Thursday, December 29, 2011


Name Game

Charlie Higson's third Young Bond novel would be somewhat of an experiment. First off, the book would be confined in time and space, taking place entirely in London over the course of a few days in December. It would also play host to a bold promotional idea that would excite fans, challenge the publishers, and bring some criticism from the press.

Higson explained his approach to his third book in a Q&A with fans on the official Young Bond website. "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."

Technology would also play a major role in the book, as Higson continued, "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 [Red Kelly]. It’s as different to Blood Fever as that book was to SilverFin."

Higson's working title was Shoot The Moon. "That idea of shooting the moon, of risking everything in order to win everything, seemed to me to sum up James Bond's character," he explained in 2006. "He’s willing to take risks like that and go out on a limb. I thought the title Shoot the Moon was very appropriate, but it was felt that it sounds a little bit wet. There’s something about the 'moon' sound that's a bit soppy, so that was rejected. That means that we’re now stuck in the position where we don’t know what the book will be called."

Six Days in December (referencing the compressed time frame), and The Big Smoke (slang for London), were also rejected. It was then that Puffin came on the idea to open up the title selection to fans.

The idea was proposed by marketing officer, Justin Renard, who explains, "As I was developing plans to promote the yet untitled book, there was a lot of correspondence discussing what to name it. It occurred to me that since fans of Young Bond consider him just as much a British Icon as they do James Bond, that it would be an original ploy to give them the chance to decide instead of us. I think my exact words are why should it just be to us who decide. Bond belongs to everyone. And once I pitched that initial idea, more great ideas started rolling in and the rest just sort of fell into place."

The competition was announced on the official Young Bond website on October 3, 2006. Fans could vote online for one of three possible titles: Double or Die, N.E.M.I.S.I.S. or The Deadlock Cipher. To help them decide, the site included an extract from the book and a note from Charlie Higson about the three titles. The winning title and cover art would be kept secret until the day of publication. Even the proof edition was jacketed only as "Young Bond 3" (which now makes for a nice collectible). The challenge was keeping the winning title a secret.

"Well as a matter of fact, the entire campaign timing was a challenge," says Renard. "The book was scheduled for publication just after the winter holidays and normally in book publishing all the advanced information for books—their title, jacket, spec, etc—are not only released to the public months in advance of publication, but the books themselves are printed well in advance. In fact book jackets can be printed as many as 6 months before the book goes out. We couldn't afford to do that and pull off this campaign, so we decided to throw all the old rules out the window."

Penguin assembled a task force to oversee the entire operation to ensure that not a single book would appear in advance of publication. Confidentiality agreements had to be signed to keep the outsourced marketing materials and distribution under wraps. All delivery staff were sworn to secrecy, and the factory workers who would do the individual book wrapping had to sign non disclosure agreements.

Still, Renard says, "There were so many close calls."

To facilitate the printing process, three different covers were designed with the three titles, all featuring the same skull and cross bones image. At the moment the votes were tallied, Puffin would call up the printer and tell them which one to proceed with.

(Interestingly, German publisher Arena Verlag went ahead and selected their own title, GoldenBoy, and used cover art featuring poker chips, a motif that actually seemed to fit the book better than the UK's ultimate skull and crossbones cover.)

But not everyone was a fan of the poll idea. Under the headline "Poor Show Puffin", UK newspaper The Observer published a stuffy criticism, calling the idea "an unprecedented and quite shameful failure of imagination. [...] The whole exercise does make the Browser despair at the sort of creatives publishers employ these days."

Puffin's Rebecca McNally fired back in a letter to the editor: "The Browser somewhat missed the point of our nationwide vote to decide the title of Charlie Higson's third Young Bond book. This is an initiative designed to encourage young fans to interact very directly with their favorite book brand in ways that they are wholly accustomed to doing with brands outside the book world - text voting, e-flyers and on-line polls are very much part of our readers' lives, and a natural way for them to express their opinions, share ideas with friends and be active members of a community linked by shared interests. It also gives us as publishers of books for children a real opportunity to listen to their opinions." McNally concluded, "If the Browser really wants to be part of the decision, he could always vote."

The title reveal event was held at Waterstone’s Piccadilly on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, and was attended by the UK press and fans, including twelve year old Billy Jones from Manchester who earned the opportunity to be named in the book when he triumphed at the Young Bond Stunt Academy in January 2006 (a Blood Fever promotion). Incredibly, the entire first printing were sealed inside a protective Mylar bag to conceal the cover and winning title. Even Charlie Higson didn't know what the title would be, although he privately harbored a preference for The Deadlock Cipher. With cameras rolling and cameras ready, Higson pulled the book free – "It’s Double or Die!"

