MI6 talked to Young James Bond author Charlie
Higson about how the character's obituary by Ian Fleming
will be explained in book five....
SilverFin: In Conversation With Charlie Higson
2nd January 2006
MI6 talked to Charlie Higson earlier in 2005 about his work
on the Young James Bond series. Speaking for the first time to
James Bond website, Charlie Higson discussed his work on SilverFin
and the future of the Young Bond series in this serialized MI6
How will you approach Fleming's back-story of Bond at Eton
and how he was expelled?
Well... there's the rub! The IFP presented me with the plan for
Eton to be the background for all the books. Two of the things
that attracted them to the Eton scenario was that a) it is quite
an extraordinary and exciting school, and b) that it's right next
to Windsor Castle. Without giving too much away, the Royal Family
will come in to it later on. But it does present the problem that
his obituary says that he was booted out after two terms.
The reason they wanted to keep Eton on was that they
felt kids liked books in a series to be along the same lines
- the adult books are along the same lines. We like the
fact that he goes in to see M, flirts with Moneypenny, receives
his mission… you don't want that changed.
So Eton acts like the Secret Service in a way, in that
it's always in the background for Bond, and it's a springboard
for things to happen.
But it does come back to that problem with the obituary...
So the first thing in my defence is that Fleming himself
was not consistent in his backstory or his detail, sometimes
because he didn't remember what he'd written in one book
to the next.
In the obituary, the implication is that the incident with
the maid was sexual; we are lead to presume they were having
sex. But in one of the short stories he does say that Bond
lost his virginity in Paris at the age of sixteen. So, okay
there may have been a sexual element perhaps, but it conflicts
with the other details.
Above: Hellbore's Castle from SilverFin
As for the fact that it happened after two terms... Well, my
main thing in my defence, and I think it's pretty cast iron, is
that the obituary was written by the head of the Secret Service
about a spy who was actually active around the world at that time.
Now what are the chances of the obituary being the full truth?
It's pretty slim, wouldn't you say? Which is one argument that
is doesn't fit with other things Fleming had written in previous
The fifth book involves elements of a fairly major nature. Basically,
it is decided that things need to be hushed up, kept out of the
way and swept under the carpet, official secrets, the government
and the establishment closing ranks and all that, trying not to
let out what has really happened, and that Bond is never allowed
to speak about it ever again. Which is why he never mentions it
when he's an adult! And so, they actively go about changing the
dates and circumstances. He does leave early. It does involve
an incident with the boys' maid. But so that the general public
and the newspapers can 't put two and two together, the exact
dates get altered and obscured, so that James's activities and
involvement never come to light.
I hope that people can have a sense of fun about it.
Above: Wilder Lawless
But there will always be a few people who take it
all too seriously...
Yes, I know, and until the fifth book is written this is
constantly going to come up. But as I said, Fleming changed
his facts as the books went on, so the Secret Service's
obituary is not going to be an exact account of his life.
I hope to have fun with the maid incident and show that
it was a lot bigger and more complex than what was presented
in the obituary, and that the obituary is a deliberate attempt
to cover the truth up. And I hope it will also help explain
some of his attitude towards women in later life.
So you're hoping to set up some of his character traits
Yes, as far as I can. I was keen in the first book that
he got cut down the face at one point, and I wanted that
to be the scar that he has in later life. But upon reading
the Fleming books more closely, it does imply that he didn't
get the scar until he was older. There's a bit where he's
looking in the mirror and he says that he as a younger boy
would not recognise the scar and the cold eyes and the cruel
mouth, so the implication is that he didn't get the scar
until later, so I had to hold off on that one. So my scar
heals! But it's a foreshadowing of what is to come.
Are you definitely confirmed for the third, fourth and fifth
books as there were reports you were only 100% for the first two?
Yes, well they are very happy with what I'm doing. If all goes
well and the books are successful and popular then I'll carry
on. But obviously, if things go wrong....
There's a parachute clause?
Yes [laughs]... I think there needs to be with anything like
this. Five books like this is a major undertaking. We all have
to see how it pans out. That said, the five books are planned
Would it be too far fetched to start thinking outside those
Ha ha, well, IFP have lots of plans for ways of doing other things
with the character. But those plans at the moment don't involve
Which is your favourite movie?
It's probably a coin toss between Dr No and You Only Live
Twice. Dr No because in the 60's when I was a kid films
were shown as double bills, so whenever they brought out
a new Bond film I got to see Dr No a few times more than
the others. Connery was physically at his best in it too.
In terms of what I enjoyed most when it came out, it would
be You Only Live Twice. It set so many of the classic Bond
What did you think of Die Another Day?
To be honest, I haven't seen it! I was up for going to see
it, but I got put off. I thought, I'm not going to enjoy
this - I can't go and see a film with an invisible car.
I'd seen clips of that bad computer generated water skiing
sequence, and I thought this was just going to spoil the
whole Bond thing for me. I will get around to watching it
though. But I didn't go to see it because I am a fan.
I thought, uh oh, this is another Moonraker. I think maybe
Eon Productions think they went a bit too far with it too
and are reconsidering what they get up to.
Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment.
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.