MI6 caught up with author talk Mitch Silver about his book "In Secret Service", Ian Fleming, and the world of spies

Interview - Mitch Silver
29th August 2007

In Mitch Silver's debut novel "In Secret Service", Ian Fleming's real world of spies, love, passion, and danger is brought to life when a young woman inherits Fleming's long-hidden account of spying during World War II and must finish it to find out why people are trying to kill her. MI6 caught up with the author talk about his book, Ian Fleming, and the world of spies...

How did the concept of the book come about?

I was thinking about the “cover stories” people in the news are constantly feeding the public these days. What if it really isn’t such a modern phenomenon? If Edward VIII didn’t simply abdicate for “the woman I love” — but was pushed from the throne — who might have done the pushing? These days, it would turn out that his greatest public supporter would be the one greasing the skids. At the time that was Winston Churchill. That got me started on In Secret Service.

It seems quite a dramatic career change from a leading advertising executive to novelist, have you always had a passion for writing?

Of course, my job was really advertising writer, so it isn’t that much of a leap. Jim Patterson started that way…in fact we worked together at J. Walter Thompson in New York…as have several other best-selling authors. The problem, of course, is going from short form to long. Yes, I’ve always liked to write: short stories, poems, song lyrics, criticism...

The structure of the book is unusual; how did you conceive the individual pieces of evidences? When weaving it altogether did you have a clear idea of how everything would fit?

Right from the beginning I thought that the reader should be able to have access to the same “dossier” that my protagonist, Amy, is reading. To look over her shoulder, as it were.

An early title for the book, which my publisher assured me was a non-starter, was the name I gave to the dossier: Provenance. I thought of the historical portion of the book as a kind of prosecutor’s brief, presented for posterity by Ian Fleming. I have no clear idea even now how it all fits together.


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The book is littered with real life personalities how did you research there characters? Did you find it easier to create your original characters or the real world people? Did you base your characters on anybody?

The internet makes research easier in two ways, at least: one, you can follow any line of inquiry from link to link and go as deeply into a subject as you want: how to remotely control the car someone else is driving (see my prologue on Diana’s death); what precisely was Rudolf Hess’ flight plan; where did Ian Fleming attend school, that sort of thing. Two, access to used books from overseas is infinitely easier on the web. So I bought about a dozen books on the royal family, the Duke and Duchess, Fleming, Hess, Anthony Blunt — many of the characters running around loose in my book. Quite honestly, these historical figures remain in our collective memory because they were such distinct personalities. I merely had to extrapolate from what we knew of them already.

Above: Author Mitch Silver


The tricky part was not writing the Ian Fleming part the way Fleming wrote his Bond books. This isn’t a “follow on” James Bond adventure…as much fun as those may be…but an imagined ‘real life’ history that Fleming is narrating.

How long did it take to write the novel from conception to final manuscript? What was the most valuable resource you had during the research period?

I had the idea about four years ago, so it took more than two years from start of writing to galleys. You know how helpful the worldwide web was to me; Simon & Schuster’s people were great once we were collecting and creating the documents. The greatest difficulty was easily writing the modern part of the book from a woman’s point of view. My wife Ellen and several early female readers let me know how much I had to learn. Fortunately, my editor, Trish Todd, has the requisite hormones.

Have you read any of the Young Bond novels?

I have Blood Fever on my nightstand now. For a young reader, I think it’s terrific in the vein of Spielberg’s Young Sherlock Holmes or even Young Indiana Jones. Grownups will still gravitate to Fleming’s more accomplished (all right, suave) hero and the the writer’s unique cocktail of intrigue, sex, women, cars, etc.

What is your favorite Bond adventure?

I’m old enough to remember John F. Kennedy listing From Russia with Love among his favorite books. That hooked me, and I guess first impressions are the strongest.

Silver is now working on "another historical mystery inside a contemporary thriller".

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