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Sebastian Faulks - `this is one James Bond case I could not crack`

28-May-2008 • Literary

Today is the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, and yesterday there was a party - writes Sebastian Faulks for The Telegraph.

The Fleming clan has organised exhibitions, postage stamps, charity golf days and more; Penguin has reissued all the original books in a new imprint, and a year ago, at the invitation of the family, I wrote a one-off James Bond novel, Devil May Care, whose contents were kept in Smersh-like secrecy until a few hours ago.

At noon yesterday, two Lynx helicopters whirled above the destroyer HMS Exeter, which had come up the Thames estuary the night before and berthed alongside the Belfast by Tower Bridge.

Then a supermodel called Tuuli Shipster, who posed for the jacket of the book, came downriver in a red catsuit aboard a Pacific 24 and was piped aboard the Exeter.

She brought with her the first seven copies of Devil May Care in a see-through briefcase.

So far so good. Unfortunately, opening the case so the books could be signed proved beyond the wit of the Exeter's skipper, Commander Paul Brown, a hamfisted author or a supermodel. Resourceful Penguin staffer Jennifer Doyle was the one to crack the code.

Lucy Williams, niece of Ian Fleming and daughter of his brother Peter Fleming and the actress Celia Johnson, toasted her uncle's centenary.

What an incredible family the Flemings are. From manufacturing jute sandbags in Dundee, they went on to become one of the great merchant venturing families of the 20th century, finally selling the family bank, Robert Fleming, in 2000 - before starting again.

As well as writers Peter and Ian they number, more recently, the England and Kent cricketer Matthew.

All this achievement may sound intimidating, but Lucy and her sister Kate Grimond couldn't have been easier to work with. They made a few polite suggestions about Bond lore, but gave me a free hand.

I sought help on cars from an old rally-driver friend, Mark Lanyon. Plenty came. "This is a bit wussy," or "I think you mean understeer, not oversteer here." So, a sneak preview of the plot?

Bond gets married on page one and dies on page two. Well, never say never.

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