"I’m still slightly trying to work out why Double or Die is called Double or Die," Higson would later confess. "But if you ask a load of kids to give a title to a book that they’ve never read, what do you expect?"

Double or Die became the #1 Children's Bestseller for the week ending January 13, beating out Disney's juggernaut High School Musical Book. In-store promotions helped boost sales, with Waterstone’s exclusive "Decryption Competition" offering fans the chance to "Be Young Bond" for a day. This included a chartered flight in a helicopter over London, an original collector's copy of The Times newspaper from 1935, and dinner for four in a West End restaurant.

Double or Die delivered on Higson's promise to be different book than the first two, and Bond fans could not help but notice that he appeared to be echoing Ian Fleming's original James Bond novels, with Double or Die sharing characteristics of Fleming's own third book, Moonraker. "I’m not slavishly thinking 'Right, I’ve got to this in the next one and this in the next one'", Higson would later explain. "But it’s quite fun to go through that same process that he went through when he was reacting to readers' comments and what people like or disliked in the books."

Young Bond visits "Paradice"
With its London locations -- including Highgate Cemetery, the Royal College of Surgeons, and an illegal casino and prizefight den called "Paradice" (which would receive a mention in Sebastian Faulks' 2008 centenary Bond novel Devil May Care) -- Double or Die is the Young Bond novel that showcases its period setting the best. Higson peppers the book with delightful slang and idioms of the period. Long forgotten brand names are resurrected like product placement circa 1933. The book also doesn’t skimp on the gore, especially during the exciting climax on the London Docklands and inside an abandon pneumatic railway. The fact that the henchmen, Wolfgang, comes away from each encounter with young James missing another body part is grisly good Bondian fun.

But the biggest surprise in Double or Die comes at the very end when we get a postscript featuring the adult James Bond driving his Bentley and reflecting on his earliest encounter with code-breaking and computers.

"Well, I have to tell you I’m of two minds as to whether or not it was a good idea," Higson would say after publication. "I think it was quite fun to do. Unfortunately, some of the kids reading it think 'Oh, so he’s not going to be a kid anymore in the books. He's grown up now is he?' But as soon as they see the next one they’ll know that’s not true."

Double or Die U.S. edition again featured original Kev Walker cover art

It turns out the "next one" would come sooner than anyone expected. Released as a promotional tie-in with Double or Die was the now collectible The Young Bond Rough Guide to London. The clever guidebook tie-in featured locations from the book along with modern London tourist destinations. But it was an advert on page 63 that rang the dinner bell for Young Bond fans. It announced that the fourth Young Bond novel would be released in just eight months!

Continue to Part IV

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Here's wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Great news! Raymond Benson has revealed on his Facebook page that his classic James Bond reference book The James Bond Beside Companion will be republished in early January 2012. It will be released first as an eBook, followed by an audiobook and print edition a few weeks later. This is the updated 1988 edition that examines the Bond series up to The Living Daylights (in films) and Scorpius (in books). Cover art is below.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David Tennant chosen to read CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG FLIES AGAIN audiobook

PRESS RELEASE: The British actor David Tennant has been chosen by the family of Ian Fleming as the voice of fiction’s most famous flying car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. David has recorded the audiobook of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, which will be available to download in time for Christmas.

The original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s version, published in October by Macmillan Children’s Books, is the first official sequel to the original tale of a magical flying car.

Lucy Fleming, niece of Ian Flemings, says: "We are thrilled that David agreed to read the audiobook. He is such a talented actor and his voice brings Frank Cottrell Boyce’s story to life with a wry humour and great characterisation. Chitty could not have been in safer hands with him behind the wheel! We hope that this audio book will add some extra sparkle as families embark on their own magical adventure this Christmas."

The audio download will be accompanied by an interview between Lucy Fleming, and David Tennant. In the interview he said: "The idea of a flying car is hard to better. I think we would all love to have a car that would take off, escape the traffic, and fly you to any country in the world."

Also in the interview Lucy Fleming and David Tennant pick up on the James Bond connections cleverly woven in to the story by Frank Cottrell Boyce. However neither reveal where they can be found, with Lucy adding how much fun it is for people to find them themselves. When asked if he could sum up Chitty in three words, David said it was "very clever, slightly surreal and hugely readable."

The audiobook will be available from the online retailers Audible and iTunes just in time for Christmas as an exclusive download from 21 December 2011 priced £10.99.

Since the publication of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again readers of all ages have been entranced by the family story, filled with wonderful characters, terrifying villains and exotic far-flung lands.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


The good folks at MSE Books have sent over cover art for the special Carte Blanche "Red Edition" coming December 20.

