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Young Bond author Charlie Higson makes star appearance at Hay Literary Festival

30-May-2008 • Young Bond

It's remarkable that Higson's books remain faithful to Bond without including cigarettes, booze, sex and shooting people, and with such aplomb - writes The Guardian.

The organisers at Hay have been careful to provide visitors with covered walkways to go from event to event as this year's do becomes not so much a literary festival as a thinking person's swamp safari. They needn't have bothered for the audience after Charlie Higson's Young Bond talk as they swarmed to the signing tent. "Joe, just run straight across, for God's sake!" cried a pre-teen chap to his friend, terrified perhaps that Higson might tire his arm out or have forgotten how to spell his name by the time they met him if they weren't first in the queue.

And their desperation to meet their hero's partial creator was understandable. On the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth, with Sebastian Faulks' new Bond and the fourth of Higson's Young Bond novels out in paperback today, there's adventure and espionage in the air. It was impossible not to get caught up in it. Particularly when Higson clearly loves writing Bonds as much as the, largely 12-year-old male, audience love reading them, and his three sons love hearing the chapters he reads to them as he completes them. "I'll introduce a new character, and they'll immediately shout, "Kill him! Push him off a cliff!""

It's remarkable that books that must stay faithful to the future Bond without including cigarettes, booze, sex and shooting people manage it with such aplomb. It can't be an easy task, and each instalment takes Higson significantly longer than Fleming's famous six weeks, "It always upsets me when kids say "I read your book in day." It took me a year to write that!"

I'm an unashamed reader of them. I simply don't hold with people who frown on adults who read children's books. Particularly when those people invariably have under their arm a Dan Brown or a Marian Keyes or ... a Martin Amis. And the Young Bonds don't even have to resort to goblins and pointy hats to cross over.

Higson's enthusiasm only increased as the floor was opened to questions, all of which were infinitely more challenging than most of those Jeremy Clarkson jousted with earlier in the festival: he had to be almost forcibly removed from the tent, so reluctant was he to stop answering them. I've always felt children's literature, and the Bond canon, needed a Ken Dodd, and here at last he is. The kids stampeding across the Hay marsh were quite right to run, not least because an hour and a half after the end of his session, the queue for signings was showing little sign of diminishing.

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