Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Diamond Is Forever - Carte Blanche and Jeffery Deaver

By a series of very fortunate events, last Friday we were proud to host one of only three public events in the UK to coincide with the launch of the new James Bond novel 'Carte Blanche', with the book's remarkable author Jeffery Deaver.
Having been fortunate to have had the opportunity of meeting Jeffery earlier in the year, and on discovering his passion for science (particularly in the field of forensics), a few light bulbs had been set off, and an intriguing germ of an idea for an event was born; one at the suitably Bond-esque setting of the Diamond Synchrotron, just down the A34 from Abingdon:
See what I mean?

So, on a busy bank holiday Friday evening, in blazing sunshine, and despite horrendous traffic, two Bentley Continental GTs rolled up outside Diamond House (that's the square building to the left of the main synchrotron, connected via umbilical chord). Deaver - a writer who long ago acknowledged a huge debt to Ian Fleming - has reunited Bond with Bentley in the new book, hence the suitably 007-branded ride:

Jeffery was whisked up to the boardroom for a presentation from several of the Diamond staff led by Dominic Semple, and then taken on a tour of the facility itself:

Jeffery was shown the science and engineering behind the facility, and its use in everything from materials research to drug design, via food manufacture, document preservation and the potential for forensic analysis.

Meanwhile, the Mostly Books team of staff and volunteers were setting up in the atrium in preparation for the main event.

Naturally, there were drinks on arrival, and - of course - there were cocktails. "Mary Goodnight Fizz" was the non-alcoholic option, but the main drink was a Vodka Martini. There may have been instructions on how it was to be prepared... 
As the guests started to arrive, it became clear that several had come from some distance: Surrey, Sussex, Manchester, Edinburgh, Tulsa OK and Las Vegas...
Guests also had a chance to to take a peak inside the synchrotron, thanks to the Diamond staff on hand giving sneak-peek tours. It's a breathtaking facility, hard to believe it's on our doorstep, with much of the research going on possible nowhere else in the world.

Jeffery had quite an entrance into the atrium, down the stairs from the main building:

There was still the link to be made in the introduction: was Bond still relevant, and why the link between research, technology and the cultural phenomenon that is Bond? Ian Fleming was one of the first to realise that conflict in the modern world would be fought - and won - by superior information, which meant superior technology. In 'Carte Blanche', Deaver brings Bond bang up-to-date, with iPhones and apps - but you can draw a line to this from Enigma in the Second World War. Laboratories are as much in the front line as soldiers when it comes to responding to the challenges of the modern world...

Far from being outdated, Bond is probably more relevant now than he ever was. Fleming created a hero whose characteristics - loyalty, duty, right action - can be applied anew in every age. (Deaver's book recognises this incidentally in the dedication to Fleming at the beginning: "To the man who taught us we could still believe in heroes").
Jeffery is a consumate speaker, and took the audience through the story of how he came to write Carte Blanche, how Fleming influenced him as a young reader, and how a 'Jeffery Deaver novel' comes to be written. (Gaskella has written a fabulous summary of his talk here).

We had questions - and then a signing afterwards. Jeffery seems to genuinely enjoy meeting readers, and I can see why his die-hard fans (or which several were in the audience) travel great distances to meet him.



As the evening drew to a close, Jeffery posed with two of the cocktail waiters:

 ...the adrenaline-drenched booksellers...
 ...and then those Bentleys whipped him away, bound for the Hay Festival the next day via an Oxfordshire Hotel.
There is a list as long as your arm to thank, but to Laura, Dominic and Patrick at Diamond - the venue performed superbly and all the staff were amazing. Mostly Books staff and helpers had a very late night, and were a stunningly dressed and hard-working team throughout. To all our guests who braved a drive out to the wilds of Oxfordshire on the cusp of a bank holiday weekend - I hope you had a very entertaining and memorable evening (and are now enjoying the book!). Thanks to Hodder in entrusting us with one of their most important authors and for giving us an amazing opportunity. And the redoubtable Katy, from Colman-Getty, now has a working knowledge of X-Ray defraction to go with her incredible skills in PR.

But mostly, our thanks must go to Jeffery Deaver himself, at the eye of the Bond-hurricane, on a strength-sapping launch schedule - all best wishes from everyone there on the evening, and good luck with the global tour...

3 comments:

  1. Oh, and a special thanks for Andy Ffrench at the Oxford Mail for the blog title...

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  2. Great post. Great title! It was a super event - well done to all of you.

    I've just realised too that I've been spelling Jeffery wrong - will correct that for my book review later this week I hope.

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  3. Glad you enjoyed it. And we might just have started a trend. The Brookhaven National Synchrotron Light Source in the US is hosting a crime writer event on June 9th: http://bit.ly/mvHz0U.

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