In part two of an MI6 exclusive interview,
author Charlie Higson discusses researching "Double
Or Die" and the Young Bond homages to Fleming...
Double Or Die: In Conversation With Charlie
10th January 2007
Exclusive: MI6 caught up with Young James Bond
author Charlie Higson to talk about his third
Young Bond novel "Double Or Die".
Speaking for the first time to a 007 website about the new book,
Charlie Higson talks about his research for Young
Bond 3 and
the various homages to the Bond canon in
part two of this serialized MI6 interview.
There seems to be less gore in “Double Or Die” compared
to the previous two, was this a deliberate toning down?
I wouldn’t say there is much of
an absence of gore, one guy gets reduced to nothing, and
he gets cut in half
at one point and loses his fingers. So yes there is a bit
of gore, but it’s not in the nature of the story,
as there are no big battles unlike "Blood
was no feeling of wanting to tone anything down.
When Gordious visits Eton to speak to the boys, what was
your inspiration for that character?
The character of Charnage….Well I really wanted
to write about that kind of upper class, wasteful, falling
apart, drink and drug taking character. There were a lot
of them around in the 30’s. I tend not to base the
characters on real people. More on ideas of characters
I would like to write about.
In “Double Or Die” Bond walks around a cemetery
and see ‘ghouls’ and ‘spectres’,
and we also have a school boy with the second name ‘Oddcom’… are
these cheeky hints to the later books?
I had not spotted the Oddcom one, he’s
called “Oddcom” rather
than “Oddjob” and it actually mentions the
word "spectre"? I can’t remember if it
always trying to work in varies echoes and shadows and
spectres of what Fleming was doing. In those two cases
I think you may be reading to far into it, as is the want
of any fanatical James Bond fan! [Laughs]
Above: First edition Penguin UK paperback
Released: 4th January 2006
Publisher: Listening Library
Format: Audio CD
Released: July 10th 2006
Towards the end of book three we see a pneumatic railway
being used, obviously this has similarities to some passages
adventures – was it a deliberate attempt to foreshadow?
Fleming obviously loved railways, writing about
them and scenes set on them, like in "39 Steps" and "A
Lady Vanishes" and films like that. Even he admitted
it was out of date on a couple of occasions for Bond to be taking
train. There is no reason in "From
Russia With Love" why
Bond should be taking the Orient Express back from Istanbul,
when he was carry the top secret Lektor, it would have been much
easier for him to just get on a plane. He just wanted to write
a nice sequence on the Orient Express, so yes, in "SilverFin"
I made sure that there was a long sequence on a train as homage
to Fleming and more in keeping with the early 30’s.
The underground railway in “Double
Or Die” turned
up when I was doing a lot of research and reading about the hidden
corners of London. I found out about this pneumatic railway that
they had built under London to carry mail around which was never
really used, so there were all these disused tunnels. I just
thought that secret underground railways fitted in with the story
- and children love reading about that stuff.
There is a nod towards the Japanese underground
system in "You
Only Live Twice" when Bond has to travel on a special
tunnel to reach the Japanese Secret Service. So, yes, there are
of Fleming in there. But it was mainly when I was researching
about it, I thought it would be great in the book.
Above: Charlie Higson unveils
the title at the book launch event.
the research, what was it like for you on “Double
Or Die” compared to the previous two books?
I like writing about London, all four of my adult thrillers
were set in London. I live in London and love writing and
reading about London so I knew a lot of stuff.
But I read
a lot about the Dockland’s in the 1930’s and
that was probably the biggest part of the research - and
going to Highgate cemetery was a lot of fun. With this
book I didn’t have to go away and do a lot of complicated
foreign research, I could write about want I knew.
In all of them there is a level of research because you
are talking about the 1930’s where things were obviously
I had a great day out down at the Royal College
of Surgeons. A guy showed me around the museum and told
me some of the history and sent me a lot of stuff. I
enjoyed working on that kind of stuff.
Did you feel a little queasy?
It’s a fairly gruesome place! The guy there said that
while they encourage visitors they don’t overly publicise
it. Some of the stuff they have there is quite extreme and they
don’t want to encourage hundreds of kids to turn up and
run screaming from the place. It’s a fascinating place
and well worth a visit if you can stomach it!
What are you most proud of about “Double Or
I was quite pleased in the end that I was able to get
all the clues working. It was the hardest thing getting
them to work. They had to be things that could not necessarily
be solved straight off the bat, but once they were solved
they could understand the process, but be a code complex
enough that no one else had seen through. The hardest work
on the book was getting this right and I worked through
loads and loads different clues and different levels of
clues and levels of difficulty and tying them together.
I’m proudest of eventually getting it all to workout
and kids did find it intriguing rather than confusing.
Were there any issues with translating the cryptic
puzzles and clues in the plot to foreign language editions?
Were any changes needed?
Once I’d finished it I realised that I’d written
a completely untranslatable book, because all the clues
are based on word games. It’s a challenge to the
different translators to come up with clues that work for
the different territories. Translators like a bit of stuff
like that it gives them input into the book. I was expecting
a lot of them to say “I can’t do this”,
but a lot of them said “this is great and I’m
really looking forward to and how I’m going to get
the clues to work”!
Above: The young James Bond in SilverFin
by artist Kev Walker
Will there be any changes for the US edition of the third novel?
There are always some minor changes such as minor vocabulary,
which are going to be incomprehensible. What was interesting
from the first book “SilverFin” to the second book “Blood
Fever” was they realised they had probably changed too
much and been over cautious. By toning down a lot of the violence
in “SilverFin” the feedback we were getting was we
want Bond to be quite meaty. By the second book “Blood
Fever” there were very few changes and they were mostly
changing the odd word here and there. I would hope we wouldn’t
change too much for “Double
Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment.
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.