In part one of an MI6 exclusive interview,
author Charlie Higson discusses the themes to his
final Young Bond novel By Royal Command...
By Royal Command: In Conversation
With Charlie Higson (1)
28th May 2009
Exclusive: Shortly before By
Royal Command hit shelves in the UK late last year, MI6
caught up with
Charlie Higson to talk about his final Young Bond book. Speaking
for the fifth time to MI6 about the series, Charlie Higson
themes and background to the book in part one of this
serialized MI6 interview.
In previous interviews we've talked
about the echoes of Fleming's novels as the Young Bond
books have progressed. Would it be fair to say that this
fifth one is influenced by Fleming's fifth (FRWL) as
well as OHMSS?
Yes, I suppose the similarity with "From
Russia With Love" is that this book is a bit more
serious to the ones that have come before, and Fleming
felt that it was his best written book up to that point.
I think he put a lot in to that, not that he didn't put
a lot in to the other books. The other element is the question
of 'who do you trust'? "By Royal Command" certainly
takes Bond in to the world of espionage. The parallels
are fairly subtle this time.
But a bit like Fleming did with "From Russia With
Love", you are leaving your readership wanting more!
I hope so! I don't want to leave them
wanted less! [Laughs] I think when Fleming wrote "From
Russia With Love" he
was slightly frustrated. Although he was successful in
England he hadn't managed to crack America yet. He was
finding it tough going and he was thinking that he might
not do any more. My position is that I would very much
like to do some more, but if that were to happen there
would be a very definite break after this one.
Above: First edition
Hardback (Amazon UK)
Paperback (Amazon UK)
Did you get to visit locations in Austria before
writing the book?
I did, yes. Kitzbuhel was a very important place
in Fleming's life. As a young man, after he'd left Sandhurst,
he went to Kitzbuhel
- in the modern parlance - to get his head together. He went
to a very interesting sort-of school over there, which was also
a bit of a 'life camp'. He met some very interesting people including
a couple who had been spies or possibly still were. He learned
to ski there and fell in love with the area, the mountains. That
was always a hugely important part of Bond's story and the Bond
books. The films have used countless ski scenes too. So, I knew
I had to do something with the Alps and Kitzbuhel seemed to be
the obvious place to set the book.
I managed to take the family out there on a
skiing holiday. I'd been skiing a couple of times before as a
kid but had completely forgotten everything, so I started again
as a novice. So I learned to ski on the same mountain that I
have James Bond learn to ski. It was rather nice!
Obviously a lot has changed since the 1930s
in terms of the equipment..
Yes, learning to ski back then was incredibly
difficult. The skis were typically taller than you were, and
they were heavy
and rigid pieces of wood. You had to learn very special techniques
for cornering. Modern skis with their curved edges are a lot
easier to manoeuvre and are much more lightweight. Also back
then, they had yet to invent ski lifts, so there cable cars to
take you to the top of the mountain and that was it. There were
no drag lifts or chair lifts. It was an incredibly rugged and
tiring sport to do. But people loved it then as much as they
The cast and crew of "Quantum
of Solace" commented
how nobody knows for sure who the villains are today - would
that also be a good description of the backdrop to "By
I think so yes, very much so. That's a reflection
of the time in the 1930's in that people were scared of Communist
and what they might be up to. The ruling classes, the Royal family,
the rich industrialists and land owners were terrified of Communism
and that Britain might fall to Communism, and Hitler put himself
forward as the best hope saying he would stamp out Communism.
There was huge support for Hitler at that time with the rich,
whereas the lower classes were starting to think that maybe they
needed Communism. So there was this period in the lead up to
WWII where nobody really knew. And then Hitler put himself forward
as the villain. But in retrospect, when you look back at what
Stalin was up to in Russia, he was insane and killed as many,
if not more, people. But at the time he became our ally and we
turned a blind eye to that.
Certainly in the 1930's it would
be hard to say who the enemy was. A lot of people were arguing
for change in Britain whilst others were trying to cling on
to what we had. That's the position that poor Young Bond is thrown
in to. Who does he trust? And does he even trust his own government?
Royal Command is released in paperback in the UK today.
Stay tuned to MI6
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.