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books: Licence to thrill; book of the week DEVIL MAY CARE.

Byline: by Sebastian Faulks

SHHH! I'm going to tell you a big, fat secret, which means you can't repeat it to anyone.

Hunker down close, folks, and make sure nobody's spying over your shoulder.

Better yet, take a long drive to the country, nd a dilapidated castle, preferably with a functioning moat surrounding it, now sneak into the ruin's dank, dark dungeon.

Then wait until midnight, before reading the rest of this article by torchlight.

(If you don't have a torch to hand, head home, collect one, then repeat my instructions from the beginning.) And the reason you have to be so secretive?

Okay, brace yourself.

James Bond is... back!!! A brand spanking new Bond book has been written by best-selling author, Sebastian Faulks.

What, you knew that already?

But of course you did.

It's been nigh on impossible to avoid the numerous interviews with Faulks.

Or the glut of articles about Bond creator, Ian Fleming, who, if he were still alive, would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year.

But is the new novel, Devil May Care, merely hype - or is it hot?

I certainly had my reservations, as I've been a fan of brand Bond since I was a kid.

The books - including Diamonds Are Forever and Gold- nger - were tightly plotted and took the reader to magical locations that were a hell of a lot more exotic than my local Butlins.

Best of all, they had oodles of sex in them, clearly a Walther PPK pistol wasn't the only dangerous weapon 007 was concealing on his person.

Before Bond, I had no idea about the birds and the bees.

Being a curious little chap, I'd pop my Action Man in his tank, along with my sister's Cindy Doll. But I had no idea what they were getting up to in there.

Bond explained it all to me, while also providing me with a thrilling adventure and a despotic villain to fear and loath.

But would Faulks' version of the super spy be equally faultless?

The short answer is - yes.

And the longer answer? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!!

Devil May Care is Bond at his best.

The sexiness is still there, courtesy of 007's latest squeeze, glamorous Parisian, Scarlett Papava.

And there's also a deadly foe to battle, equal to such legendary Bond villains as Dr No, Goldnger and Blofeld.

Dr Julius Gorner is producing heroin on a grand scale, then pushing it into the UK.

If that doesn't sound monstrous enough, Gorner also has a hideous physical trait.

His left hand, usually concealed by a glove, is an oversized monkey's paw.

Soon Bond is hot on Gorner's heels, which, thankfully, are plain old human heels, with no simian traits whatsoever.

The adventure leads our hero from Paris to the Middle East, then straight into the dragon's den...

Faulks has written a fast-paced, actionpacked novel, that is playful with the Bond myth, without destroying it through post-modern irony.

As a serious novelist, there was always the danger that he would look down his nose at this assignment, while enjoying a few cheap laughs at Bond's old-world patriotism and suave sexism.

However, most of the time he shoots straight - just like Bond.

What he has done, that's refreshingly different from Fleming, is make 007 interact more with the real world.

Many of the original novels were set in the 60s, though you'd hardly suspect that was the case.

However, Faulks places the character rmly in the swinging decade of Beatles and beat poets.

Which means Bond doesn't just have to battle the deadly Gorner.

He must also come to terms with long-haired, smelly peaceniks.

Devil May Care is devilishly good fun and a great return for Britain's toughest tuxedo-wearer.

This dynamic, colourful novel is bound to leave you shaken and stirred.

Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks is published by Penguin, pounds 18.99.

CAPTION(S):

PREMIUM BOND: below, author Sebastian Faulks and the man he's seeking to emulate, Ian Fleming
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 8, 2008
Words:663
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