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
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.
UK - Hardback
USA - Hardback
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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