In part two of an MI6 exclusive interview,
author Charlie Higson discusses the villains and
violence in his final Young Bond novel By Royal
By Royal Command: In Conversation
With Charlie Higson (2)
7th September 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
villains and violence ion the fifth book and across the series
in part two of this serialized MI6 interview.
How do you think the young German and
Russian audiences will take to the characters in the book?
it's interesting... I think most of it is far enough removed
from reality, but I don't know if I'll have problems
in Germany with the Hitler Youth being in the book. What
I've written about them is factually accurate, and it's
pretty clear that Bond would rather not be fighting any
of these people.
At the beginning James says to one of
these guys, 'I don't want anything to do with this shit',
and I think ordinary people all over thought the same
thing. They'd rather get on with their lives, and that's
of what the book is about - can you just leave us alone?
Ordinary people just want to go to school, get a job
and have a reasonable life.
You leave a nice loose thread with the fate of Babushka
- do you anticipate she'll return some day?
I think she's
a good running character. Certainly, if I ever got as far
as writing about World War II, I think
it would be interesting to have Bond have to ally himself
with some Russians.
That being said, she could easily go maverick.
Above: First edition
Hardback (Amazon UK)
Paperback (Amazon UK)
Right after the events of this
book, the Russian Secret Service dissolved and were liquidated
as they were seen to be failing
and were replaced with a new organisation. So, I think the options
are open. She could either become a rogue agent or Bond may have
to team up with her against the Germans - if I get in to that
Is Bond's character at the end of this book
where you expected him to be after your five book arc?
Yes, I think
so. At the start of SilverFin, I wanted him to be a reasonably
normal boy starting secondary school for the
first day and to make him recognisable to kids reading the books
so they could relate to him. Then, over the course of the five
books, I wanted to show him growing up and becoming more cynical,
more hardened and growing a shell around himself... slowly becoming
the darker, more damaged character that he is as a man.
I wanted the character to be left at the end of By Royal Command
such that people could see the connection between him and the
James Bond of the Ian Fleming novels. There are still a few years
to go, but I was pleased about how the book came out and I was
glad I was able to work in the espionage angle.
So his level of cynicism rises steadily through the five books...
much so. He's seen what people are capable of doing to each other
and how even good guys have to play dirty now and
then. By the time he gets to 1953 in Casino Royale, he's committed
to Britain and he's lost any sense of ambivalence about his loyalties.
He does often question his methods, but he's pretty jingoistic
in the Fleming books. In terms of how I've left my Bond, my justification
for that is WWII and what he will go through during that time
will cement his attitude that the British are the good
guys, and the others are not.
Young Bond and guns... did that have anyone at IFP or
Whenever I did an event, there was usually
some little boy
who put his hand up and asks, 'when Bond is going to get
his own gun and be allowed to shoot people?' And I'd have
to explain that wasn't going to happen and I can't condone
him running around shooting people at that age. In the course
of By Royal Command he does use a gun, but he manages not
to kill anyone as usual. He doesn't do that until WWII according
There has been a huge change in public attitude and publishers
attitudes and librarians and school teachers too, from when
I started writing these books and where we are now. There
had been a very strong politically correct tradition of saying,
'we can't have violent books for boys, we should be teaching
them sensitivities'. Although there are lots of great books
out there for boys that don't involve people running around
shooting each other, there was a definite gap in the market
and one of the reasons why boys were reading less.
Anthony Horowitz spotted that gap with his
Alex Rider books incredibly successfully, and since I have
done the Young
Bond series there are now loads of book in that mould. Surprise,
surprise.. boys like reading these types of books! So the
powers that be are now saying, 'if you get boys reading,
fine...' But I do insist that my books are not completely
gung-ho, and make sure that the violence is quite distressing.
The popular characters that the readers care about do get
killed. I hope then that kids realise that running around
with guns is not all jolly larks.
I remember meetings I had on SilverFin with the publishers,
that was run almost entirely by women, where they were worried
about the level of violence and were questioning whether James
had to do certain things. I said, 'look, this is James Bond.
Even a 10 year-old kid has certain expectations of James Bond,
and you have to give them that.' They have always been nervous
that someone will pop up and say that they can't let kids read
them, but it hasn't happened so everyone is a lot more relaxed
about it now.
Royal Command is available in hardback and paperback
in the UK. Stay tuned to MI6
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.