LONDON (Reuters) - A warship moored in the Thames River, and Royal Marines mounted guard on Tuesday to mark the return to action of the world's most famous spy, James Bond, in a new novel.
"Devil May Care," published on Wednesday, is the latest adventure for the hard-drinking, womanizing action hero created by Ian Fleming and adored by millions worldwide through 14 books and a series of blockbuster films.
Penned by British novelist Sebastian Faulks at the request of Fleming's estate, the latest novel is set in 1967 and portrays the aging secret agent as vulnerable and damaged but with an undiminished sex drive.
Publication marks the centenary of Fleming's birth.
To honor Bond's code name 007, Faulks signed seven copies of the book, which were then taken under guard from HMS Exeter to a book store in central London ahead of publication.
Faulks is better known for his wartime novels such as "Charlotte Gray" and "Birdsong." He admits he was somewhat daunted when asked to write as Fleming, describing it as counter-casting.
But the idea grew on him and he warmed to the task, emulating Fleming's rigid work schedule and studying his plot lines and prose for inspiration.
"In his house in Jamaica, Ian Fleming used to write a thousand words in the morning, then go snorkeling, have a cocktail, lunch on the terrace, more diving, another thousand words in late afternoon, then more Martinis and glamorous women," Faulks said.
"In my house in London, I followed this routine exactly, apart from the cocktails, the lunch and the snorkeling."
He took up where Fleming left off in 1966 with "Octopussy and the Living Daylights," the last of 14 Bond books that have sold 100 million copies since.
Having chosen 1967 as the year the new adventure would unfold, the subject followed quickly -- drugs, a subject Fleming largely ignored.
The result is the eagerly awaited "Devil May Care," whose plot was kept secret but, Faulks stresses, still contains enough exotic settings and culinary indulgence to please devotees of the devil-may-care secret agent.
"I found writing this light-hearted book more thrilling than I had expected. I hope people will enjoy reading it and that Ian Fleming would consider it to be in the cavalier spirit of his own novels and therefore an acceptable addition to the line," Faulks said.