Sunday, 29 May 2011

How to write a James Bond novel

I’m ten chapters in to the new James Bond novel by Jeffery Deaver, Carte Blanche. Mind you, that’s not saying much – the chapters are very short (not quite As I Lay Dying short, but if I kept to my ‘a chapter before bed’ rule, it would take me the best part of two and a half months to read). So far the book is shaping up well. I’ll present a book review and an examination of the Bond memes replicated in the novel soon, but today I thought I’d explain why I think Carte Blanche will be a better Bond adventure than Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care.

In 1962, Ian Fleming published a short piece, entitled, ‘How to write a thriller’. We learn here that it took Fleming six weeks to write a Bond novel. This he did by writing 2000 words for four hours each day during his annual two-month stay in his Jamaican home, Goldeneye. Six weeks may seem inadequate, but it followed months of research, and years of experience hewn from his wartime and journalistic careers.

Sebastian Faulks copied Ian Fleming’s recipe for writing, in that he blocked out six weeks of his diary and wrote the book. Faulks does not specify how long he took to research the story before then, but in his piece on writing Devil May Care, he merely says that he found an idea for the villain’s scheme, and took Bond to a location Bond had not been before. And Faulks admits that whereas his well-known pastiches incorporate 125% of the original authors’ characteristics, Devil May Care contained 75%. I would agree. Parts of his novel were not too different in style to his deliberate pastiche, published in his collection of parodies, Pistache.

We know more certainly how much research went into Carte Blanche: six months. In On Writing Carte Blanche, Jeffery Deaver notes that this time was spent researching Bond, plot details, and aspects of modern intelligence, resulting in 3,000 pages of research and a story outline of 130 pages. And, like Fleming, who said that he rarely wrote about places he had not seen, Deaver has visited all the places described in the book. Carte Blanche took Deaver three months to write after the research.

Fleming wrote that ‘each word must tell and interest or titillate the reader before the action hurries on’. Judging by the research, and from those ten chapters, Deaver will also succeed in this aim. I’ll let you know!


Deaver, J, 2011 Writing Carte Blanche, Hodder and Stoughton
Faulks, S, 2009a Sebastian Faulks on writing Devil May Care, in Faulks 2009b
Faulks, S, 2009b Devil May Care, Penguin
Fleming, I, 2009 Ian Fleming on writing thrillers, in Faulks 2009b

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