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New James Bond Book: Sneak Peek At William Boyd's 'Solo'

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SOLO
HarperCollins
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The following is an excerpt from the new James Bond book, "Solo." Author William Boyd is continuing where Ian Fleming left off. Here are the first 1000 words of the book:

James Bond was dreaming. Curiously, he knew at once where and when the dream was taking place – it was in the war and he was very young and was walking along a sunken country lane in Normandy, a dirt track between dense blackthorn hedges. In his dream, Bond turned a corner and saw, in a shallow ditch at the side of the muddy roadway, the sodden bodies of three dead British paratroopers, clumped together. In some shock, he paused instinctively to look at them – they seemed in their huddled inert mass to be part of the earth, in a strange way, some vegetable growth germinating there rather than human beings – but an angry shout from the rear told him to keep moving. Beyond the ditch a farmer strode behind his team of two toiling shire horses, busy ploughing his field as if the war were not taking place and that these dead men and this small patrol of commandos walking uneasily and watchfully down his farm lane had nothing at all to do with his life and work—

Bond woke and sat up in bed, troubled and disturbed by the dream and its intense vividness and eerie precision. His heart was beating palpably, as if he were still walking down that muddy track past the dead paratroopers, heading for his objective. He thought about the moment: he could identify it exactly – it had been the late morning of 7 June 1944, a day after the invasion of France – D-Day plus one. Why was he dreaming about the war? Bond rarely ventured into the haunted forest of memory that made up his recollections of that time. He ran his hands through his hair and swallowed, feeling his throat sore, sharp. Too much alcohol last night? He reached over for the glass of water on his bedside table and drank some mouthfuls. He lay back and further considered the events of 7 June 1944.

He smiled grimly to himself, slid out of bed and walked naked into the en suite bathroom. The Dorchester had the most powerful showers in London and as Bond stood under the needle jets, feeling his skin respond to the almost painful pressure, he sensed the traumatic memories of that day in 1944 begin to retreat slowly, washed away. He turned the tap to cold for the last twenty seconds of his shower and began to contemplate breakfast. Should he have it in his room or go downstairs? Downstairs, he thought, everything will be fresher.

Bond shaved and dressed in a dark blue worsted suit with a pale blue shirt and a black silk knitted tie. As he tightened the knot at his throat more details of his dream began to return to him, unbidden. He had been nineteen years old, a lieutenant in the Special Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, attached as an ‘observer’ to BRODFORCE, part of 30 Assault Unit, an elite commando charged specifically with the task of capturing enemy secrets: documents, files and encoding devices – all the legitimate plunder available in the aftermath of battle. Bond was in fact looking for a new variation of a Wehrmacht cipher machine, hoping that swift advance would create surprise and pre-empt destruction.

Various small units of 30 AU were landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day and immediately thereafter. BRODFORCE was the smallest of them, just ten commandos, with an officer, Major Niven Brodie – and Lieutenant Bond. They had stepped ashore from their landing craft an hour after dawn at Jig Sector on ‘Gold’ beach and had been driven inland in an army lorry towards the country town of Sainte-Sabine, close to the Chateau Malflacon, the SS headquarters of that region of Normandy. They left their lorry with a forward unit of Canadian infantry and advanced on foot, down the deep narrow lanes of the Normandy bocage, into the fastness of the countryside. The push inland from ‘Gold’ had been so speedy that there was no front line, as such. BRODFORCE was leapfrogging the British and Canadian forces and racing with all speed for whatever booty might be waiting for them in the Chateau Malflacon. Then they had seen the dead paratroopers and it had been Major Brodie himself who had shouted to Bond to keep moving . . .

Bond combed his hair, smoothing back the forelock that kept falling forward out of position, as if it had a life of its own. Maybe he should change his hairstyle, he wondered, idly, like that television-presenter fellow – what was his name? – and comb his hair forward in a short fringe, not bother with a parting at all, in the contemporary fashion. No, he thought, pas mon style. He swallowed again – his throat was sore. He left his room, locking the door behind him, and wandered down the corridor, heading for the lift. He pressed the button to summon it, thinking, yes, scrambled eggs and bacon, many cups of coffee, a cigarette, that would set him on his feet again—
The lift doors opened.

‘Good morning,’ a woman’s voice said from inside.

‘Morning,’ Bond replied automatically as he stepped into the lift. He recognised the unforgettable scent immediately – the vanilla and iris of Guerlain’s ‘Shalimar’ – unforgettable because it was the perfume his mother used to wear. It was like opening a door to his childhood – so much of his past crowding in on him today, Bond thought, looking over to meet the eyes of the woman leaning in the corner. She smiled at him, quizzically, an eyebrow raised.

‘Happy birthday?’ she asked.

‘How do you know it’s my birthday?’ Bond just managed to keep the surprise from his voice, he thought.

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