When Ian Fleming died in 1964, fans of the world's most famous fictional spy at least had the consolation that James Bond had not gone with him: 007's story continued to be told by writers including Kingsley Amis as well as by Hollywood's film franchise, all determined to keep alive the suave, Martini-sipping secret agent.
Now, Bond's fortunes have veered in an unexpected direction, after the company that administers Fleming's literary estate announced that the American psychological thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, known for his graphic violence, twisted villains and popular quadriplegic detective hero, Lincoln Rhyme, is to pen the next instalment of the 007 series. It will be published in May next year.
Deaver's book will follow on from Sebastian Faulks's novel Devil May Care, written to mark Fleming's centenary in 2008, and set in the 1960s.
Deaver, whose bestselling works include The Bone Collector, is set to bring the spy's story up to the modern day.
However, Corinne Turner, the managing director of Ian Fleming Publications, was quick to point out that he would, as ever, be "timeless" and unaffected by old age.
Deaver said his novel, so far entitled Project X, will "occur over a short period of time and will find Bond in three or four exotic locations around the globe".
He has written 26 novels and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. When he won the Crime Writers' Association's Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2004, he spoke of Fleming's immense influence on his writing at the acceptance speech.
"My history with Bond goes back 50 years. I was about eight or nine when I picked up my first Bond novel. I was a bit precocious when it came to reading, but I have my parents to thank for that. They had a rule that I was not allowed to watch certain movies, but I could read anything that I could get my hands on."