Mar 29, 2019

Trailer: PENNYWORTH, a 1960s Spy Show Starring... Batman's Butler?

It seems the only way to get period spy shows now is when they're spun off from superhero franchises. Remember that 1960s-set, Avengers-like Hellfire Club we almost got, that was to be spun off from X-Men: First Class? (It would have focused on the White Queen, an X-Men character inspired by Emma Peel's guise in the classic Avengers episode "A Touch of Brimstone.") And we did, of course, get two superb seasons of Marvel's Agent Carter set in the late 1940s and spun off from Captain America: The First Avenger. There were even (really!), at one point, plans at Sony to make a Spider-man spinoff about Peter Parker's Aunt May... as a secret agent in the Sixties! That didn't happen, but this is almost as rich.

Last summer, as Deadline, reported, EPIX ordered the latest of these efforts, a 1960s spy show... about Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth. And today, we got the first trailer for Pennyworth, from Gotham alums Bruno Heller (Rome) and Danny Cannon (Nikita). While the famous butler may have been originally created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, it's unlikely that they ever imagined Alfred (originally depicted as plump and comical) as a former secret agent. Yet that aspect has entered into DC Comics lore in recent decades, and been notably explored in stories like Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, and All-Star Batman: The First Ally by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. This side of Alfred was first explored in detail on television in the 2013 animated series Beware the Batman, which featured a Jason Statham-ish take on Alfred. But I suspect the main inspiration for Heller was probably seeing Michael Caine as Alfred in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies and flashing back to the young Caine as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Palmer as an antecedent of Caine's Alfred, and indeed Pennyworth looks to take inspiration from the likes of Ipcress. (Hopefully it will also feature a John Barry-ish sound, as director Cannon has experience with that, having commissioned David Arnold's very Bondian Bjork song "Play Dead" for his breakout 1993 movie, The Young Americans.)

In the 10-episode drama series, Alfred Pennyworth (The Imitation Game's Jack Bannon), described by Deadline as "a former British SAS soldier in his 20s," forms a private security company "and goes to work with young billionaire Thomas Wayne (Fleabag's Ben Aldridge), who’s not yet Bruce’s father, in 1960s London." The end result appears, from this brief teaser, to somewhat resemble BBC's sadly short-lived period spy drama The Game. I'm excited for any Sixties spy drama, and if lashing their idea to a superhero franchise is the only way creators can get that kind of programming made, that's fine with me. I'm on board! Pennyworth premieres this summer on EPIX. Check it out:

Feb 15, 2019

Tradecraft: BOND 25 Moves from Valentine's Day to Easter Weekend 2020

Deadline reports that the next Daniel Craig James Bond movie has switched release dates again... but unlike the last date change, from November 2019 to February 2020, this one isn't because of production delays. That move came because original director Danny Boyle left the project and the script (or treatment, depending on how far they had gotten) he had developed with John Hodge was jettisoned in favor of (or possibly incorporated into; the details are still unclear) a previously existing story idea by regular Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as Cary Joji Fukanaga (Maniac, True Detective) came on board to helm.

This time, the shift comes as part of a release date shuffle at Universal, who will distribute Bond 25 internationally in conjunction with MGM, who will release domestically through their joint venture with Annapurna, now happily branded as United Artists (per Variety)... bringing Bond back home, as it were. (The first 19 James Bond films were released through United Artists, but that logo hasn't been seen at the head of a 007 movie since 1999's The World Is Not Enough.) Universal moved the 9th Fast and Furious movie away from its traditional April berth into the Memorial Day frame. According to the trade, this was done because Easter Weekend, when it had initially been slated, is crammed full in China, where that blockbuster franchise does a large percentage of its business. With April 8 now free, it made sense for the studios involved to move Bond 25 into that plum Easter Weekend slot, when there are currently no other major movies scheduled to open.

