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The name's Faulks, Sebastian Faulks

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Faulks_lDuring the late ’80s and early ’90s, in the throes of a fanatical preteen James Bond obsession, I started reading Bond novels when I got tired of watching the movies over and over. I dutifully made my way through a few of the Ian Fleming originals — but what I was really into were the flashier and trashier contemporary Bond spinoffs by English spy writer John Gardner. Looking over the list of the Gardner Bonds on Wikipedia, I fondly recall tearing through For Special Services; Nobody Lives Forever; No Deals, Mr. Bond; Scorpius; Win, Lose or Die; and a few others — I just wish I could remember the one where Bond makes love to a woman with one breast (who maybe later turns out to be a Blofeld’s daughter, or something else along those villainous lines).

Given all that, the news this week that another English novelist, Sebastian Faulks, has been recruited to write a new Bond novel for early next year was rousing enough to get me to pick up a phone and make some old-fashioned telephone calls. Before I knew it, I had Sebastian Faulks himself on the other line, game for a few questions about James Bond. Faulks, who lives in London, is the highly-successful author of On Green Dolphin Street and Charlotte Gray (the basis of a 2002 Cate Blanchett movie), and his Bond novel, Devil May Care, comes out on May 28, 2008 — Fleming’s 100th birthday. After the jump, the interview!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A few writers besides Fleming have written Bond books, but this announcement comes at a good time, now that Casino Royale has re-energized the Bond franchise. What’d you think of that movie?
SEBASTIAN FAULKS: Oh, it was powerful, well-made, and exciting. The girl was great, too.

And everybody pointed out that Daniel Craig’s tougher Bond was truer to the original Fleming creation.
Oh, he was certainly a lot tougher than Roger Moore, who was very soft. You felt that if you punched Roger Moore in the stomach it would be like punching a bag of marshmallows. And Fleming does stress the cruelty of Bond, particularly in the early novels. I think that was one of the things that made the creation appealing and rather shocking when it first came out. But if you actually analyze the way that Bond behaves, both towards his enemies, and towards women, it isn’t actually a sadistic or unnecessarily cruel. He only kills in self-defense, or if absolutely necessary for his mission. Although he is an incurable womanzier, he doesn’t actually treat the women badly. In fact, he frequently falls in love with them and is jilted by them sometimes.

So obviously you’re writing about Fleming’s Bond, not the Bond from the films?
No, mine is the book Bond, and [my book] is set in 1967. Which is just after the last [Fleming] book [1966’s Octopussy and the Living Daylights]. So we pick him up as Ian Fleming’s Bond, and not Roger Moore’s Bond, or Pierce Brosnan’s, or Daniel Craig’s. I’ve just given Fleming’s Bond another chapter.

You even tried to write in Fleming’s style?
That’s right, I did. The idea was that it should read as though Fleming had written it. And indeed that’s what [Bond movie producer] Barbara Broccoli said when my book was sent to her. She said, “If you told me you’d found this in Ian’s desk, I would have believed you.” On the other hand, I didn’t want to write an exact imitation, because obviously with James Bond, there’s a danger of parody and self-parody — you only have to think about the Austin Powers films.

The John Gardner books are fun. Did you read the other novelists who’ve tackled Bond?
I didn’t. My commission was from the [Fleming] family, and they strongly believe in Ian Fleming’s value as a writer. And that’s one of the reasons they went to someone like me rather than a genre thriller [writer]. Therefore, I felt that all I wanted to do was immerse myself in Fleming and not be distracted by anyone else’s take on the character.

Any chance Devil May Care could be Daniel Craig’s next 007 movie?
Well, it’s a possibility. It’s been read by Barbara Broccoli and [her fellow Bond movie producer] Michael Wilson. They were both very positive about the book. But I’m sure that their choice of story for the next movie will be dictated by hundreds of other considerations to do with Hollywood and franchise and marketing. I’d be delighted if it works.

I’ve been told you’re not allowed to reveal anything about the book’s plot…
If I tell you, I will be strapped to a chair naked and whipped with knotted rope.

Not in the testicles…
Let’s hope not.