|Charlie Higson with CBn's Athena Stamos|
I was on the scene last night when Young Bond author Charlie Higson appeared at Borders Books in Torrance, California to promote SilverFin. This was Higson’s fifth stop in his seven city U.S. book tour. Most of the attendees were a bit older than the Young Bond pre-teen target audience. “I’m glad to see so many kids here,” quipped Higson when he appeared at 7:00.
In person, Higson appears much younger than in his pictures. He is also quite soft-spoken and witty. Considering he is a major TV star in the UK, he’s surprisingly humble and self-effacing about himself and his work.
Higson started his talk by explaining how he got the job and his intention to create a good, rousing adventure novel and not a “boy spy” book. “This is not Cody Banks or Spy Kids,” he said.
He also talked about how Ian Fleming Publications (IFP) wanted to stay true to Fleming and initiate a whole new James Bond “line” with the new series. However, a problem arose in that Fleming fudged James Bond’s age throughout his books (and the films have fudged it even more). IFP and Higson made a decision to firmly plant Bond’s birth date in the year 1920, making him 13-years-old in SilverFin.
Higson then retrieved a copy of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice and read a section from James Bond’s official obituary — the only time Fleming wrote about Bond’s past in any real detail. He explained this is what he used as the basics for Bond’s background in SilverFin. But Higson cautions he will keep Bond at Eton for more than “two halves” as stated in the obit. He fears purists will “crucify” him for this (and he wasn’t kidding, he really is worried about fan reaction here). He said he will work it all out in Book 5 — but I say what I think Fleming would say on this matter, “Don’t worry about it.”
Higson then spoke about the real Eton of the 1930s and read the introductory paragraph in which we meet young James Bond. He noted afterwards how he thought a boy at Eton would introduce himself quite formally as “Bond, James Bond,” thereby forming a lifetime habit. (Quite clever, that.)
Higson then read from the chapter in which we meet the villain of the book, Lord Hellebore. He apologizing for making his villain an American, and for his own poor attempt at doing an American accent. “This will be my revenge for all those American actors who come over and try to do and English accents,” he said with a grin.
Far from being offended, the crowd seemed to enjoy being cast as the villain — which is always the best role anyway.
After the talk there was a lively Q&A session in which a few interesting new details about SilverFin and the Young Bond series emerged:
★ Higson will probably not be writing the Young Bond graphic novels himself, but he is a big fan of “comics” and hopes IFP will get a major graphic novelist for the new series (which Higson will oversee).
★ Higson was originally commissioned to write only one Young Bond book with the idea of there being a different writer for each of the five novels. But one by one the other writers “sort of fell away” and the full job was handed to Higson.
★ Higson completed the SilverFin manuscript well before IFP made the formal announcement of the Young Bond series. They wanted to see if the book worked before they committed to the concept.
★ Higson seemed excited about Book 2 and repeated what CBners already know about Sardinia, art theft, and bandits. But he added that he has a very Bond-like climax set in a cave “with lots of gunfire,” etc.
★ IFP planned to release Book 2 in Fall ‘05 in conjunction with the release of Casino Royale. But when the film was delayed a year, IFP decided they didn’t need to rush the release, hence the push back to Jan ‘06.
★ Higson said IFP has many exciting James Bond projects in the works with an announcement of something very cool coming soon. He mentioned a few of these projects, but then cautioned, “I don’t know what I can talk about and what I can’t.”
When the inevitable question about a Young Bond film arouse, Hisgon acknowledged that the question of James Bond films right is a complex one, but Eon doesn’t automatically own the film rights to the Young Bond series. Still, IFP wants to establish the books before they think about doing any Young Bond films.
(It should be noted that during the Q&A, CBn’s own Athena007’s cellphone rang out the James Bond theme, drawing a very amused reaction from Higson and the assembled crowd.)
After the Q&A, Mr. Higson signed copies of SilverFin and chatted one on one with all the attendees. He recalled doing his CBn Interview and said he thought it “helped.” He’s been pleased with fan reaction to his book.
As the crowd dispersed, Higson signed a stack of books for the store (yes, you can get a signed SilverFin from Borders Books in Torrance, folks).
Charlie Higson continues his book tour Thursday in New Jersey. The tour concludes Friday in Washington D.C.
All in all, it was a terrific time and a real treat to meet the man who now holds James Bond’s literary license to kill.