Four of the last five Fast & Furious movies have opened in April (basically ever since the franchise reinvented itself as an international caper series), turning that month into the unofficial start of the summer tent pole movie season that used to begin Memorial Day weekend, and thus paving the way for 007. Bond movies have traditionally opened around Christmas time ever since GoldenEye in 1995, following the box office failure of Licence to Kill in the crowded summer marketplace of 1989, which included stiff competition from Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It will be interesting to see if the April date for Bond 25 signals anther long-term paradigm shift for the series, or ultimately proves an anomaly like the June-released Fast & Furious 6 in 2013. To be honest, I was kind of looking forward to a Valentine's Day Bond movie, but April makes sense for the series. And by returning to the summer box office the franchise once dominated as well as the UA logo on the head, it makes Bond 25 even more of a homecoming.

According to the trade, series regulars Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris are all set to return as M, Q, and Moneypenny, respectively, along with Lea Seydoux reprising her SPECTRE role as Madeiline Swann, and thus becoming the first recurring Bond Girl (in the same role, anyway) since Eunice Gayson's Sylvia Trench in Dr. No and From Russia With Love (1962 and '63, respectively). My fingers are firmly crossed that Rory Kinnear will also return as Bill Tanner, and just isn't a big enough name to warrant mention in the trades at this point.

And speaking of Fast & Furious movies (which obviously owe a huge debt to the Bond series), prior to that ninth one in 2020 we will see their all-spy spinoff movie, Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, which opens this summer starring Jason Statham, The Rock, and frequent source of 007 rumors Idris Elba. The first trailer was recently released.

Feb 12, 2019

Rebecca Ferguson Accepts Another MISSION

We learned last month that director Christopher McQuarrie and star Tom Cruise were both on board for two more Mission: Impossible movies, shooting back-to-back for release in 2021 and 2022.  While the regular team is expected back, there had been no confirmations so far. Rebecca Ferguson, who joined the franchise as the enigmatic agent Ilsa Faust in McQuarrie's first movie, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in 2015, has now become the first team member to confirm she'll return. According to Metro (via Dark Horizons), Ferguson was asked while a guest on UK chat show Lorraine (where she was promoting her incredibly entertaining new kids' movie, The Kid Who Would Be King) if we would be seeing her in the next Mission: Impossible movie, and she affirmed, "You will." Hopefully we get similar confirmations soon from Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, recent standout addition Vanessa Kirby, and maybe even Jeremy Renner, who sat out the last one. Variety recently reported that the seventh film will open on July 23, 2021, and the eighth on August 5, 2022. It's not a surprise that Paramount are eager to get more films out quickly, as last year's Mission: Impossible - Fallout (review here) proved the series' highest earner to date, raking in $790 million worldwide, and star Cruise, famous for doing his own stunts, will be 60 by the time the eighth movie premieres. Presumably the next two movies will also introduce a new generation of IMF agents including someone capable of carrying the crazy stunt torch when Cruise feels ready to pass it. It would be nice to see his Ethan Hunt character age gracefully into more of a mission planner role, like television's Jim Phelps, while someone else equally insane takes on the precipitous dangling.

Feb 7, 2019

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Mill Creek Collects Sony's COLD WAR THRILLERS Plus Red Scare Shorts

In April, Mill Creek will release a Cold War Thrillers 6 Film Collection bringing together six spy titles previously released as MOD discs through the (apparently defunct) Sony Screen Classics By Request line. It's a pretty good batch of movies, a chance to get titles previously available only on DVD-R on proper DVDs (three movies to a disc, though), and a bargain to boot, since the MOD versions coast around $20 apiece. For just $14.98 (on Amazon), you can get Otley (1968, Tom Courtenay), Hammerhead (1968, review here), The Executioner (1970, George Peppard, Joan Collins), A Dandy in Aspic (1968, Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtenay), Man on a String (1960, Ernest Borgnine), and the first-rate John le Carré adaptation The Deadly Affair (1966, review here). That's quite a Eurospy bundle! (Plus the one Hollywood title, Man on a String, a fact-based Cold War drama with Borgnine and future OSS 117 Kerwin Mathews.) The package would be worth it for Otley (one of my very favorite spy movies) and Hammerhead alone, if you didn't already have them... and might be worth considering for the shelf space savings even if you've got all six. A Dandy in Aspic had previously been included in the 2017 Mill Creek collection Soviet Spies 4-Film Collection, with artwork cashing in on The Americans.

