Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 09:55 UK

Faulks' quest to follow Fleming

By Razia Iqbal
BBC News arts correspondent

Devil May Care, a new James Bond novel written by Sebastian Faulks, will be published on Wednesday.

The British author explains what drew him to follow in the footsteps of Ian Fleming.

Faulks' other novels include Birdsong and Charlotte Gray

On the face of it, Sebastian Faulks couldn't be a more unlikely candidate to take on the mantle of the man who created one of the most enduring fictional characters of all-time.

In fact, he was surprised to be asked. After all, his recent novel - Human Traces - was hardly a swashbuckling affair.

"What Ian Fleming's family wanted was a centenary book," he explains. "They didn't want a conventional thriller writer. They wanted to cast against type.

"My last book was a 650-page novel about psychiatry, set in a lunatic asylum. It was quite a weird choice, but I think a good choice."

James Bond is known around the world as a suave, dashing hero embodying everything associated with glamour and sophistication.

'Technical exercise'

To pay homage to the man who created 007, Faulks decided he had to get inside Fleming's head.

"I viewed the whole thing as a technical exercise," he says. "I wrote the whole thing in six weeks.

Devil May Care book jacket
Devil May Care is published on the centenary of Fleming's birth
"Fleming used to write 2,000 words a day and not reflect on them or edit them, just keep going.

"I decided that if I wanted to capture the pace Fleming had in the novels, that is what I should do".

As a literary writer, Faulks is accustomed to giving his characters an interior life. With Bond, though, that posed some problems.

"I tried to go inside Bond's head, to create an inner life for him, and I realised he didn't have one.

"There were bedroom scenes where I thought it might help to show him being reflective, but it was like being in the bedroom with a stranger. It was very embarrassing."

Devil May Care picks up in 1967, where Fleming's last Bond novel left off. Its plot, however, remains a closely-guarded secret.

But Faulks will reveal the book is a mixture of adventure and spy novel and is partly set in the Middle East. "The focus is on an individual bad guy but there are political ramifications," he discloses.

'No leakage'

"Fleming was very forthright in his prejudices - anything between Marseilles and Delhi was viewed with great suspicion. I was very happy to tread in territory he chose to avoid."

Most people know Bond through his hugely successful film outings. Faulks, though, says it "wasn't difficult" to avoid his big-screen persona.

Ian Fleming
Fleming wrote 14 Bond books, starting with Casino Royale in 1953
"I had seen the films, but before I wrote the books I was reading the Fleming books.

"There was no leakage at all, because I was in Ian Fleming's head."

Will Faulks' Bond be different from Fleming's? In some respects, yes.

"I had written about him eating breakfast washed down with spirits, but it was giving me indigestion. So I have compelled him to drink wine."

Some readers may also be surprised by how humorous some chapters of Devil May Care are. "I wanted to be witty without being arch," explains the author.

"When situations presented themselves, I wanted to be able to make people laugh. But I didn't want the humour to be groan-worthy."

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