Project X Revealed: Jeffery Deaver To Write Next James Bond Novel
Today Ian Fleming Publications issued a press release detailing the true nature of the mysterious "Project X" they began teasing last week: a new adult James Bond novel! ("Adult" meaning as opposed to Charlie Higson's popular series of kid-oriented "Young Bond" novels, and not something vaguely pornographic like Clyde Allison's infamous 0008 paperbacks!) American thriller author Jeffrey Deaver will write the new book (as yet untitled, hence the "Project X" moniker), which will be published on May 28, 2011. Unlike the last straightforward Bond continuation novel, Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care, which picked up Ian Fleming's timeline in 1967, Deaver's book will be set in contemporary times. Beyond that, scant details are available. In the press release, Deaver says, "I don't want to give much away about the new book yet, except to say that it takes place in the present day and that the story occurs over a short period of time and finds Bond in three or four exotic locations around the globe."
It's a shame about the setting, because I thought the Cold War milieu was the one thing Faulks got right in his book. But clearly IFP and Deaver live in hope that EON Productions will reverse their longstanding policy of ignoring the continuation novels and turn this one into a film. The Bond producers used the period setting of Devil May Care as a polite excuse as to why they wouldn't be adapting the novel, although it really wouldn't have been too difficult to contemporize its plot if they had really wanted to. (After all, they did it with Casino Royale, and that book was set more than a decade earlier!) So, as a concession to the film market and the Daniel Craig version of the character, IFP will turn its back on the rich period world they've explored in the popular and fantastic Young Bond novels, the less popular but equally fantastic Moneypenny Diaries and the generally lousy but popular nonetheless Devil May Care, and the new Bond novel will take place in the present day, as did all of John Gardner's and Raymond Benson's continuation novels. I liked the period setting, but I don't really have a problem with the decision. In fact, I'm kind of grateful that it "unsticks" 007 from not only time, but also any remaining semblance of in-series continuity. James Bond is a character that transcends any given time period, and I hope that if the trend of hiring a different big name author to publish a new Bond novel every other year on Fleming's birthday continues, the choice of when to set the book remains up to the author. Clearly, each novel will be a stand-alone anyway, so it shouldn't matter.
Personally, I'm not familiar with Deaver's work. He's most famous for a series of mystery novels about a detective named Lincoln Rhyme, who was portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 1999 film The Bone Collector, but he's also written some stand-alone novels, including the pre-war Berlin-set crime/spy hybrid Garden of Beasts which won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award in 2004 and first brought the author to the attention of the Fleming estate. (The American paperback boasts a very Bondian cover image!) I haven't read any of his books, but I definitely like the things he says in his statement in the press release. Unlike Sebastian Faulks, who never missed an opportunity to diminish Fleming and Bond in interviews whilst assuring the literary world that he was still a "real" writer and this Bond thing was just a very silly lark, Deaver comes off as a genuine Bond fan with a personal and professional admiration for Ian Fleming's writing and respect for the character. I also like that he specifically told Reuters, "I am not writing this book as if I were Ian Fleming. No one can really do that." That quote seems to be a direct rebuttal to Faulks' inane, disrespectful and entirely unsuccessful "writing as Ian Fleming" gambit–and a good indication that Deaver will craft a legitimate thriller and not a lame pastiche.
Deaver's Bond novel will be published in England by Hodder & Stoughton and in the US by Simon & Schuster–both Deaver's regular publishers. Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Books will eventually publish the American paperback. While Penguin handled the UK publication of Devil May Care, Hodder is no stranger to the Bond license, having published a number of John Gardner titles in the 1980s. As a collector already eagerly anticipating having all of these editions on my bookshelf, I hope that Hodder & Stoughton share Penguin's penchant for limited editions of varying degrees of inaffordability!
IFP have set up a very good dedicated Project X website here, with all the information you could ask for at this juncture, including a short video of Deaver talking about Fleming's influence on his writing. You can also read the full press release at Simon & Schuster's Project X page here. Read my review of Devil May Care here. Read my review of the latest Young Bond novel, By Royal Command here.