Then again, connoisseurs might want to hold off, as UK company Indicator has been releasing lavish, all-region Blu-ray special editions of some of these titles. So far they've put out Otley and The Deadly Affair, with A Dandy in Aspic due next month. It's possible their agreement with Sony might include the other titles... though probably not too likely. (I sure would love to see Hammerhead in high-def though!)

The same day, April 16, Mill Creek will also put out a collection of Cold War propaganda films (plus a documentary), Minutes to Midnight - The Cold War Chronicles. The single disc will include the hour-long documentary Cold War Remembered, plus the government propaganda shorts A Day Called X (1957, 27 minutes, narrated by Glenn Ford), Duck and Cover (1951, 9 minutes), The Challenge of Ideas (1961, 30 minutes, narrated by John Wayne, Edward R. Murrow, and Lowell Thomas), Atomic Alert (1954, 11 Minutes), Red Chinese Battle Plan (1964, 25 minutes), Target: You! (1953, 9 minutes), Warning Red (1956, 13 minutes), Our Cities Must Fight (1951, 9 minutes), Bombproof (1956, 14 minutes), About Fallout (1963, 24 minutes), Town of the Times (1963, 25 minutes), Let's Face It (1954, 13 minutes), What You Should Know About Biological Warfare (1952, 15 minutes), You Can Beat the A-Bomb (1950, 19 minutes), The House in the Middle (1954, 12 Minutes). Sadly it leaves out my personal favorite Red Scare film, What is Communism? with Jack Webb, but those ones all sound pretty terrifying nonetheless. Especially You Can Beat the A-Bomb.

Feb 3, 2019

Want a Very Expensive Max Zorin Action Figure?

©Sucklord
It's art! Bootleg toy artist Sucklord is offering an unofficial Max Zorin action figure for $175. It's part of a line of Christopher Walken character figures. If you buy it, I don't think you're supposed to open it up and play with it.

Trailer for FAST & FURIOUS Spy Spinoff HOBBS & SHAW

Universal released the first trailer the other day for the Fast & Furious franchise spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. The Fast & Furious is an odd franchise, because it started out as a mid-budget street racing/crime series, then morphed into a mega-budget international heist series with a serious espionage bent and car stunts to rival Bond and Mission: Impossible. It's also one of the few series I can think of that got significantly better along the way. For me, the fifth film, Fast Five, was a real turning point, when Justin Lin, who had already directed two previous entries, really perfected what would become the series' formula. It was also the movie that introduced Dwayne Johnson's character, a tough-as-nails DSS agent named Luke Hobbs who was on the trail of Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel's) gang in Brazil. That was also when, after several less successful attempts, The Rock truly became an action star. His palpable charisma made Hobbs an instant fan-favorite character, and he was brought back in the next entry, Fast & Furious 6, which also introduced (in a post-credits coda) Jason Statham (Transporter 3) as former MI6 agent gone rogue Deckard Shaw. Shaw returned as the main antagonist in Furious 7, before reluctantly joining forces with the good guys (including Hobbs) in The Fate of the Furious. In Furious 7, the series had already shifted its focus to international espionage, courtesy of Kurt Russell's Nick Fury-ish spymaster Mr. Nobody. With Dom working with the bad guys for much of Fate, Hobbs and Shaw had a chance to shine on the good guy team, emerging as the series' clear new stars. So it only made sense to give them a spinoff! With Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, we could see a new spy franchise grow out of what started as a street racing series.

It's high time Transporter star Jason Statham got a big budget action series, and pairing him with The Rock should double the thrills. Atomic Blonde director David Leitch takes the helm, and he's brought on able spy support in the form of Idris Elba (he of perpetual tabloid rumors about James Bond, not to mention the solid neo-Eurospy flick The Take) as the villain (clad in a very Steranko bodysuit) and Mission: Impossible - Fallout standout Vanessa Kirby as an MI6 agent on the run. Eddie Marsan (Atomic Blonde) and Eiza González (Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel) round out the impressive cast. The action looks, as expected from that team, hyper-kinetic, Johnson and Statham's chemistry looks good, the cars look cool, and it generally looks like we might have a new action-heavy spy franchise to rival 007 and Mission: Impossible on our hands!

