Boyd is back. The Christmas edition of the BBC’s Radio Times magazine contains an interview with the new James Bond novelist William Boyd, in which he talks about his new TV spy drama ‘Restless’ and provides some brief comments about his upcoming 007 novel.
The magazine, which gives TV listings in the UK for the Christmas and New Year period (December 22 – January 4), has just been published in Britain. According to the magazine, the new espionage drama ‘Restless’, which was adapted for TV by Boyd from his own novel, and which stars Rufus Sewell and Hayley Atwell, will be screened in two parts on BBC-1, the first part on December 27, and the second part on December 28.
During the course of the interview, which took place at Boyd’s residence located off the King’s Road in the Chelsea area of London (coincidently a stone’s throw from the fictional flat of James Bond), the new 007 author acknowledged that espionage-related themes have become a big feature of his writing in recent years.
In particular, Boyd pointed to his bestselling book Any Human Heart (which was subsequently made into a four-part TV drama) as helping to fan his fascination with the world of spying. There were, for example, some scenes in the novel where the story’s hero, Logan Mountstuart, was recruited into Britain’s Naval Intelligence Department (NID) by future Bond author Ian Fleming. Boyd told the magazine that writing that particular chapter in the book was pivotal, and he decided that one day he would write a spy novel. The result was Restless, a story about a wartime female spy named Eva Delectorskaya, who worked for the British Secret Service (and who is played by Hayley Atwell in the new TV version).
Boyd commented: ‘I got interested in the psychology of spying. Kim Philby, who was a Soviet double agent for more than 20 years, intrigued me: the duplicity, betrayal and lying. With Restless I wanted to explore how someone goes on living a double life for so long. What does it do to them? What would have happened to Philby if he hadn’t defected to the Soviet Union and had remained undetected within the British establishment?’
Boyd also did some personal research into the real-life British wartime ‘dirty tricks’ network ‘British Security Coordination’, which was based in New York in the USA in 1940-41, and was sanctioned by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Its operations were designed to subtly influence American public opinion in favour of the war. Interestingly, one of the key figures involved in the network was the future children’s author Roald Dahl (who, of course, later penned the screenplay for the Eon Bond movie You Only Live Twice in 1966-67). In both Boyd’s book Restless and the new TV drama based on it, Eva is sent to the USA to help plant false stories in American newspapers and on the radio, claiming that Hitler had designs on Mexico. She is encouraged to get close to one of President Roosevelt’s key adviser’s by her spymaster, Lucas Romer (played by Rufus Sewell in the TV production).
Inevitably, perhaps, the Radio Times interview also touched upon the fact that Boyd is the most recent author to have been commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate to pen a James Bond novel. At one point, when asked about the latest 007 film Skyfall, Boyd said: ‘I deliberately haven’t seen it’ – as, he said, he has been putting the finishing touches to his own 007 story.
Boyd, who was born and raised in West Africa in the 1950s-60s, went to a boarding school in Scotland, and spent a lot of time in his holidays back in Africa devouring thrillers. It was at that time that he also discovered the Fleming books. He said: ‘If you have a colonial childhood, you are never really at home in your own country and maybe that’s the reason why the spy novel is so intriguing to me. Who are we really? Do we change identities as we get older? And if you put that in the context of espionage, it’s amplified’.
When Boyd was asked by the Fleming estate to write the new Bond novel, he apparently ‘jumped at it’. According to the interview, he is just putting the finishing touches to it, before the manuscript has to be delivered just prior to Christmas, with publication officially due in autumn 2013. It has no title yet, and Boyd would only repeat what he has said in previous interviews: that the novel’s story is set in 1969. However, in a hint that his novel’s 1969-based plotline will be very ‘Fleming’ and traditional in tone, Boyd reflected that the Bond creator died in 1964: ‘He was in his mid-50s, so conceivably if he’d looked after himself a bit better, hadn’t smoked and drunk so much, he might have written a James Bond novel in that year’.
Boyd also drew contrasts between the Bond movies, which are always contemporary, and the novels, reminding the interviewer that Fleming’s novels were largely published in the 1950s and 1960s; Boyd argued that the James Bond of the novels ‘is far more troubled, nuanced and interesting’. The interview also noted that, to prepare for writing his own Bond story, Boyd re-read all the Fleming books in chronological order, so he could gather as much biographical detail as possible. He said: ‘Bond’s father was Scottish and his mother was Swiss so he didn’t have a drop of English blood in him’. He said Bond is not the suave Roger Moore-type Englishman at all.
The new Christmas edition of Radio Times is on sale in the UK now, priced £2.80. The first part of the new TV spy drama Restless, penned by Boyd, will be shown in the UK on BBC-1 on December 27 at 9.00pm, and the second part on the same channel on December 28 at 9.00pm.