William Boyd, the author of the James Bond novel Solo, poses with his new book outside the Dorchester Hotel in London on Wednesday.
William Boyd has left James Bond stirred, if not shaken.
The British writer has taken on the fictional spy in Solo, a new 007 novel that balances fidelity to Ian Fleming’s iconic character with subtle changes.
Bond fans will find much they recognize, along with some surprises — one of which is that in Boyd’s mind, James Bond looks like Daniel Day-Lewis.
Boyd says Fleming once described the spy as ”looking like the American singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. Daniel Day-Lewis looks like Hoagy Carmichael.”
Solo is set in 1969, and takes the suave British spy from London’s plush Dorchester Hotel to a war-ravaged West African country and on to Washington on a perilous lone mission.
Boyd steers Bond away from his big-screen action-hero image and back toward the complex and conflicted character of Fleming’s novels.
”Even though he’s this handsome superspy, when you read the books you realize that he’s haunted,” Boyd told the Associated Press Wednesday.
”He’s not a cartoon character. Fleming gave him all his traits, his tastes, his likes and dislikes — and his complexes. Bond has a dark side. He’s troubled sometimes. He weeps quite easily. And he makes mistakes. That’s what’s so interesting about him.”
As the book opens, Bond is recovering from birthday celebrations at the Dorchester. He has just turned 45, and is feeling his age.
”Bond is mature. He’s seasoned,” Boyd said. ”He’s lived a lot, he’s a man of experience. He may not run quite as fast as he could when he was 25, but he’s seen how life has changed and times have changed. It’s a good age for him to be.”
Boyd, 61, a winner of the Whitbread and Costa book prizes, follows writers including Kingsley Amis and Sebastian Faulks as a successor to Fleming, who died in 1964.
His novel is authorized by the Fleming estate, and was launched Wednesday with fanfare befitting a major British cultural export.
Boyd posed gamely for a photo call — at the Dorchester, naturally — alongside British Airways flight attendants, clutching a copy of the book in a translucent attache case. Seven copies of the books were driven in a Jensen convoy to Heathrow Airport, destined for seven cities around the world with ties to Boyd or Bond: Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Zurich, New Delhi, Los Angeles, Cape Town and Sydney.
Solo hits British bookstores on Thursday and will be published Oct. 8 in the United States and Canada.