Jan 15, 2019

Spider-Man Turns SPYder-Man in New Trailer Featuring Nick Fury

Sony has released the first trailer for their latest Spider-Man movie, the second one set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a direct sequel to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thanks to the agreement between Sony and Disney-owned Marvel Studios that also allows Spider-man to appear in Disney's Avengers films, the Sony-released, Marvel-produced Spider-man movies can use other characters from the MCU. Spider-Man: Far From Home (opening this summer) takes full advantage of this scenario by finally bringing erstwhile S.H.I.E.L.D. ramrod Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) into poor Peter Parker's life. In fact, it looks like the pitch for this movie might have been something along the lines of, "let's do If Looks Could Kill with Spider-Man." Which, as an unapologetic fan of the 1991 Richard Grieco  teen spy movie, fills me with delight... even if I still have trouble believing Marvel went for it!

Far From Home finds teenage Peter Parker and all his classmates from Homecoming going on a school trip to Europe, where Nick Fury hijacks Peter's European vacation to recruit him as some sort of spy, complete with a fancy new stealth Spider suit. Jackson's Fury is accompanied once again by his regular MCU sidekick, Cobie Smulders' former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill. (Never mind that the last time we saw the two of them, in Avengers: Infinity War, both were disintegrating into dust. Perhaps the events of Avengers: Endgame, which will open between now and Far From Home, will somehow undo that fate, or perhaps Far From Home takes place prior to Infinity War.Jackson will next be seen as a pre-eye patch Fury in the 1990s-set Captain Marvel.) This trailer marks the first time we've ever seen Jackson's Fury wield a gun that resembles the one Jim Steranko drew for him on his seminal 1960s run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (even if this one's a dart gun). Personally, I'm 100% sold on the spy stuff... but iffy on the giant elemental creatures angle. Check it out for yourselves:


Read my Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. primer here.

Jan 14, 2019

Tradecraft: Cruise, McQuarrie Accept Back-to-Back MISSIONS

For its first fifteen years, the Mission: Impossible movie franchise was remarkable as a directors' franchise, purposely switching up helmers (and styles, characters, and even continuity) to give each installment a unique feel rather than a Bond-like house style. That all changed when Christopher McQuarrie hit a home run with the fifth film in the series, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), and returned to direct the sixth as well, last year's mega-hit Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Now, it appears that that wasn't an anomaly in the franchise's history, but a whole new direction. Variety reports that McQuarrie has just signed on to write and direct not just one more, but the the next two Mission: Impossible movies, which will film back to back for release in summer 2021 and summer 2022. Tom Cruise confirmed the dates--and presumably his involvement--with a lit fuse tweet this afternoon.

From the perspective of the studio, Paramount, it is not a surprising move. Fallout was both the highest grossing and best reviewed picture in the franchise to date, so locking down McQuarrie makes sense. Once these movies are made, he will have directed a full half of the film series. (For that matter, by that point Cruise will have surpassed Sean Connery's and Roger Moore's tied 7-film record for the most number of times playing a superspy in a major franchise.) For Fallout, as it was the franchise's first film with a returning director, McQuarrie made a point of differentiating it visually and sonicly from his previous entry by working with a different cinematographer and composer. It will be interesting to see if he continues that trend, or settles on a house team. The latter would make sense for the next two, anyway, since the plan is to shoot them back-to-back. This, also, makes sense, as even Tom Cruise can't defy age forever, and will one day have to choose not to accept some death-defying stunt. Back-to-back James Bond movies have been rumored at various times during Daniel Craig's tenure as the secret agent, but always shot down by both producers and the actor, who say that the demands would be impossible. But impossible is, of course, Cruise and McQuarrie's bread and butter! Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Russo Brothers' last two Marvel Avengers movies famously shot back to back, both with extensive reshoots planned into the schedule for the later films. 

