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Young Bond novels set to flesh out 007`s past

27-Feb-2005 • Young Bond

He is known as a ladies’ man with a taste for fast cars and gadgets, and he takes his vodka Martinis shaken, not stirred.

What is less well-known is that James Bond is the son of a Scottish arms dealer and a Swiss socialite who was orphaned at an early age and who learnt the secrets of espionage at the knee of his quixotic uncle Max on his Highland estate.

These, and other fascinating insights into the formative years of the world’s most famous spy, are revealed in the prequel to Ian Fleming’s classic series - reports The Times (UK).

Commissioned by the Fleming estate and published by Penguin, the Young Bond books have been penned by Charlie Higson, writer of the hit comedy series The Fast Show.

With the help of clues in Fleming’s novels, including an obituary referring to his Scottish father and Swiss mother in You Only Live Twice, Higson has created a teenage Bond who, Fleming’s estate claims, gives fresh insight into his complex character.

SilverFin — the first of five — explores the formative influence of Bond’s parents, Andrew and Monique Delacroix.

Fleming had revealed that Bond’s father was born in Glencoe and attended Fettes College in Edinburgh. According to Higson’s account, Andrew completed his education at St Andrews University, joined the Royal Navy during the first world war and “having survived numerous sea battles” became captain of his own battleship.

Hardened by his wartime experiences, he became an arms dealer and met Bond’s mother, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss industrialist, while travelling around Europe.

James, according to Higson, was born in Zurich, and travelled with his parents until he was six years old.

He then divided his time between a flat in Chelsea and a country home in Basle, becoming fluent in English, French and German.

On family holidays he learnt to swim, shoot and ride horses, before his parents were killed in a mountain climbing accident — a fact alluded to by Fleming.

Bond’s grief following the death of the parents he adored is also explored by Higson, who wanted to bring a degree of vulnerability to the character. Higson said that he drew heavily on Fleming’s life when he was recreating Bond’s early years.

Fleming — the grandson of Robert Fleming, a wealthy Scottish banker — lived in the shadow of his father, Valentine. His mother, Evelyn St Croix Rose Fleming, inherited his wealth on the condition that she never re-marry.

Both Fleming and his fictional spy attended Eton and SilverFin opens with Bond’s first term at the school. It is there that Bond meets his first arch enemy, an American called George Hellebore.

During the holidays he is dispatched to the Highlands to stay with his Uncle Max in a village near Glenfinnan, and becomes embroiled in the covert world of an evil Scottish landlord who knew his father.

It also emerges that Bond’s uncle was a wartime spy who impresses the teenager with tales of codes, poison, unarmed combat and networking with other spies.

“The clues to Bond’s early life in the Fleming novels are fleeting, but crucial,” said Zoe Watkins, of Ian Fleming Publications, which is owned by the author’s nieces. “The Young Bond novels fill in the background. Through the Young Bond novels we begin to see how he becomes the man who goes on to be 007; what events shaped his formative years, where his attitudes and his philosophy on life come from.”

Watkins said that Higson was commissioned to write the series following the successful relaunch of the original Fleming novels to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Bond novel.

“We wanted to bring Fleming’s Bond to a younger audience. Charlie was a fan of Fleming’s and it was felt that his straightforward writing style would be perfect for Young Bond,” she added. “He is familiar with Ian Fleming’s history, and Bond and Fleming are alike in some respects.”

Professor Alan Riach, head of Scottish literature at Glasgow University, said the book offered the character complexity that film producers would be keen to explore.

Miramax are thought to be interested in the film rights to the Young Bond series although a deal has yet to be confirmed.

Thanks to `Ken` for the alert.

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