Bound in red leather and limited to just 500 copies, the special edition will have a bullet embedded into the pages which will contain the limitation number. The price is £100 and is available for pre-order on

UPDATE: I've just received word that this edition is NOT signed as I originally reported. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Special CARTE BLANCHE "RED EDITION" coming Dec 20

Here's a nice little Christmas present!

The good folks at MSE Books in the UK (a great source for special editions and hard to find titles) have alerted me to an all-new special edition of Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche coming our way on December 20.

Known as the "Red Edition", it will be a hardcover bound in red leather with head and tail bands and a ribbion bookmarker. Limited to just 500 copies, it will have a bullet embedded into the pages which will contain the limitation number (now that's pretty cool).

The price is £100 and it is available for pre-order on Unfortunately, there are no photos available yet, but I'm hoping to get some soon.

UPDATE: Photo revealed! Very nice. This appears to be another version of the Bentley Special Edition in red, and at a much more affordable price.

UPDATE 2: I've just received word that this edition is NOT signed as I originally reported. Sorry about that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Final 2 JOHN GARDNER paperbacks appear on Amazon

Death is Forever ad from 1992 now has listings for The Man From Barbarossa and Death Is Forever, which means ALL the John Gardner James Bond novels are now available to pre-order as new paperbacks from Orion.

These last two holdouts show an August 2, 2012 release date. However, the release dates for the Gardner reprints has been fluid, so this might change. So far Orion has only revealed cover art for the first six books.

Watch out our special Gardner Renewed page for links and the latest release date information on all the Gardner-Bond reprints in the U.S. and UK.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Asa Butterfield would like to play YOUNG BOND

Asa Butterfield, the young star from Martin Scorsese's HUGO, was recently asked what his perfect role would be, and he reportedly replied: "Young Bond! Or some sort of sci-fi movie."

Now, the media took this to mean that he would like to play James Bond 007 in the future, but that isn't what he said. Sounds to me like he was referring specifically to Charlie Higson's Young Bond series. Heck, at his age, I expect he's had more experience with the Young Bond novels than the James Bond films.

I'm all for it! He's a great young actor and looks the part. Goodbye Daniel Craig. Let the Butterfield era begin!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Fever Pitch

With sales of the first Young Bond novel, SilverFin, hitting 125,000 in the UK and the book making the Top Ten Children’s Bestseller lists for 11 weeks, a second Young Bond novel was assured. The original plan was to have a different author pen each book, but once Charlie Higson delivered the manuscript for SilverFin, it was clear he was the man to write the entire series. "I was having too much fun to let anyone else have a go," says Higson.

The second Young Bond novel was originally scheduled to be released only six month after the first. In fact, an ad in the back of the first edition of SilverFin promises Book 2 in Fall ’05. This was mainly to take advantage of the release of the new James Bond film, Casino Royale. But when that film was delayed a year, Ian Fleming Publications decided they didn’t need to rush the release and pushed Young Bond 2 back to Jan ’06.

Charlie Higson's second Young Bond novel -- which had the working title Double M -- promised action in Sardinia with pirates, smuggling, a torture scene, and a major shootout climax inside a cave. "I wanted to set the second book somewhere reasonably exotic," Higson told the BBC. "James Bond is known for travelling to such places. But it had to be somewhere James could get to during the summer holidays. That’s why I chose the Mediterranean. I didn’t want to use somewhere overly familiar like Greece or Italy or Spain. People don’t know much about Sardinia. It’s an interesting island with a history of banditry. I’ve been there a few times and I really like it. I saw an artist’s impression of a cave there. Inside are the remains of a Neolithic village. I thought it would make a great villain’s lair."

On July 11, 2005 Puffin announced the official title of Book 2 on the Young Bond website: Blood Fever. This time a £120,000 marketing campaign would promote the book, including a television advertising campaign which Puffin noted was "a first for the literary James Bond." Francesca Dow, Managing Director of Puffin, said: "We are delighted with the success of SilverFin and anticipate a huge second bestseller in Blood Fever."

Dow had reason to be optimistic. It was clear to all who read the manuscript that with his second book Charlie Higson had written not just another fine Young Bond novel, but one the best James Bond continuation novels by any measure.

"I’d written most of Blood Fever—certainly the first or second draft—before SilverFin came out," Higson would later explain. "So it wasn’t influenced by the first book particularly. I just wanted to push it a bit more into the, kind of, Bond world."

For Higson, pushing it more into "Bond world" included introducing a gay member of James Bond's family with the characters of Uncle Victor and his partner Polyponi.