Presumably committing to what sounds like full-time Mission: Impossible duties for the foreseeable future will rule out McQuarrie as a writer/director on what Paramount is hoping turns out to be their next big spy franchise, the nascent John Clark series with Michael B. Jordan attached to topline, based on the bestselling Tom Clancy novels. Over the years, McQuarrie had been flirting with helming or directing the first picture in that series, the long-in-the-works Without Remorse. Though it's just possible that he might still be able to squeeze that in before the next Mission, since the studio has already earmarked summer 2020 for another Cruise vehicle, the decades-later sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Hence the 2021 date for Mission: Impossible 7 (whatever it turns out being called). But that scenario is unlikely, as despite the extra time, the trade reports that Paramount hope to start shooting the next Mission movie by the end of this year. (And historically there's good reason to allow lots of time. Fallout had to pause filming for several months while Cruise recovered from an ankle injury sustained performing a rooftop stunt... but still made its original release date.) And, anyway, at last report Sicario 2 director Stefano Sollima was zeroing in on Without Remorse.

Now they just have to lock down the rest of the team! In the last three movies, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and now Rebecca Ferguson have all become equally essential to these films' success as the star, which is only right, given the original TV series' emphasis on teamwork rather than a lone wolf secret agent. I'd also love to see Vanessa Kirby's White Widow from Fallout come back.

Read my review of Mission: Impossible - Fallout here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible III (2006) here.
Read my review of M:I-2 (2000) here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible (1996) here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Seventh TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Sixth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fifth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fourth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Third TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Second TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The First TV Season here.

Dec 10, 2018

AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD: New John le Carré Novel Coming in 2019!

John le Carré announced a new novel today, coming in 2019! He may be in the second half of his Eighties now, but, happily, the undisputed master of the spy genre keeps going strong. While either a personal memoir (2016's The Pigeon Tunnel) or a novel revisiting his most famous character, George Smiley, one last(?) time (2017's A Legacy of Spies) both seemed like they might be fitting moments to retire, le Carré clearly still has more to say. Agent Running in the Field will be released by Penguin/Viking on October 17, 2019 in the UK, and October 22, 2019 in the U.S. UK bookseller Waterstones and Amazon UK already has it available to pre-order. Here's the publisher's blurb on the new thriller:
Set in London in 2018, Agent Running in the Field follows a twenty-six year old solitary figure who, in a desperate attempt to resist the political turbulence swirling around him, makes connections that will take him down a very dangerous path. In his plot and characterisation le Carré is as thrilling as ever and in the way he writes about our times he proves himself, once again, to be the greatest chronicler of our age.
Agent Running in the Field will be the author's 25th novel. His first, Call for the Dead (review here) was published in 1961. Le Carré's work continues to be popular in other mediums as well. There have been recent feature film adaptations of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Most Wanted Man, and Our Kind of Traitor, and television miniseries versions of The Night Manager and, most recently, The Little Drummer Girl, based on his 1983 novel. Park Chan-Wook's visually stunning six-part adaptation recently aired on AMC in America and the BBC in Britain.

Dec 8, 2018

Tradecraft: Paramount Picks SICARIO Sequel Director Sollima to Direct Michael B. Jordan in Tom Clancy's WITHOUT REMORSE

Deadline reports that Sicario: Day of the Soldado director Stefano Sollima is in talks to direct Michael B. Jordan in Paramount's next Tom Clancy movie, Without Remorse.

After a couple of underperforming movies, Clancy's famous CIA analyst Jack Ryan has finally found success on TV thanks to Amazon. Now Paramount hopes to build a new feature franchise around Clancy's other main hero, covert warrior John Clark. In September, Deadline reported that the studio has tapped Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station) to star.

Clark, who became known as "Jack Ryan's dark side," was first introduced in Clancy's third Ryan novel, The Cardinal of the Kremlin in 1987, but retconned in Clear and Present Danger (when field man Clark and analyst Ryan finally meet face to face) to have also played an important role in the events of Patriot Games. He went on to take center stage in the Clancy novels Without Remorse (which goes back to Vietnam) and Rainbow Six. Clark is a former Navy Seal and off-books CIA field operator. In the films, he's been played by Willem Dafoe (in Clear and Present Danger opposite Harrison Ford as Ryan) and Liev Schrieber (in The Sum of All Fears opposite Ben Affleck).

