New Bond Novel Comes With A Fresh 007

James Bond has been updated for the 21st century. Now he's a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, drives a Jetta instead of an Aston-Martin and uses iPhone apps instead of spy gadgets. The estate of the late Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, asked suspense writer Jeffery Deaver to write the book, surprising some fans with their choice of an American author. Host Scott Simon speaks with Deaver about his new book, Carte Blanche, the latest installment in the five-decade-long James Bond series.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

When we first glimpse James Bond in the latest novel in the series that Ian Fleming created in 1953, 007 is stopping a speeding Serbian train loaded with hazardous chemicals, with his bare hands. Most of his tricky gadgets, though, have been installed as apps on his iPhone. Hes driving a souped-up Jetta, not an Aston-Martin. But he has sworn to protect The Realm, by any means necessary.

"Carte Blanche" is the newest James Bond novel, authorized by the Ian Fleming estate. And this time, they have entrusted an American to tell the story of what may be the most famous British character since Robin Hood. He's Jeffery Deaver, the international best-selling author of 27 suspense novels, including "The Bone Collector" and "The Bodies Left Behind."

Jeffery Deaver joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JEFFERY DEAVER (Author, "Carte Blanche"): Well, hello, Scott. A big pleasure to be here.

SIMON: Is it especially tricky to be an American asked to write a James Bond novel?

Mr. DEAVER: That is one of the first things that jumped into my mind when I was asked by the Fleming estate. The way I approach writing fiction - and part of the fun of writing fiction - is for me to step into the shoes of whatever character I'm writing about. For instance, in a book a few years ago called "The Twelfth Card," I had to quote, become a 16-year-old African-American girl living in Harlem. And I had to really inhabit her persona.

It frankly was easier for me to become Bond for "Carte Blanche" because I began reading the books when I was 8 years old. And I had to, of course, pull certain things out of the original material to insert into the updated Bond story, "Carte Blanche." Otherwise, the Bond fans would have been rather upset about it.

And so when then asked me, I didn't have a huge transition to make to become this secret agent and write about him I think fairly credibly.

SIMON: Let's talk about some of those elements. And let's begin with the, oh, the villain you have here - Hydt, is that how I pronounce the name?

Mr. DEAVER: Yes, yes, exactly.

SIMON: A man with long, yellowing, Howard Hughes fingernails. He craves decay.

Mr. DEAVER: We fiction authors, we love creating the bad guys. There's nothing like a good villain. And with Hydt, I wanted to create an individual who was what I typically do with a villain. They're fully formed. They certainly are despicable - that's what makes them villains - and yet there's got to be something rather intriguing about them.

Hydt, for instance, is not a typical megalomaniac. I made Hydt concerned about the environment. His thing is recycling. And I tried to bring some psychological depth to this character so that when Bond goes up against him, I want the readers to think: I sure hope Hydt doesn't succeed - but on the other hand, I kind of feel for him, in a way, because this is something that's very important to him, this nefarious Incident 20, which I call it.

SIMON: Let me explain briefly: A clock is ticking, and some incident's going to occur - British intelligence found out about it. Thousands of lives might be at stake.

Mr. DEAVER: Yeah. And we see, from each main character's perspective, something terrible is going to happen, but we both have an important stake in the outcome.

SIMON: Let's talk about the love interests, OK. And I'm going to rattle them off. There is the sultry South African policewoman Bheka Jordaan.

Mr. DEAVER: Bheka, generally, it's pronounced.

SIMON: Bheka Jordaan. The sultry South African anti-hunger activist of means, Felicity Willing.

Mr. DEAVER: I couldn't resist, I'm sorry.

SIMON: And then the russet-haired - sultry has to be mentioned again - British special ops agent Ophelia Maidenstone.

Mr. DEAVER: Yes.

SIMON: And one is struck by the fact that James Bond - how do I phrase this nicely? - he doesn't say no but he does say not yet, it's just not right.

Mr. DEAVER: Part of my job is to - well, frankly, tugging at the heartstrings. And Bond and Philly are...

SIMON: Philly Maidenstone, her nickname.

Mr. DEAVER: Philly Maidenstone, yes. They're in a restaurant. Now, they're both single. She has recently broken up with her fiance.

SIMON: Removed her ring.

Mr. DEAVER: Yes. And she mentions casually that her flat is over the road in London, meaning very nearby. Would they like to retire there for an after-dinner cocktail? And Bond, of course, is thinking, well, I can sort of see where this is going, and what a nice connection it would be - because he feels something for her, of substance.

And then he looks down, and she is rubbing absently her ring finger, where the engagement ring had been. And Bond thinks to himself, now is not the time. And I've had a very, very good response from readers about that scene. It gave him some heart, and yet gave some hope to the readers that perhaps he will find somebody.

SIMON: This story ranges from London to Dubai to Cape Town, from Cote de Beaune wine to grilled halibut on the bone with hollandaise. How much research did you do, and was it all tax-deductible as a professional expense?

Mr. DEAVER: If any - well, first of all, it's important to travel to every place you write about. And so I wanted to get all those details right. And I forced myself to even create a cocktail of my own that appears in the book, and that is now being served at the Savoy Hotel in London, under the name Carte Blanche.

SIMON: Look...

(Soundbite of papers being shuffled)

SIMON: ...I was not going to spring this on you. I tried one last night. This is my receipt. Could I get you to sign it for the IRS?

Mr. DEAVER: I would be...

SIMON: Because I believe this is a professional expense.

Mr. DEAVER: Scott, it's your name. It is - I won't say anything. I would have made one for you for half the price, but I'm delighted to...

SIMON: Well, I don't want to give away anything but it's Crown Royal, triple sec...

Mr. DEAVER: A little bitters, Angostura bitters.

SIMON: Little bitters.

Mr. DEAVER: Yeah.

SIMON: The bartender said you should not mix rye and triple sec.

Mr. DEAVER: I did have a headache the next day. There was that little issue but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DEAVER: I can see, the way you're looking, you had a little bit of an issue, too.

SIMON: I think I still do. On a more serious note, M observes to Bond at one point that he wonders if the world's great intelligence agencies are quite keeping pace with modern threats - specifically, international terrorism.

Mr. DEAVER: When I write one of my thrillers, yes, they're sick and twisted and fast-paced roller coasters, but if you don't give some resonance - some, perhaps, political or philosophical or social or personal resonance - readers are going to think oh, it's a bit of a cartoon. And they will not be emotionally engaged.

The title itself, "Carte Blanche," is a theme that runs throughout the book. Bond is someone who operates outside the bounds of the law. And he continually asks himself, at what point in exercising that do I become them, do I become the enemy? And it's a question that we certainly have wrestled with here in America. Look at Guantanamo, for instance. And I don't give any answers to that. But I want readers to think, you know, that is something about Bond that I never really questioned before.

SIMON: What drives James Bond?

Mr. DEAVER: It sounds like such a cliche - it's right versus wrong. Who is James Bond? James Bond is a knight. He may have a flawed personal life, but someone like that, who is willing to sacrifice himself - I think we can allow a little indulgence, too - but when it came to his mission, he was going to do whatever he needed.

And I have to say, he does it with a flair, with some panache, with a wry British humor. And it's the package that has made Bond a creation that will endure for a long, long time.

SIMON: Best-selling suspense writer Jeffery Deaver. He has written the latest 007 novel "Carte Blanche." Mr. Deaver, what a pleasure. Thanks so much.

Mr. DEAVER: Scott, I appreciate it.

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