In part two of an MI6 exclusive interview, author Charlie Higson discusses the villains and violence in his final Young Bond novel By Royal Command...

By Royal Command: In Conversation With Charlie Higson (2)
7th September 2009

Exclusive: Shortly before By Royal Command hit shelves in the UK late last year, MI6 caught up with author Charlie Higson to talk about his final Young Bond book. Speaking for the fifth time to MI6 about the series, Charlie Higson talks about the villains and violence ion the fifth book and across the series in part two of this serialized MI6 interview.

How do you think the young German and Russian audiences will take to the characters in the book?
Well, it's interesting... I think most of it is far enough removed from reality, but I don't know if I'll have problems in Germany with the Hitler Youth being in the book. What I've written about them is factually accurate, and it's pretty clear that Bond would rather not be fighting any of these people.

At the beginning James says to one of these guys, 'I don't want anything to do with this shit', and I think ordinary people all over thought the same thing. They'd rather get on with their lives, and that's a little of what the book is about - can you just leave us alone? Ordinary people just want to go to school, get a job and have a reasonable life.

You leave a nice loose thread with the fate of Babushka - do you anticipate she'll return some day?
I think she's a good running character. Certainly, if I ever got as far as writing about World War II, I think it would be interesting to have Bond have to ally himself with some Russians.

That being said, she could easily go maverick.

 


Above: First edition UK paperback
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Right after the events of this book, the Russian Secret Service dissolved and were liquidated as they were seen to be failing and were replaced with a new organisation. So, I think the options are open. She could either become a rogue agent or Bond may have to team up with her against the Germans - if I get in to that period.

Is Bond's character at the end of this book where you expected him to be after your five book arc?
Yes, I think so. At the start of SilverFin, I wanted him to be a reasonably normal boy starting secondary school for the first day and to make him recognisable to kids reading the books so they could relate to him. Then, over the course of the five books, I wanted to show him growing up and becoming more cynical, more hardened and growing a shell around himself... slowly becoming the darker, more damaged character that he is as a man.

I wanted the character to be left at the end of By Royal Command such that people could see the connection between him and the James Bond of the Ian Fleming novels. There are still a few years to go, but I was pleased about how the book came out and I was glad I was able to work in the espionage angle.

So his level of cynicism rises steadily through the five books...
Very much so. He's seen what people are capable of doing to each other and how even good guys have to play dirty now and then. By the time he gets to 1953 in Casino Royale, he's committed to Britain and he's lost any sense of ambivalence about his loyalties. He does often question his methods, but he's pretty jingoistic in the Fleming books. In terms of how I've left my Bond, my justification for that is WWII and what he will go through during that time will cement his attitude that the British are the good guys, and the others are not.

 

Young Bond and guns... did that have anyone at IFP or Penguin nervous?
Whenever I did an event, there was usually some little boy who put his hand up and asks, 'when Bond is going to get his own gun and be allowed to shoot people?' And I'd have to explain that wasn't going to happen and I can't condone him running around shooting people at that age. In the course of By Royal Command he does use a gun, but he manages not to kill anyone as usual. He doesn't do that until WWII according to Fleming.

There has been a huge change in public attitude and publishers attitudes and librarians and school teachers too, from when I started writing these books and where we are now. There had been a very strong politically correct tradition of saying, 'we can't have violent books for boys, we should be teaching them sensitivities'. Although there are lots of great books out there for boys that don't involve people running around shooting each other, there was a definite gap in the market and one of the reasons why boys were reading less.

Anthony Horowitz spotted that gap with his Alex Rider books incredibly successfully, and since I have done the Young Bond series there are now loads of book in that mould. Surprise, surprise.. boys like reading these types of books! So the powers that be are now saying, 'if you get boys reading, fine...' But I do insist that my books are not completely gung-ho, and make sure that the violence is quite distressing. The popular characters that the readers care about do get killed. I hope then that kids realise that running around with guns is not all jolly larks.

I remember meetings I had on SilverFin with the publishers, that was run almost entirely by women, where they were worried about the level of violence and were questioning whether James had to do certain things. I said, 'look, this is James Bond. Even a 10 year-old kid has certain expectations of James Bond, and you have to give them that.' They have always been nervous that someone will pop up and say that they can't let kids read them, but it hasn't happened so everyone is a lot more relaxed about it now.

By Royal Command is available in hardback and paperback in the UK. Stay tuned to MI6 for more of this exclusive interview.

Many thanks to Charlie Higson.

Young Bond Novels
SilverFin
Blood Fever
Double Or Die
Hurricane Gold
By Royal Command

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Interviews
SilverFin : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06
Blood Fever : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04
Double Or Die : 01 - 02 - 03
Hurricane Gold : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05
By Royal Command : 01 - 02 - 03