Paramount hopes, of course, to launch a franchise. The plan is to start with Without Remorse, then do Rainbow Six. This is the reason that Clark has, sadly, not appeared on Amazon's TV show Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. Because the studio was planning a film, they didn't allow the show's producers to use Clark. That's really too bad, as both characters work better together. In the books, they compliment each other, as Ryan is frequently deskbound, and Clark is always up to his neck in action. There was a plan a few years ago to (re-)introduce Clark and Ryan individually in two feature films, Without Remorse and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, respectively, with This Means War co-stars Tom Hardy and Chris Pine playing Clark and Ryan (again, respectively), then team them up, Marvel-style, in a third film. (At that point Mission: Impossible - Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie was attached to Without Remorse.) Sadly, Shadow Recruit bombed and those plans never came to fruition. (Hardy has also been linked to another Clancy franchise, Splinter Cell.)

Italian director Sollima, who first achieved international acclaim for his mob drama Gomorra, is a good choice to launch a potential Clancy franchise. His Sicario sequel was more than a tad Clancy-esque, playing at first like an unofficial adaptation of Clear and Present Danger before going a different direction in its second half. Sollima did a good job blending compelling characterizations with military hardware fetishism, a crucial skill set for tackling Clancy material. Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) will produce alongside Jordan and screenwriting duo Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (Alias, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol).

It's unclear whether Sollima's Without Remorse will be a Vietnam-era period piece like the book (which would be fantastic!), or updated to a contemporary setting. Sadly, I suspect the latter. (Though if I were the president of Paramount, I would seriously consider the franchise prospects of a historical setting, which could ultimately follow Clark through three decades of CIA covert actions across multiple films....)

Dec 7, 2018

Eric Van Lustbader Quits as Bourne Continuation Author

Bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader announced today in an exclusive interview with The Real Book Spy that he is stepping down as the official author of the Jason Bourne continuation novels. Lustbader was hired by Robert Ludlum's estate in the early 2000s to continue the adventures of Ludlum's famous amnesiac assassin character following the success of the Matt Damon movies, despite Ludlum's own Bourne trilogy having reached a pretty definitive conclusion. From 2004 to 2016, Lustbader wrote ten Jason Bourne novels, far outpacing the character's creator. Furthermore, the author's previously announced eleventh Bourne novel, The Bourne Nemesis, will likely never see completion.

"What I found," he told the website,"when I started to go back and work on polishing the draft, was that I just didn’t want to do it. Every time I would sit down to do it, I would start writing something else and that made me realize, finally, that I just didn’t want to do it anymore." He elaborated, "I had pretty much said everything that I wanted to say with Bourne, and . . . I wanted to do something different. Something more."

Lustbader has maintained a grueling schedule over this past decade, most years producing both a Bourne continuation novel and an original novel featuring his own characters. He's not the first continuation author to become fatigued. John Gardner also grew weary balancing a James Bond novel every year during the 1980s and early '90s with his own (considerably lengthier) spy fiction (the excellent Herbie Kruger novels and the Secret Generations epic). Writing schedules like that can't be easy!

This likely isn't the last of Jason Bourne on the printed page. The Ian Fleming estate (operating first as Glidrose Publications, and later Ian Fleming Publications) commissioned Raymond Benson to continue the Bond series, and later settled on a strategy of appointing different authors for different books, with Anthony Horowitz recently becoming the first writer since Benson to pen more than one novel in the main series. The Ludlum Estate has followed a similar strategy with other series created by the late novelist. Numerous writers have tried their hands at Covert-One novels (a series which was handed off to other writers even in Ludlum's lifetime, and indeed created with that strategy in mind), and at least two writers have continued the adventures of Paul Janson, hero of one of Ludlum's final novels, The Janson Directive (review here). I strongly suspect we'll see another new Bourne novel sooner or later with a new name on the cover.

