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Jeffery Deaver teases USA Today about the next James Bond novel

01-Nov-2010 • Literary

Jeffery Deaver looks more like a brainy villain in a James Bond movie than a "00" agent in Her Majesty's secret service. Best known for his thrillers starring quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, Deaver has a new mission: Bring Bond into the 21st century in a new 007 novel, reports USA Today.

The yet-to-be-named book is cryptically referred to as "Project X" by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., which owns the rights to Fleming's work.

How did Deaver, who grew up outside Chicago, land this top-secret mission?

The family-owned Fleming business took notice when Deaver won the U.K.'s Crime Writers' Association's coveted Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Garden of Beasts (2004), a thriller about an American assassin sent to Berlin during the run-up to Hitler's rise to power.

In his acceptance speech, Deaver talked about Fleming's influence on his work.

Most of the details surrounding Project X, to be published in May, are being kept under wraps, but under intense interrogation (more like gentle coaxing) Deaver begins to spill his guts.

"The novel," he says, "is set in the present day, in 2011. Bond is a young agent for the British secret service. He's 29 or 30 years old, and he's an Afghan war vet."

That in itself is big news. After all, if Bond were aging in real time — he first appeared in Fleming's Casino Royale in 1953 — the now doddering (although assuredly still handsome) 007 would be nearly 90.

But first up: a new stand-alone Deaver novel, Edge (Simon & Schuster, $26.99), to be published Tuesday. It's about a federal agent who risks his life to protect a Washington police detective from a man hired to extract information from him using any means at his disposal.

Deaver's modest home in a woodsy neighborhood in this Northern Virginia suburb has a masculine, clubby feel. He fell in love with the area while researching a novel he set here, then moved to Virginia from New York in the early 1990s. He likes being close to Washington and to friends he has in the area.

His main residence, though, is in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he and his business partner Madelyn Warcholik raise champion briards, French herding dogs. In recent years, two of their dogs have won best of breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Updating Bond

Sipping coffee while seated on a leather chair in a sitting room decorated with portraits of his dogs and show ribbons, the mild-mannered author who writes about murderers and serial killers talks about his career and the solid fan base that has allowed him to pursue writing full time since 1990.

"I may not sell as many books as John Grisham (although he has sold a cool 20 million), but I have a very loyal fan base," says Deaver, 60, who wrote some of his novels while working as a Wall Street lawyer.

Deaver's initiation into the Bond family — more than 100 million 007 novels have sold worldwide — could significantly raise his profile.

Other novelists have written Bond novels since Fleming's death in 1964 — including Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and, most recently, Sebastian Faulks (his 2008 book Devil May Care reached No. 38 on USA TODAY's best-seller list) — but they all took place in the original era. Deaver is taking a new approach.

"There's no more Cold War to fight," says Deaver, so his new Bond, of the Fleming estate, will fight "post-9/11 evil."

"I want to stay true to the original James Bond, who many people don't know much about," he says, referring to the secret agent Fleming portrayed in 14 novels, and not the movie Bond. "People know Daniel Craig, they know Pierce Brosnan, they know Roger Moore and Sean Connery, all of whom brought a great deal to the stories of 007. But the original Bond was a very dark, edgy character."

Otto Penzler, proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, says Deaver's writing style can only enhance the Bond franchise.

"The main thing he can bring is a greater sense of suspense to the books," Penzler says. "A lot of the books and movies are becoming basically chase plots, and Jeff really has the ability to create suspense better than almost any writer working today."

Explaining why Deaver was tapped for the latest Bond adventure, Fleming's niece Kate Grimond says: "He has a great understanding and appreciation of Fleming's original creation. We feel sure that he will produce an exciting page-turning 21st-century Bond mission — and a Bond for the present day."

Keeping secrets

The world of James Bond is a place Deaver knows plenty about. He read his first Bond novel when he was 8. When he was 11, he wrote a story about a spy inspired by 007.

Though Cold War politics meant nothing to him at the time, he became enthralled with the novels' sense of adventure. Like Fleming's, his books always include flawed but heroic characters.

With a little more coaxing, he reveals more details about his 007. "I get him into a lot of trouble in the book," Deaver says. "The poor guy. I almost feel bad for him. He doesn't get a lot of rest."

The novel, he says, "takes place over a short time period and involves Bond traveling to some exotic locations."

Where will he be traveling? Deaver says he can mention only the not-so-exotic London but promises Bond will leave the U.K., and Deaver has visited all the places Bond will travel.

He cannot reveal the plot.

Under pressure to share more secrets, Deaver begins to sing. Moneypenny, a secretary for the British secret service and a source of some romantic tension in the books and movies, will also be a part of Project X — in a more youthful incarnation, of course.

Movies beckon

Despite the accolades for his work, only one novel, The Bone Collector, has been made into a feature film. Released in 1999, it starred Denzel Washington as Rhyme and Angelina Jolie as his partner. It grossed $66.5 million in the USA.

Two other books were made into TV movies, but Deaver hopes Hollywood will take more notice of his work. "Of course, I'd love more films made because it will turn more people on to my books," Deaver says. "I'm very ambitious and want to reach a bigger audience. That's one of the reasons I'm very happy I'm doing the Bond book."

Fleming's straightforward prose and pacing have influenced Deaver, but so have the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

When contemplating the creation of a new kind of hero for The Bone Collector (the first Rhyme novel), he asked himself, " 'What haven't readers seen before?' I wanted him to be completely helpless. Not like Raymond Burr's Ironside, who was in a wheelchair, but a quadriplegic, completely paralyzed.

"And I wanted to get back to one of my favorite characters from when I was a kid, and that was Sherlock Holmes, who did occasionally get out into the field, but most of what he did was internal, was mental. I wanted to create a new Sherlock Holmes."

Just a taste

Deaver, who is single, shares some of Bond's predilections: driving fast cars — he has owned a Jaguar and a Maserati— shooting guns, scuba diving and downhill skiing.

Later this week, Deaver will do what he loves best: hit the road to meet fans. He'll be off on a week-long whirlwind of interviews and appearances in Japan — but not before he's pressured for just a few more details about Project X.

The 21st-century Bond, he acknowledges, does not smoke.

Does he drink? "Martinis will make an appearance in the book."

Does he wear a tux? "I'm not able to talk about that."

Does he have movie-star looks? "He's handsome in a craggy way. A striking-looking man."

Does he remind Deaver of any particular Hollywood heartthrob?

"Not really," Deaver says. "Fleming said that in his mind, the musician Hoagy Carmichael was who Bond resembled. That's kind of who I think of, too."

Thanks to `Paul` for the alert.

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