William Boyd, “Author of the Day” at the commencement of the London Book Fair, said this morning that his upcoming James Bond novel will be titled “Solo.” It will be published on September 26.
“In my novel, events conspire to make Bond go off on a self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorization – and he’s fully prepared to take the consequences of his audacity,” Boyd was reported as saying in the Daily Telegraph. “The journey Bond goes on takes [place] in three continents, with the main focus honing in on Africa. It’s what happens to Bond in Africa that generates his urge to ‘go solo’ and take matters into his own hands in the USA. Thus far and no further, at this stage.”
Bond is 45 in Boyd’s novel, which is set in 1969. The current Bond, Daniel Craig, who turned 45 last month, has so far signed up for two more films in the rejuvenated franchise.
If and when “Solo” gets made into a movie, its disyllabic title (like that of “Skyfall”) might disappoint Bond fans who prefer such lyrical and cryptic titles as “You Only Live Twice,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The World Is Not Enough,” and “Quantum of Solace.” Boyd had precise reasons for choosing it, however.
“Not only did it fit the theme of the novel perfectly, it’s also a great punchy word, instantly and internationally comprehensible, graphically alluring and, as an extra bonus, it’s strangely Bondian in the sense that we might be subliminally aware of the “00” of “007” lurking just behind those juxtaposed Os of Solo,” he said. But aren’t they actually zeros?
A greater concern than the title for Eon Productions, which makes the James Bond films, might be Boyd’s reversion to Ian Fleming’s original conception of a Bond whose alcohol consumption mirrored Fleming’s own. Last December, in an interview with the British television guide Radio Times, Boyd mentioned that in “Dr. No,” Bond “drank two bottles of bourbon, a bottle of champagne, a Calvados, and four dry martinis in one night.”
Although Boyd avoided seeing “Skyfall,” Bond’s breakdown in the film, during which he drinks to excess and does drugs before cleaning up, hints that Bond is an alcoholic. Conversely, Craig’s Bond has been relatively abstemious when it comes to womanizing. It remains to be seen how Boyd handles Bond’s sex life or if “Solo” recreates (or even acknowledges) the sadism and fetishization of women that permeates Fleming’s stories.
Boyd noted in the Radio Times piece that the idea of Bond returning to his childhood home in “Skyfall” was erroneous.
“Bond was brought up by an aunt in somewhere like Wiltshire,” he said. “He was sent to a boarding school in Edinburgh, Fettes… but only after he was thrown out of Eton for a dalliance with a maid. Bond’s father was Scottish and his mother was Swiss so he didn’t have a drop of English blood in him. He’s not the suave Roger Moore-type English toff at all.”
“In the films, Bond is a cartoon character but in the novels he is far more troubled, nuanced, and interesting,” Boyd said.
Suaveness not being Robbie Coltrane’s strong suit, the great Scottish actor, who played the alcoholic criminal psychologist “Fitz” in the original “Cracker’ series and was Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, is clearly the James Bond we’ve all been waiting for.