Meanwhile, head over to The Real Book Spy to read the entire, in-depth interview with Lustbader including his future plans.

Trailer: KIM POSSIBLE Live-Action Movie



Today, Disney Channel dropped the slightly underwhelming first full trailer for their upcoming live action Kim Possible movie, and announced a premiere date. It will premiere Friday, Feb. 15 at 8 ET/PT on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW. And, thanks to Deadline, we finally know a little bit more about the plot. This won't be a continuation of the cult animated show, nor will it take place within the series' continuity. Rather, it will be a full reboot, and an origin story for Kim. (It was never explained on the show how she came to be a teenage superspy beyond having inherited good genes from her brain surgeon mom and rocket scientist dad.)

While the series concluded with Kim's high school graduation, the live-action Kim Possible will pick up just as Kim and sidekick Ron Stoppable are first starting Middleton High School, and (in a page out of the Buffy playbook), the ultra-capable young woman finds navigating the classrooms and social hierarchy of high school much more difficult than saving the world. Kim will compete with her rival and frenemy Bonnie Rockwaller not for a spot on the cheerleading squad, as she did on the TV show, but the school's soccer team. And Ron will acquire his pet naked mole rat, Rufus, over the course of the telefilm. The pair will be joined on their mission by a new friend, Athena, who quickly surpasses Kim as the trio, along with gadget maker and tech expert Wade, take on the villainous Dr. Drakken and his henchwoman Shego. (Do you think the hitherto unknown Athena will turn out to be a double agent?)

I really wish this were being done as a big budget, theatrical film. The actors look fine in this trailer, but without the spacious, Ken Adam-inspired sets, and lit like a 90s TV pilot with way too much blue, it just doesn't look like Kim Possible. Here's hoping they prove me wrong! It is, after all, co-written by series creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle (along with The Duff's Josh Cagan).

Sadie Stanley stars as Kim Possible; Sean Giambrone (The Goldbergs) plays Ron. Todd Stashwick (12 Monkeys) and Taylor Ortega (Succession) co-star as Dr. Drakken and Shego; Ciara Wilson (OMG!) as newcomer Athena; Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Kim’s mom; Issac Ryan Brown (Raven’s Home) as Wade; and Erika Tham (Make It Pop) as Bonnie. Patton Oswalt reprises his voice role from the animated series as villain Professor Dementor, and original Kim Possible voice Christy Carlson Romano has a cameo.

Dec 6, 2018

Tradecraft: NBC's ENEMY WITHIN Explores Interagency Espionage Antics

Interagency espionage rivalries are all the rage on network television these days. We're getting closer to the premiere of Whiskey Cavalier, the show I've been most looking forward to this season, which takes a romantic, comedic look at the relationship between CIA and FBI agents. Hulu (which, I know, isn't network), of course, had The Looming Tower this year (currently racking up awards nominations and mentions on critics' year end lists), a very serious exploration of the disconnect between America's various intelligence agencies leading up to the massive intelligence failure of 9/11. Now NBC is gearing up to use the FBI/CIA rivalry as a backdrop for what Deadline describes as "a fast-paced thriller set in the world of counterintelligence," The Enemy Within.

The Enemy Within boasts an impressive spy pedigree. Covert Affairs creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord produce (along with Gotham's Ken Woodruf), and the cast includes Morris Chestnut (Legends), Kelli Garner (Pan-Am), Raza Jaffrey (Spooks/MI-5), and Coral Peña (24: Legacy), along with Jennifer Carpenter (who apparently voiced Black Widow in some animated Marvel short, so that counts as some spy cred, right?) Here's how NBC describes the series, which is expected to premiere mid-season:
In this fast-paced, spy-hunting thriller, Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter) is a brilliant former CIA operative now known as the most notorious traitor in American history serving life in a Supermax prison. Against every fiber of his being but with nowhere else to turn, FBI Agent Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut) enlists Shepherd to help track down a fiercely dangerous and elusive criminal she knows all too well. For Keaton, it's not easy to trust the woman who cost him so much. While Shepherd and Keaton have different motivations for bringing the enemy to justice, they both know that to catch a spy... they must think like one.

