Arise King Charlie
22nd May 2023
Ajay Chowdhury reports from the book launch of 'On His Majesty's Secret Service'
“When time is running out and hope seems futile and the odds are stacked against you and the challenge seems insurmountable, there’s only man you can look to. That man is, of course, Charlie Higson!”
Thus spoke Corinne Turner, the managing director of Ian Fleming Publications (IFPL) the custodians of Ian Fleming’s literary copyright, as she introduced Charlie Higson at the celebration party for his new, adult Bond novel, 'On His Majesty’s Secret Service.' The event took place on 9th May 2023 at Goldsboro Books, the quaint bookshop nestled in Cecil Court in the heart of London. The book had been successfully published by IFPL on 4th May 2023 and the event which inspired it, the coronation of King Charles III occurred on 6th May. Both had gone without a hitch.
Turner explained that the board of IFPL had conceived of the initial idea on 7th February of the same year. On deciding who would write the tome, she amusingly recalled the SMERSH meeting in 'From Russia With Love' where they decide who the organisation should target. Quoting from the book, Turner intoned in a mock Russian accent, “There is a man called Bond.”
The story was initially meant to be only 12,000 words but, inspired by the Zeitgeist, Higson delivered a 42,000 novella. The quick turnaround was only possible now that IFPL publish its own works. They assembled a crack team of agents, copy editors, designers, publicity, printers, distributors, and retailers to deliver. All were motivated by the fact that all royalties would go to support the work of the UK charity, the National Literacy Trust, which provide children with literacy skills.
Charlie Higson accepted a gift from IFPL as the crowd was invited to raise a glass in a toast to the author. The veteran comedy writer then made a short speech of gratitude. He paid tribute to Fleming’s simple structure having re-read all the short stories thinking that was what he was going to do. He had just enjoyed a trip to Budapest, and the city became the book’s location. Higson was also in the process of preparing a podcast on the British Monarchy, ‘Willy, Willy, Harry, Stee..’ and that gave the book its theme of succession. As the creator of the ingenious, period-set Young Bond series, Higson had long wanted to tackle an adult Bond. However, he wanted the book to also say something about our times and the book contains a degree of social commentary. Higson, a talented TV comedian, also completed reading the audio book in one day. Calling back to Corinne Turner’s Russian accent, Higson was challenged by his own writing, narrating characters with South African, Icelandic, and Scottish accents. He was pleased to be supporting the National Literary Trust, with whom he’d worked before, and was grateful they did not baulk at the plot concerning regicide.
The gathering was intimate with Goldsboro being dressed with copies of their own, numbered, signed copies. Corinne Turner, the Barbara Broccoli of the books, was joined by her rather relieved IFPL team. Also present was cover designer Stephen Aspinall, Jon Gilbert of Adrian Harrington Rare Books and author of Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Meg Simmons, the archivist at EON Productions, Simon Gardner, son of Bond Continuation author, John, Tim Glister, writer of the Richard Knox thrillers, Ayo Onatade, Shotsmag.co.uk crime writing blogger, Mike Stotter of Crimespree Magazine and Ian Hislop, of Private Eye magazine and TV’s Have I Got News For You.
That day it was announced that 'On His Majesty’s Secret Service' would be reprinted due to the first editions selling out in days. The book then made it to The Sunday Times bestsellers list, a coronation of sorts for James Bond’s own King Charlie.