In part one of an MI6 exclusive interview, author Charlie Higson discusses writing the new Young Bond novel Hurricane Gold...

Hurricane Gold: In Conversation With Charlie Higson (2)
14th September 2007

Exclusive: MI6 caught up with Young James Bond author Charlie Higson to talk about his new "Hurricane Gold". Speaking for the fourth time to MI6 about the series, Charlie Higson talks about writing the latest adventure in part two of this serialized MI6 interview.

When writing, did you feel that a 14 year old could be as mature as Bond behaves in this book?

Well he's gone through a lot in his first year at Eton. He's faced up to a lot of stuff and he's learnt a lot. The other thing is that, because we don't see him at school, he's having to cope in the outside world from page one. And it's possibly that once he's out of school, he's not always going to be a schoolboy.

My intention through the books was always to start him as a fairly ordinary schoolboy with all the usual sorts of schoolboy thoughts and feelings, and to show over the course of the books the various terrible things that happen to him, and how he might end up as this kind of cold-blooded government assassin. When the first book came out some people grumbled 'oh, he's not properly James Bond', 'he's not this cool guy who knows everything'... That's what I wanted. By the end of book five - he will be more of that. But we will also see that, by becoming that person, he has lost quite a lot in terms of his innocence and humanity.


Above: Author Charlie Higson at the launch event at Waterstones in Piccadilly, London.

Book five is what really tests him to his limits, emotionally more than anything. He has had to deal with a lot of physical stuff in Hurricane Gold. Book five is about putting through the same kind of ringer but more of an emotional ordeal. I think it will be very clear by the end of the series where he has ended up.

In each of the books Bond learns some life skills. In this adventure he learns about explosives, jujitsu and you re-enforce his determination. What other skills do you feel the character has gained from this fourth adventure, and possibly in the fifth?

Well the next one... Because the Alpine location is moved in to book five, it will have a lot about learning to ski, mountaineering and stuff. It will also be a lot more about espionage and undercover training. Not "officially", but that's what will be happening to him.

For Hurricane Gold, I put the jujitsu in there because Fleming put it in Bond's obituary - in You Only Live Twice - that he did some jujitsu when he moved from Eton to Fettes. So this is showing some steps in the direction of those lessons. Fleming was always putting in his books stuff that he was interested in, whether it was playing golf or playing cards...

Was there anything you personally find interesting that you fancy throwing in?

Well, I'm not much of a James Bond figure! [laughs] I don't have much to offer... I don't think skills like writing on a computer are going to be very valid... But really, a lot of this stuff has been interesting for me, like the learning to drive a car in SilverFin. Whilst I knew all that stuff and had done it at school, it was very interesting to go back and really break it down and fully understand how a car works. So, I've been discovering the stuff alongside Bond.

Were there any major changes during the editing process this time around?

Once I got to editing, no... For this one, it was during the time I was writing the first draft that things changed a lot. Mrs Glass started out as Mr Glass... I was about half way through the book when I decided it would be interesting to make him a woman. I tend to start knowing where I want to end up, and some of the characters and incidents, and kind of like seeing where it goes. I do change it around alot as I write it. But having finished the first draft, there were probably less changes to this book than the previous ones because the plot is a simpler and straight-forward... being a basic cross-country chase.

Did you ever have the fictional island as somewhere real, or was that always the intention?

Well it was based on - as I say in the introduction to the book - the idea of a secret hangout where rich criminals on the run could go and hideout and retire forever. That was another reason it was set around Mexico. It was taken from a book called The Getaway by Jim Thompson.


Above: Models promote the new book on launch day by standing around reading... in gold.

In his book, the location is somewhere in the mountains in Mexico, but I didn't want to completely rip him off! [laughs]... and I liked the idea of an island in the Caribbean because of the Fleming echoes. It had to be an imaginary island because I had to create a whole history for it, and reasons for why this island could exist. But, it's nice to mix it in with historical research so there are enough elements of reality that people could think it's a real place.

Were there any sequences that you had originally planned for the book that didn't make it?

Well, the majority of what I had originally for book four got shifted in to book five. I realised that the plots I I had first planned for books four and five were slightly thin and I weren't entire books in themselves, but by putting them together it would make a very interesting story. So, pretty much everything I had for book four has gone in to book five now, which left me with a completely 'free' book. I thought I'd just have fun with this one and do something completely different.

What do you think the readership's reaction will be to the villain surviving at the end of the book?

I think it's very clear that Bond has won, he's beaten everyone, and he's escaped. By that point, we're focusing on him escaping the rat run and escaping Lagrimas Negras, and we've seen the fate that is awaiting Mrs Glass. But yes, it's not a completely 'Hollywood' ending in that we don't see her, like, eaten by sharks or something... But I think we've had enough deaths in the rest of her gang, and the final humiliation of exposing her is - I think - Bond's final victory.

My only reaction so far is reading it to my kids, and they haven't complained or said 'let him go back and shoot her' [laughs]... It is slightly tricky because I can't have Bond actually kill anyone. He can't be fully instrumental in wiping someone out, although he does come close to it with Strabo in the book. I thought it was quite satisfying that she's left as this lonely figure in the tower at the end. But, there's only so many ways you can have your villains hoisted by their own petard...

Above: First edition UK hardback

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Yes, the film "Licence To Kill" hangs itself on that same premise which is he can't directly kill anyone, so he's comes up with great conspiracies to bump off everyone without doing it himself until the very end. Was that a policy given to you, or was it a rule you created for yourself when you started out on this series?

Well there were two reasons... One is the fact presented by Fleming, that he makes very clear, is that Bond does his first killing to get his double-o status when he was in the secret service during the war. So, I couldn't have him kill anyone as that would go against the facts as given by Fleming. And secondly, he is a 13/14 year-old boy in books for children and I couldn't have him running around shooting people.

In the second book, Blood Fever, I had the character Zoltan, a pirate who switches allegiances to Bond. So he can go about killing people, which puts Bond in that slightly more dangerous company and less of a goody-two-shoes character.

It's about getting him in to that world as much as possible without him running around with a machine gun mowing down loads of baddies in colour-coded jumpsuits.

Hurricane Gold was released on Thursday 6th September 2007 in the UK. Stay tuned to MI6 for more of this exclusive interview.

Many thanks to Charlie Higson.

Young Bond Novels
Blood Fever
Double Or Die
Hurricane Gold
By Royal Command
Shoot To Kill

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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