Ben Williams reports for MI6 from the 'Carte Blanche'
launch event in London today...
Carte Blanche Event Report
25th May 2011
One fine morning in 1953, Ian
Lancaster Fleming emerged from the clear Jamaican waters of his Goldeneye estate,
made his way to his writing desk and, with a new sheaf of paper
in his Royal typewriter, set about his first novel, Casino
With that, James Bond, one of the greatest literary figures of
the twentieth century, was born.
Since then, James Bond has survived countless
attempts on his life, and even the untimely passing of his creator.
Fleming may have passed away, James Bond lives on through the
films and continuation novels.
However, there is one thing that James Bond
cannot escape, and that is the passage of time. Fleming’s
Bond would be in his late eighties today, and unlikely to be
capable of the kind
of derring-do we associate with the character. Over the years,
his character has needed to be subtly updated, to not only keep
him fighting fit, but to keep him in line with the changing times.
In Jeffery Deaver’s latest Bond adventure,
Carte Blanche, James
Bond has been given an entirely new backstory, and whilst
the character of Bond in Carte Blanche is very much the man
that Fleming created, he has, for all intents and purposes, been
Above: Author Jeffery Deaver with motorcycle stunt woman
and model Chesca Miles.
So, it is with these thoughts of rebirth and
renewal in my head that I enter St.Pancras Station to witness
the launch Carte Blanche.
The Grand Champagne Bar, Europe’s longest, under the spectacular
metal latticework of St. Pancras Station, and with the electric
thrill of international travel crackling in the air, is the perfect
location to launch the latest Bond novel.
As I approach, several Royal Marine Commandos
in combat fatigues are clambering up almost impossibly tiny rope
ladders into the
vaulted metal girders. When they reach the top, they sit comfortably
on the crossbeams, and I’m reminded of the famous photograph
of the construction workers on the Empire State Building as they
ate their lunch. Looking up, I’m happy to be down here
on terra firma with a glass of bubbly and the canapés.
Clearly, they are awaiting something special,
but what that might be, I have no idea. Until that is the hubbub
of the milling throng
is broken by a deep, guttural roar and a vintage BSA Spitfire,
followed by a flame red Bentley Continental GT, roll along the
pedestrian concourse and pull up alongside the bar.
Sitting astride the classic motorcycle is the
stunning Chesca Miles, model, singer and the UK’s first female stunt rider,
and certainly a befitting Bond Girl, whilst from the Bentley
emerges the man that everyone has been waiting to see: Jeffery
Then, right on cue, the Royal Marine Commandos abseil swiftly
down their ropes to deliver the hardback copies of the book itself.
It’s a very Bondian moment.
Above: The specially branded 'Carte Blanche' Bentley Continental GT.
Jeffery Deaver then takes to the microphone
to say a few words about Carte Blanche and how he became involved
with the project. He began by thanking the Royal Marines and
the other military personnel present, and invited everyone to
join him in applauding
the efforts of all the military and security forces around the
world for protecting us with their lives and for being the real
life James Bonds.
He went on to paraphrase a line from Fleming’s
Goldfinger, by saying that his involvement with writing Bond
was threefold. “Once
is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is the
charm,” he said. The first time being when he was eleven
years old and wrote his first novel, a Bondian spy thriller that
was about a British agent stealing a Russian fighter. The second
time was when his book The Garden of Beasts received the Ian
Fleming Steel Dagger Award, presented by the Crime Writers’ Association.
The third was when, just eighteen short months ago, he was asked
by Ian Fleming Publications to write a continuation novel, a
request that he eagerly accepted. He finished by saying: “I
must thank someone who is here in spirit, if not in presence:
Ian Fleming, himself. For more than any other author, he has
taught us that heroes matter, and that whatever happens in the
world around us, there will always be someone with the courage,
the resourcefulness and the flair to watch over us.”
After this he introduced Lucy Fleming, Ian
who said a few words about Ian:“
If Ian was here today, he would have very much enjoyed the occasion…more
than anything though he would have appreciated and been incredibly
pleased by the way that Jeffery Deaver has kicked his dear old
James Bond into the 21st Century, with his brilliant plot, his
clever twists and turns, and his remarkably detailed knowledge
of British Intelligence.”
After the speeches, I was able to chat to some
of the guests, including Charlie
Higson, who was very enthusiastic
book and full of good humour, explaining to his companion that,
whilst I had identified myself as writing for MI6, I was not,
in fact, a spy. He happily posed for a picture and told me that
he was very much looking forward to reading Carte Blanche.
Above: Young Bond author Charlie Higson.
I also spoke to Simon Gardner, son of John
Gardner, whose father was responsible for many of the continuation
novels. He spoke
to me about the difficulty in writing to the constraints of the
Bond formula whilst keeping it fresh and exciting. Despite this,
he was sure that Jeffery Deaver had done a marvellous job and
he seemed excited to read this latest outing.
Finally, I spoke to Vivienne Schulster, Jeffery
agent. When I told Vivienne my thoughts on this being somewhat
of a rebirth for the character, she readily agreed. She was very
keen that fans should see this novel as being very respectful
to Ian Fleming and his creation and that Jeffery had created
a story that, whilst keeping to his hallmarks of a fast plot
with many twists, was also a Bond adventure in its truest sense.
I left the event feeling somewhat lightheaded,
and not merely from the champagne. After all, if this truly is
a rebirth for
Bond, then I will always be able to say that I was there at the
beginning, in this new chapter in the life of everyone’s
Many thanks to Ben Williams.
All photographs © Ben Williams. No use without premission.
tuned to MI6 for more coverage of Carte Blanche all this week.