equipment after the D-Day landings.
In preparing to write the book, Boyd avoided the films that have defined Bond for millions, instead preferring to read each of Fleming’s works – filled with violence and a heady undercurrent of sex, along with a strong strain of misogyny – in chronological order.