Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 16:29 UK

New Bond novel launched in style

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New bond novel carried down the Thames on a speed boat by model Tuuli Shipster

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A new James Bond novel, published to mark the centenary of 007 creator Ian Fleming's birth, has been launched onboard HMS Exeter in central London.

Seven copies of Devil May Care, written by Sebastian Faulks, were brought along the River Thames on a Royal Navy sea boat escorted by two Lynx helicopters.

They were then signed by the author in the presence of Fleming's nieces, Lucy Fleming and Kate Grimond.

Out on Wednesday, the book takes 007 to London, Paris and the Middle East.

Plot details have been kept a closely-guarded secret, though it is known the story is set in 1967 during the Cold War.

Speaking to the BBC News website, Lucy Fleming revealed Bond's love interest was named Poppy.

'Pleasure'

She also said the villain, named Gormah, was "a bit like Blofeld or Dr No - really sinister".

Faulks, who was chosen to write the novel at the request of Fleming's family, added it was a "pleasure to be aboard the ship Bond himself sailed on".

Bond served as an intelligence officer on the HMS Exeter, finally holding the rank of commander.

Faulks, best known for his war novels Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion D'Or and Charlotte Gray, took six weeks to write the book, delivering it to publisher Penguin over a year ago.

Lucy Fleming and Sebastian Faulks
Faulks (r) thanked the Flemings for their "tremendous enthusiasm"
Alex Clarke, Penguin's editorial director joked he had been plying the author with Vodka Martinis - 007's signature drink - in the hope he would write a follow-up.

But Faulks, one of several authors to write Bond novels since Fleming's death in 1964, told reporters he had no plans to pen another.

"One tribute, one centenary, one book," he laughed as he sipped champagne with Tuuli Shipster, the model featured on his novel's book jacket.

'Celebration'

Lucy Fleming - heard on Saturday in a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Dr No - said her uncle would be "terribly amused that somebody like Sebastian is keeping his legacy going".

"We wanted it to be a celebration of Ian's writing, so to get somebody of his calibre says a lot about Ian and James Bond."

Her husband, actor Simon Williams, agreed it was "a wonderful birthday present" for Fleming on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Sebastian Faulks (l) with model Tuuli Shipster
Shipster (r) is pictured on the Devil May Care book jacket
The Bond books and the long-running movie franchise they spawned have often been attacked for their misogyny, violence and perceived cultural snobbery.

But Kate Grimond - the daughter of actress Celia Johnson - said any criticism was outweighed by the enjoyment readers have derived from her uncle's fiction.

"You can criticise Bond in all manner of ways," she told the BBC News website aboard HMS Exeter.

"But what you can't take away from him is he's given people an enormous amount of pleasure through the books and the films."

Fleming wrote 14 James Bond books in all, beginning with Casino Royale in 1953.

The last, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, was published posthumously in 1966.


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