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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 March 2005, 10:12 GMT
The name's Bond - Junior Bond
By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

Last year, comic and author Charlie Higson was given a licence to write about the schoolboy adventures of the nation's most famous fictional spy. The first of his Young James Bond novels is published on Thursday.

Charlie Higson (copyright Rankin)
Higson has written four other thriller novels (photo by Rankin)

After 34 books, eight short stories and 22 movies, you would think that we would know all there is to know about secret agent James Bond.

But Charlie Higson - who plays Ralph and Swiss Toni on the BBC's Fast Show - knows different.

This mild-mannered father-of-three has been given a licence to write five new novels about 007's teenage exploits.

And on the evidence of Silverfin, the first instalment in Puffin's Young Bond series, Ian Fleming's legendary hero is in safe hands.

"Originally the Fleming estate wanted a different writer for each book in the series," reveals Higson. "But that seems to have changed because I'm doing the lot.

"I'd been wanting to write a children's book so my kids could read something I've written," he continues.

"So when I was approached I was naturally quite excited."


Higson is not the first writer to continue Bond's adventures in print.

After Fleming's death in 1964, further novels were penned by Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

Ian Fleming
Silverfin finds James Bond at Eton, Ian Fleming's own alma mater
But this is the first time readers will encounter 007 before he joined Her Majesty's Secret Service.

"He's not a spy, just an ordinary teenage boy," explains the author, who has written four other adult thrillers.

When we meet James Bond in Silverfin, he is a 13-year-old orphan newly arrived at Eton in the early 1930s.

He soon makes a mortal enemy in George Hellebore, the son of a wealthy arms dealer whose castle in Scotland hides sinister secrets.


Hints of the man Bond will become are present in his steely resolve, curiosity and fiercely competitive nature.

But Higson says he avoided including more obvious nods to Fleming's originals or the films they spawned.

Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse in The Fast Show
Higson played Ralph to Paul Whitehouse's Ted in The Fast Show
"I want to show how he becomes who he became, and where some of his attitudes come from," he says.

"But we didn't want to go as far as having him meet a teenage M or a bald bloke at school called Blofeld.

"The great thing about going back to the 30s is you can strip away all the clichés," he continues.

"It's good not to have to worry about ridiculous gadgets, for example."

There are elements, however, Higson did have to address - namely, the "sex, sadism and snobbery" memorably attributed to Fleming by the critic Paul Johnson.


"The sadism's fine because kids love nastiness, torture and death," laughs Higson.

"But sex is a tricky one. The books are written for 8 to 12-year-olds, and they don't want to read about someone going round kissing girls."

Charlie Higson as Swiss Toni
Car dealer Swiss Toni is one of Higson's most popular characters
Higson also admits he has toned down some of Fleming's more elitist opinions.

"A lot of his pronouncements about foreigners and whatnot are quite outrageous, so I didn't want to go down that route."

With a second novel already written and a third on the way, there is little room for comedy in Higson's busy schedule.

That said, he is discussing a new sketch programme and film project with Fast Show colleague Paul Whitehouse.

So - to borrow Swiss Toni's catchphrase - is writing a Bond novel like making love to a beautiful woman? Charlie isn't saying, though he admits one of Silverfin's saucier passages will be removed from the US edition.

"I think it's the bit where the girl clamps him between her strong thighs!" he says with a smirk that would make Swiss Toni proud.

Silverfin is published by Puffin on 3 March.

Bond to return - as a schoolboy
11 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Casino Royale is next Bond movie
04 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Bond manuscripts up for sale
24 Jul 03 |  Entertainment
Churchill's Bond book sold at auction
14 Oct 02 |  Entertainment


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