Friday, May 26, 2006


The news from Z at IFP headquarters in London was grim; Charlie Higson would not be making a stop in Los Angeles during his Blood Fever U.S. book tour. However, he would be appearing in Menlo Park, 25 miles from San Francisco and 400 from our front door. So what's a self-respecting Bond fanatic to do? Easy. Shirk all responsibilities and make a mid-week road trip North!

09:00 Hours: We packed a bag, filled a coffee thermos, bid a tortured goodbye to “Super Mega Kitty” (her first night “home alone”), and rolled out of the Hollywood Hills as the LA traffic was just breaking up for the day.

The drive along Hwy 101 north was spectacular; mostly coastline, farmland, and rolling hills which, at this time of year, are covered in wildflowers. Six hours later the GPS told us to exit and we found ourselves in Menlo Park. We surveilled the bookstore...yep, it was there...then found a room at the Red Cottage Inn. We choked down two nasty microwave burritos for strength, then settled down to lie in wait. It wouldn't be long now…

19:00: The first surprise of the evening greeted us on entering Keplers bookstore (a very nice independent bookstore located in the heart of Menlo Park). Even though the book isn’t due out until June 1, the store had a cart filled with copies of the U.S. edition of Blood Fever. In the internet age, I didn't think I’d ever again "discover" the new Bond novel inside a bookstore. It was old school, baby!

Of course, being a collector, this brought back an old crippling dilemma. I remember in 1986 trying to find an acceptably “Mint” copy of John Gardner’s Nobody Lives Forever. It took a dozen copies and two stores and I still look at that copy on my shelf with scorn. Happily, I'm more mature now—I have a girlfriend to do this for me! I told Athena to just grab me what looks like a nice copy, don't even let me have a choice. She did, saving me from myself. (Okay, maybe I did go back once or twice to check her work).

Almost all seats were filled and I was pleased to see a large turnout of children. Yes, the Young Bond series is clearly hitting its target audience beyond adult nerds like myself. Charlie appeared at 7:30 to applause.

Charlie started his talk by talking a poll, asking who was your favorite Bond. Athena and I tossed in our votes for good old Roger, while Charlie confessed to being Connery man. The author then explained how he came to write the Young Bond novels, making a joke about how he was called into a top secret boardroom with a large table filled with other writers—he pulled a lever and the other writers dropped through the floor.

Charlie then read from Bond’s obituary in Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, explaining how it was all he had to go on as far as Bond’s past. He also read a passage from SilverFin in which James first introduces himself a “Bond, James Bond.”

One interesting moment came when Charlie spoke about how the formal Eton school uniform harkened to Bond’s classic look. Without mentioning a tuxedo, he asked anyone to describe James Bond, “how he looks on a poster.” A young boy in the audience described Bond as being dressed in a dark jacket, white shirt...and open collar!

I leaned over and told Athena that the boy is describing the Die Another Day poster – but, also, in America, Bond has not been depicted on a poster in his full tuxedo since 1987s The Living Daylights. I wondered if Charlie would find it odd that during his U.S. tour children would not associate Bond and the tuxedo as strongly as would children in the UK. Happily, we have Bond back his full tux on the Casino Royale teaser, but I digress.

Charlie then opened up the floor to questions, and they came fast and furious. That same young boy who answered the tuxedo question clearly knew his Young Bond and asked if the SilverFin injection is what created the Bond we know today. This was actually something I wondered after first reading SilverFin, and something I asked Charlie in our 2005 interview. Charlie said he never intended that to be the case--the injection wears off (like steroids)--but he said people could think what they like. He then chuckled at the idea of James Bond being what he is today because he was “injected by some nut” when he was boy. (But I confess, I kind of like this idea.)

Charlie was forthcoming with Book 3 information, although with Blood Fever being “new” to this U.S. audience, there were less questions about what’s coming next. He said they’ve yet to decide on a title, but confirmed the London location and the fact that it deals with early computers. He seemed especially excited about this next novel because of the London setting. He lives in London and described himself as a real London buff (although I don’t think he used that word). As with John Gardner’s Icebreaker, it seems Charlie is merging his own passions with the Bond universe for his third novel, and this usually results in an author’s best work.

Charlie also revealed some yet unpublished Book 3 info--that the villain would be using a special weapon called an Apache (a real weapon of the time). Charlie said it was as close to a “gadget” as the series has yet to see. He also said Book 4 was probably going be set in Mexico. The “probably” gave me pause -- we’ve all jumped on Mexico as the location of Book 4 after Charlie mentioned it at a recent London signing, but maybe nothing is certain until words are on the page? Book 4 has already gone through one location change (from The Alps).

Following the Q&A, the attendees lined up to have their books signed. Athena and I hung back until the end, and it was then I received my second surprise of the night.