"It’s not anything that children would pick up on but that’s there for the adult readers," Higson explained in an interview. "They are obviously a gay couple, and why not? Ian Fleming’s best friend was Noel Coward and I think there’s a reference to him in the book. Ian Fleming moved in those circles and knew a lot of people like that. I was interested in that kind of upper class-gay-expats group that ended up in Tangiers a lot of them in North Africa and certainly around the Mediterranean. I quite liked that weird Bohemian slightly outside of society kind of setup. I didn’t want to labour the point though. Fleming was very open minded and as I say Noel Coward was one of his best friends, but he did have a few digs at homosexuals in his books which is perhaps slightly regrettable."

Blood Fever hit bookstores on January 5, 2006 and became the UK’s #1 bestselling children’s book for the week ending 14th January, knocking The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe off the top spot, and even bettering SilverFin which had only climbed as high as #8 on the same chart. The very effective UK cover art showed an extreme closeup of a mosquito drawing blood, continuing the "creepy critter" motif established with the eels of SilverFin.

Blood Fever would hold onto #1 for an amazing eleven weeks. A second edition was quickly released that boasted on its cover; "The Number One Young Bond Bestseller." In-store merchandise, such as a set of seven Young Bond collectors cards (from Waterstones) and a Young Bond pin (Ottakar’s), helped boost sales. Blood Fever was chosen by Nicolette Jones as the Sunday Times Children’s Book of the week. Once skeptical Bond fans praised the book as worthy of Fleming. Young Bond had arrived!

Blood Fever is a tougher, darker, much more violent book than SilverFin. The somewhat timid youngster of SilverFin has grown into a teenager with all the confidence, athletic skill, and luck of Ian Fleming's secret agent. He coolly defies the villain, finds kinship with bandits, and derives visceral excitement by diving off high cliffs and driving fast cars. When forced into a gladiatorial boxing match with a much larger boy, Bond relishes the opportunity to "get his fight on."

A highlight of Blood Fever was the promised torture scene, which involved James Bond being spiked to the ground and fed on by mosquitoes. Higson explained in detail how he came up with his torture scene in my second interview with him on

"Well, obviously I’ve got to come up with a torture which isn’t too horrible because then we wouldn’t be allowed to use it in the books if it’s too graphic. I can’t have him having his testicle crushed in a nutcracker and things like that. So the idea of doing it via third party, by a mosquito, works very well. But it’s mainly having spent many holidays as a kid in the Mediterranean. Certainly for an English person, where we don’t have mosquitoes, one of the vivid memories of going on holiday in the Mediterranean is being bitten to shreds by mosquitoes. So I thought that’s something that kids could relate too. Always in the books I’m trying to think of things where a kid could think, 'Yeah, I can imagine that. I can picture being in that situation.' The thought of being tied down in the middle of a mosquito swamp is pretty unbearable, I thought. So it had some resonance."

The Young Bond series was a hit in the UK, but U.S. sales were less robust, despite two book tours by Higson and superb reviews, including one by the New York Times praising Blood Fever as the "far better" than the new Alex Rider novel, Ark Angel.

As with SilverFin, Blood Fever was released in hardcover in the U.S. by Miramax/Hyperion. This time, however, they didn't stick with the UK cover motif (despite using it on the proof edition) and instead commissioned original artwork by Kev Walker that featured Bond on the bow of a ship. A gun in his hand, which can be seen on the prototype artwork (right), would not make the final cover.

One oddity is that both SilverFin and Blood Fever were edited in the U.S. In SilverFin several gruesome passages are changed – such as when the eel comes out of the dead Meatpacker’s mouth (it emerges from his shirt collar in the U.S. edition). Even Bond’s innocent wrestling match with Wilder is toned down, removing a reference to Wilder’s "muscular legs gripping him like steel." All references to Red Kelly drinking beer and smoking are omitted, which results in almost a full missing page.

While the edits in SilverFin are somewhat understandable (considering Disney was the publisher's parent company), the edits in Blood Fever are perplexing. A particularly disappointing change for Bond fans is the omission of a clever nod to Fleming in Chapter 17. The villain hosts a dinner party where among the attendees is "Armando Lippe from Lisbon" – whom Higson confirmed was intended to be the father of Thunderball villain Count Lippe. But the U.S. edition, for reasons unknown, omits the name Lippe from the paragraph. Instead, Ugo’s dinner guest is now "Count Armando from Lisbon."

But the real issue behind the U.S. slow start seemed to lie with Miramax Books, who did not put nearly the promotional support behind the series as did Puffin in the UK. The reason for this was Miramax was undergoing a management shake up with parent company Disney. Matters came to a head when Harvey Weinstein split off his Miramax film production and distribution from Disney, leaving parts of the company, including Miramax Books, behind. With the issue resolved, IFP negotiated a new deal under Disney-Hyperion, but this would mean the series in the U.S. would trail a year behind the UK, a situation that would be exasperated when Puffin decided to shoot for two Young Bond novels in 2007.

Continue to Part III

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