The news that Sebastian Faulks has written a Bond novel says a lot about the status 007 has achieved in the culture. On the big screen and through a ruthless process of reinvention, Bond remains a player at the multiplex. Poor Pierce Brosnan thought he was doing just fine, being tortured in Korea to the strains of Madonna in Die Another Day….and then along came Daniel Craig to make Pierce look about as modern as a Robin Reliant. In the new Spectator which hits the newsstand tomorrow, Tim Walker has a terrific interview with Rupert Everett who speculates that a gay actor could never play Bond. But who knows? The film version of the character has to be almost infinitely adaptable to survive in the movie marketplace.
The literary role Bond plays in national life is entirely different. Fleming’s mastery – or rather invention – of a form stands as a challenge to authors. Kingsley Amis was obsessed by 007 and, in addition to much literary criticism, wrote a novel about him, published under the pseudonym Robert Markham in 1968, entitled Colonel Sun. John Gardner has written more than a dozen Bond novels, to which should be added the six by Raymond Benson. Charlie Higson, who wrote a marvellous essay about Bond in our special supplement last year, is making a name for himself as the chronicler of Young Bond, while Kate Westbrook (the pen-name of Sam Weinberg) has been doing the same for Miss Moneypenny. Now Faulks joins the fray. It is a tribute to Bond’s amazing grip on the national imagination. Just as Jean Rhys wanted to write more about the characters in Jane Eyre, and several attempts have been made to complete Jane Austen’s Sanditon, so authors of this calibre want to try their hand with the literary putty of 007.
Which writers would Coffee House users like to see try their hand at a Bond book – and why? A bottle of champagne to the best suggestion.