As we stepped up and said our hellos, Charlie said, “I have something for you.” He then pulled out a copy of the Chinese SiverFin. This was an edition I had never seen and didn’t know existed! Charlie said it was the least he could do, seeing as we drove all that way. I gushed many thanks as Charlie signed our copies of Blood Fever. Athena and I then took a picture with him (Athena’s “ritual” – check her website for many pics of her with Bond celebrities).

We bid our final thanks and goodbyes and set out for a proper dinner at Palermo, a very nice Italian restaurant adjacent to the bookstore in the Menlo Center. All in all, a terrific event and a memorable evening.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spy Vs. Spy

Is this a historic moment?

Former James Bond continuation author Raymond Benson met current Young Bond author Charlie Higson in Naperville Illinois during Higson’s Blood Fever U.S. book tour on Monday.

Between 1997 and 2002, Raymond Benson penned six original Bond novels (Zero Minus Ten, The Facts of Death, High Time to Kill, Doubleshot, Never Dream of Dying, The Man With The Red Tattoo), three 007 short stories (Blast From The Past, Midsummer Night’s Doom, Live At Five) and three movie novelizations (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day).

Raymond went on to write (under the pen-name of David Michaels) two bestselling novels of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series. His most recent novel is the acclaimed Sweetie’s Diamonds.

To keep up with Raymond Benson’s latest work and appearances visit

Friday, May 19, 2006

CHARLIE HIGSON reveals Young Bond 3 working titles & details

In an exclusive Q&A with fans on, author Charlie Higson has provided loads of info on Young Bond Book 3, including working titles, plot details, locations, and his ambition to make this third Young Bond novel a “Da Vinci Code for kids.”

Here’s the scoop from the man himself:

“The third book in the series will be out in January 2007 (just realised there’s a 007 theme to the year! Hope that’s a good omen). The working title for the book is ‘Shoot The Moon,’ but as we never stuck with the working title on the first two books it’s unlikely we’ll end up calling it that. Another working title is ‘The Big Smoke’ (which is the nickname for London – where most of the book is set).

I wanted to send James to a big city, as the first two books had mostly taken place in the countryside. I chose London because I live in London, I know it well and I love it. There are some fascinating unknown corners, and I wanted to do a sort of Da Vinci Code about the city, in which James has to follow a series of cryptic clues, to find out what’s going on and save the day.

As usual the book didn't end up anything like I imagined it was going to be, but there is still more of a mystery/clue solving element to this book than the first two. It’s as different to Blood Fever as that book was to SilverFin.

The background of the story is that an Eton master (Alexis Fairburn) has been kidnapped. He manages to send a coded message explaining what’s happened to him, and it falls into our hero’s hands. James then has 5 days to find out what’s happened to him before time runs out.

As I say, the story takes place over the course of one week in December, just before Christmas. (Another working title is ‘Six Days In December’.)

The missing master is a crossword fan (so he is good at making up clues) and a mathematician and the story is also about an early attempt to build a computer.

There’s lots of action, several nasty deaths, a car chase, a couple of explosions, a set of evil villains, a beautiful girl, and a climax in the old London docklands (when it was still full of ships).”

Later in the Q&A, Charlie spoke at length about this climatic location...

“In the 1930s the London docks were the biggest and busiest in the world. Docklands was known as the City Of Ships. People used to say there were so many ships in the Thames you could walk across their decks from one side of the Thames to the other without getting your feet wet. Now the whole area has been developed into a modern city (it’s where Canary Wharf and the City Airport are). The area used to be the heart of the old East End - The working class, cockney part of London. It was a really fascinating place with some very colourful characters, and I thought it would be a great setting for the climax of book 3.

Other parts of London in the books are the amazing Highgate cemetery in North London, the Hunterian museum at the Royal College Of Surgeons and Regent’s Park (Bond fans will know the significance of the park).”

The author also related how he got the ideas for each Young Bond novel, including Book 3...

“As I say, my initial idea was to do a sort of Da Vinci Code for kids. I wanted to have James solving some weird clues to find out what was going on. But as Bond is an action hero rather than a Sherlock Holmes type, I have put in more action and less clues. But I do still think that kids like the idea of clues and codes and secrets so there is quite a lot of that stuff still in there. I also wanted to write about some of the lesser-known corners of London. I got some of this in, but, again, the adventure story took over - I didn't want it to be guidebook, after all. I wanted to write about computers and code-breaking, so this is at the heart of the book. Proper computers weren’t built until the Second World War, but people were thinking about them in the thirties. I also wanted to bring back a character from an earlier book.”

Finally, Charlie teased that we will see the first Bondian “gadgets” of the series...

“ book 3 there is an early computer, a pneumatic railway under London (driven by air pressure rather than electricity) and one of the villains has a combination weapon called an Apache – look it up on the internet and you’ll see what it is. Maybe one of you could e-mail in a picture if you find one.”

Fantastic stuff! And this is just a small sampling of what else is in this interview. To read the entire Q&A, head on over to and click on James’ trunk to enter the forums where the complete interview is posted.

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