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Ian Fleming family has view to a killing with new James Bond novel

18-May-2008 • Literary

A licence to kill has turned into a licence to print money. The family of Ian Fleming is set to boost its fortune with the publication next week of a new James Bond novel. The initial print run is 400,000 copies in Britain and America, and the possibility of a spin-off film is strong - reports The Times.

The book, written by Sebastian Faulks to mark the centenary of Fleming’s birth, is thought to place 007 at the centre of the heroin trade during the cold war. There has been tight secrecy surrounding the plot but a few details have trickled out – a female character called Poppy is said to feature prominently.

The theory appears to be borne out by the cover of the novel, Devil May Care, which features a blood-spattered opium poppy with the outline of a naked woman forming the stem.

Fleming’s family are banking on Faulks, 55 – who has won a loyal readership with his sensitive depiction of women – to provide them with a bestseller that will help to revive the flagging literary legacy of Bond’s creator.

Faulks’s book is the 22nd authorised Bond novel since Fleming’s death in 1964. The first was penned under a pseudonym by Kingsley Amis; the last was written by Raymond Benson six years ago but reportedly sold only 5,000 copies in Britain.

Speaking at The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival earlier this year, Faulks predicted that the book would significantly add to the wealth of the Fleming estate.

“Ian Fleming comes from the Fleming family, who are one of the richest families in Britain,” he said. “Fleming’s bank was bought by J P Morgan for an unbelievable sum of money . . . But like a lot of people they have remained very keen on making lots more money – that’s the difference between rich people and us!”

Faulks, best known for his war-time trilogy set in France, The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, will at least have the benefit of a huge marketing campaign to promote Devil May Care.

The Royal Mail has already issued a series of commemorative stamps for the Fleming centenary and a Bond exhibition is running at the Imperial War Museum London.

Penguin, which is publishing the novel in Britain under licence from the family-owned Ian Fleming Publications, has gone to the lengths of hiring a Royal Navy warship for the press launch of the new novel the day before it goes on general sale on May 28.

Production is under way on Quantum of Solace, the second Bond film to feature Daniel Craig as 007; it is due to be released later this year.

A 23rd Bond film, of which no details have been released, is scheduled for 2010.

The Fleming family was apparently inspired to approach Faulks after reading his cold-war novel On Green Dolphin Street.

Although he often takes months to research his books, Faulks rattled off Devil May Care in just six weeks – the design of the cover took two months.

He says he has written the novel 80% in Fleming’s style. “I didn’t go the final distance for fear of straying into pastiche but I strictly observed his rules of chapter and sentence construction,” Faulks said.

Set in 1967, Devil May Care features a “more vulnerable” Bond who has been widowed yet remains “both gallant and highly sexed”, according to the author.

“Bond is damaged and ageing and, in a sense, it is the return of the gunfighter for one last, heroic mission.”

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