With the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth just weeks away – and with it, Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care – James Bond fever is tightening its hold on popular culture.
Among a glut of recent media coverage, Amazon.co.uk has posted a brilliant Q&A with Faulks.
With Devil May Care picking up after the events of Fleming’s final James Bond book, 007 fans are keen to see Faulks’ interpretation of the famous spy. Faulks tells Amazon.co.uk: “Ian Fleming had put Bond into this rather Baroque situation in the last couple of books – Bond was losing his marbles a bit – and I said to myself let’s produce an absolutely rip-roaring mainstream Bond adventure. Get Bond back at the height of his powers, miraculously recovered from the late Fleming period.”
Faulks also discussed Fleming’s story templates and how Devil May Care fits alongside those. “I looked at the books and analysed them and they fall roughly into two kinds. There’s the crime story where Bond is really a sort of superior policeman, a crime gangbuster if you like. Then there are the ones which have a threat to national security where he is more of a spy. Frequently in the crime stories Fleming must have thought to himself: why is someone from the secret service going off to break up a diamond-smuggling ring? or whatever it happens to be. Bond often asks it of M, raising the question so that Fleming can deflate it. And M simply says things like: ‘Well, the PM’s very worried. That’s all you need to know, Bond.'”
Faulks continues: “The crime stories move at a great lick and I wanted that pace which you find in Diamonds Are Forever or Live and Let Die. But I also wanted the menace that you get from the spy stories like Moonraker, which is a funny little book but actually one of my favourites, or to some extent From Russia With Love. So I wrote a hybrid. What I really tried to do was to write Bond at the top of his game, with all of the good bits and none of the boring bits. A hybrid of the crime story and the spy story, featuring all the characters that you like and none of the characters that you don’t. It’s the epitome of Bond.
The bestselling novelist also discussed his reluctance to take on the project. “The Fleming family was very nice to me – and very persuasive. They said: ‘You should think about it’. I was not the obvious choice for this since I’ve never written a thriller before and I don’t generally read thrillers. But I said alright, I’m intrigued. What I’ll do is I’ll go away and read all the Ian Fleming books and if, as I suspect, they turn out to be pulp fiction of a low order then obviously there’s nothing I can do, and I’ll just have to say thanks but no thanks.”
Fortunately for Bond fans, Faulks’ concerns were unfounded. “I went away and read them in chronological order from the start and I was very pleasantly surprised by how good they were.”
Faulks also appears to perfectly grasp the important differences between the cinematic and literary incarnations of 007. “One of the great things that the book Bond – Ian Fleming’s Bond – has which the cinematic versions don’t really have is this vulnerability. It’s absolutely essential in a thriller if the reader is to be thrilled, to be excited, that the reader has to feel that at any given stage the hero could die, that any situation he is in could be the last one. He may never get out.”
“What I really liked about Bond, when I re-read the books before writing mine, was this sense of a physically by-no-means all-conquering guy. Okay, he was armed, but he had a very small gun which was ineffective beyond about ten paces. Later on, he gets a slightly more powerful one but he doesn’t go in all tooled-up like Rambo. He wears expensive suits and soft shoes. So you feel that he’s genuinely in jeopardy all the time and that’s absolutely crucial so the readers can identify to some extent with this character. He’s not a super hero. He’s a vulnerable person.”
For more, including Faulks’ writing routine, check out the full Q&A at Amazon.co.uk.
You can also check out a brief video interview with the author here, in which Faulks gives a few clues about Devil May Care‘s characters and locations.
Keep watching CommanderBond.net for the latest news in the lead-up to the Ian Fleming Centenary.