Tag Archives: Robert Markham

Solo: The New Bond Cover Revealed

Random House has revealed the cover to the new Bond book. It looks, if I’m not mistaken, very much like this.


I like that. Kind of minimal, understated. Droplets, or bullet holes, and the merest hint of the legendary 007 designation. The book itself is set in 1969, so it marks a return to period Bond, which is where the character really belongs, I think.

The teaser blurb won’t take up much of your time: ‘1969. A veteran secret agent. A single mission. A licence to kill.’

Boyd has said part of the novel is set in Africa, where a number of his books have been set, and suggests that Bond goes rogue: “In my novel, events conspire to make Bond go off on a self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorisation – and he’s fully prepared to take the consequences of his audacity.”

Shades of Licence To Kill, then. That movie was originally going to be called Licence Revoked, but the name was changed because it sounded too much like Bond had dropped points on his driving licence.

There’s a faint echo of Ian Fleming here, of course. The Bond creator was involved in the genesis of the Man From Uncle TV series. His only lasting contribution was the name of the hero, Napoleon Solo – surely as cool a name as has ever been invented.

Boyd’s participation is another prestigious notch in the bedpost of the Bond brand. Kingsley Amis, writing as Robert Markham, wrote the first post-Fleming novel, Colonel Sun, in 1968. John Gardner and Raymond Benson both wrote a series of novels which updated 007..

Since then, Sebastian Faulks – his effort was also set in the 1960s – and Jeffrey Deaver have both been given, heh, carte blanche, to reinterpret the iconic character. Boyd is the latest in what seems to be an ongoing project to align the character with critically-acclaimed authors who fancy a brief flirtation with arguably the most famous character of the 20th Century.

That’s the cover, then, but you’ll have to wait till September 26th for Solo to be published.

Thrill Seekers: James Bond

Some fictional characters are as real to us as the person next door. Thrill Seekers invites you to memorise ten — just ten! — facts about some of your favourite Crime Thriller characters. Ian Fleming’s James Bond has sold over 100 million books and he still has a, ahem, licence to thrill…

Unknown1/ James Bond first appeared in the novel Casino Royale in 1953, and many of his characteristics were already fully-formed – the love of fast cars and fast women, and putting bartenders to work making painfully-complicated martinis.  Author Ian Fleming, who worked in Naval Intelligence during the war, based Bond on a number of agents and commandos he had known – but Bond shares many of Fleming’s own characteristics.

2/ Bond smoked up to 70 cigarettes a day, his own special brand of Morlands. When you think about it, it’s amazing that he could climb the stairs, let alone manage all the action stuff.

3/ Fleming wanted his spy to be anonymous, a blunt-instrument. ‘I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happen.’ James Bond was the name of the author of a book called Birds Of The West Indies which languished on Fleming’s bookshelf. It was the dullest name that Fleming could think of. Now that short, terse name is a byword for glamour and action.

images-14/ Six other authors have penned Bond’s exploits since Fleming’s death: Kingsley Amis – writing as Robert Markham – Christopher Wood, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver.

5/ Bond has been played by a number of actors, all of whom you could probably name off the bat, but Fleming originally wanted David Niven to play the part. Cary Grant was also considered, and Fleming’s own cousin, Christopher Lee. But if you want to know what Bond really looks like, in the novels he’s described more than once as looking like the singer Hoagy Carmichael.images

6/ The movie Skyfall explored Bond’s Scottish roots. Bond has a Scottish father, Andrew Bond, and a Swiss mother,  Monique Delacroix, who died when he was 11. Fleming was a bit sniffy about Connery in the first instance, but his performance eventually won him around, and in his penultimate novel, You Only Live Twice, Fleming finally sketched in Bond’s Scottish background, a knowing nod to Connery. Albert Finney’s role in Skyfall was written for Connery – but because of his iconic status in the franchise the film-makers changed their mind about his appearance.

7/ Bond’s favoured weapon in the novels was a Beretta 418 until, following the release of the Dr. No movie,  a fan wrote to Fleming to inform him that Bond was toting ‘a lady’s gun.’ Fleming changed the pistol to the Walther PPK, introducing the character of Major Boothroyd , the military Quartermaster – and Q division was born.

images-28/ The most-uneventful Bond story is perhaps 007 In New York. Fleming was commissioned to write an article about the city for a book called Thrilling Cities. Fleming, however, was less than thrilled with NY, and instead wrote the short story, in which Bond makes scrambled eggs.

9/ Bond was married once in the books, to Contessa Teresa di Vicenza, or Tracey Draco, the only child of the head of the Union Corse, the Corsican crime syndicate.  Tracey is killed on their wedding day. In the subsequent novel, You Only Live Twice, Bond is a broken man until he extracts revenge from Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

10/ And Bond also had a child. At the end of You Only Live Twice he leaves Japan without knowing he’d got Kissy Suzuki preggers. A Raymond Benson short story called Blast From The Past takes up the story, when he arranges to meet his son, James Suzuki.