LONDON, England (AP) -- A catsuited model in stiletto heels strode the deck of a British warship with Royal Navy helicopters roaring overhead. It was not a bout of naval hijinks, but the year's most-hyped literary event -- the publication of a new adventure for super-spy James Bond. The larger-than-life launch Tuesday of the novel "Devil May Care" proves that 100 years after the birth of 007 creator Ian Fleming, the Bond brand is stronger than ever.
A large crowd of journalists and onlookers gathered to watch model Tuuli Shipster, whose silhouette adorns the cover of the book's British edition, bring the first published copies up the River Thames in a military speedboat before unpacking them aboard HMS Exeter, a destroyer moored near Tower Bridge.
"I can remember Uncle Ian's books being delivered wrapped in brown paper and string by a postman on a bicycle," niece Lucy Fleming said as she stood on the destroyer's gunmetal-gray deck. "The Royal Navy has upped the ante a little."
Britain's military appears happy to play up its ties to the fictional spy, who held the rank of Royal Navy commander before going to work for MI6. The navy loaned the Exeter and its 250-strong crew for an elaborate photo opportunity for "Devil May Care," written by Sebastian Faulks and published to mark Fleming's 100th birthday on Wednesday.
The choice of Faulks -- a respected literary novelist whose books include the World War I novel "Birdsong" and the French Resistance saga "Charlotte Gray" -- has brought the book serious literary attention, while the promise of sex, spying and exotic locales should help it become a best-seller. The hardcover print run in Britain and the United States is reported to be 400,000 copies.
Fleming, a journalist and wartime intelligence officer who died in 1964, wrote 14 James Bond books. Other writers, including Kingsley Amis and John Gardner, continued the series into the 21st century, with mixed results. But Faulks' license to thrill, which coincides with actor Daniel Craig's reinvigoration of the Bond film franchise, has generated a renewed sense of excitement.
"We didn't want a thriller writer," said Lucy Fleming, part of a family group that controls the author's estate. "We wanted someone who would read Ian's books and see how he did it." Faulks, she said, "has thought himself into Ian's mind."
Faulks said he even adopted Fleming's writing pace, churning out 2,000 words a day for six weeks. He says the resulting novel is about 80 percent Fleming in style.
The book's publishers -- Penguin in Britain, Doubleday in the United States -- are keeping its contents under wraps until it hits stores Wednesday. This much is known: the book has a 1960s Cold War setting; there are locations in Paris, Rome and the Middle East; there is torture and there is romance.
Bond aficionados were optimistic the result would be classic 007.
"Sebastian Faulks is the Daniel Craig of Bond authors," said Ajay Chowdhury, editor of the Bond fan magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. "It's about quality."
Chowdhury was pleased to see a renewed focus on the books, which he said "show a deeper side of Bond."
"The Bond films are high school; the Bond books are university," he said.
This is a big year for Bond. In addition to the Fleming centenary, the latest 007 movie, "Quantum of Solace," is due for release in the fall.
Neither Faulks nor Fleming would speculate on whether "Devil May Care" would itself be filmed.
Faulks said, however, he would not be writing another Bond book.
"One tribute, one centenary, one book," he said.
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