Dec 5, 2018

Mezco Made a Diabolik Action Figure... and You Can Pre-Order it Now!

Toy company Mezco has been displaying a prototype for a Diabolik action figure since at least summer of 2017, and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever actually happen. Then, last week, they did a blog post offering a good precis on the character's history, and also reassurance that Diabolik was still on their mind. And yesterday, the figure became available for pre-order on the Mezco website! (Be warned though... it isn't cheap. You may want to polish off your own suction cup climbers and stake out Mezco's warehouse!)

Shipping in summer 2019, the figure is part of Mezco's high-end One:12 Collective figures. Those figures are known for their realistic clothing and ultra posability. The figure runs about 16cm tall (a little over 6 inches), and features over 30 points of articulation. It comes with two interchangeable heads (one masked, the other not), and eight interchangeable hands to create various poses or grip accessories like throwing knives or loot.

Mezco's Diabolik figure is based on the Italian comic book (fumetti neri) character created by the Giussani sisters, and not specifically on Mario Bava's sublime 1968 film version thereof (one of the all-time classic Eurospy titles), so the maskless likeness sadly doesn't resemble John Phillip Law. But the film costume was so true to the comic (as was its logo) that with the mask on you can easily pretend your figure is Law's Diabolik! And it's a damn cool figure either way. Diabolik may be a master thief and not a spy, but the Jaguar-driving supercriminal embodies so many tropes of the Sixties spy fantasy! (As does the movie.) Let's hope this toy sells well and Mezco follows it up with a matching Eva Kant figure!

Check out the figure in detail and put in a pre-order (requiring a $20 deposit) on Mezco's site.

To get an idea of how the prototype developed over the past fewyears, check out toy news sites like Super Punch or Action Figure Fury, both of whom posted good images from various conventions.

Read my review of Bava's Danger: Diabolik (one of my all-time favorite movies) here.

Dec 4, 2018

Tradecraft: Marvel Plots SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU Movie

Deadline reports that among the next wave of Marvel Cinematic Universe titles to follow in the wake of the fourth Avengers movie will be Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. For spy fans, this is staggering news! The comic book The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu was created in the early Seventies to (obviously) cash in on the kung fu craze of the time. Comics legends Steve Englehart (Batman: Strange Apparitions) and Jim Starlin (Avengers: Infinity War) originated the character, but it was the dynamic writer/artist team of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy (who would later re-team on one of the best James Bond comics ever, Dark Horse's Serpent's Tooth) who became most associated with Shang-Chi... and who gave the comic a new direction as an espionage series.

Shang-Chi's real world origins at Marvel are a bit complicated, as the publisher had acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer's villainous Fu Manchu character, but Englehart was more interested in the popular TV series of the time, Kung Fu. So he incorporated Rohmer's characters Fu Manchu and his nemesis, British adventurer Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, but invented a new character to star in the series more inspired by Kung Fu... Fu Manchu's hitherto unknown son, Shang-Chi. Though the father had seen to it that the son was trained from birth to be a Master of Kung Fu, when Shang-Chi discovered that the father he believed to be be munificent was actually a diabolical criminal mastermind, he turned on him, and found employment with Nayland-Smith and the British Secret Service. In the hands of Moench and Gulacy, secret agent Shang-Chi encountered all manner of spy hijinks, from moles inside MI6 to supervillains with private islands, gadgets galore, and robotic armies. He also developed a roster of memorable sidekicks, including Nayland-Smith's assistant and bodyguard Black Jack Tarr (drawn by Gulacy to resemble Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King), and fellow MI6 agent Clive Reston (drawn by Gulacy at first to resemble Connery in Goldfinger, but later looking more and more like Roger Moore), who is strongly hinted to be the son of James Bond and the grand-nephew of Sherlock Holmes.

While Marvel's most famous spy agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., never showed up in the pages of Master of Kung Fu (though Shang-Chi did eventually team up with Nick Fury and Black Widow in a multi-issue arc of Marvel Team-Up), Gulacy's stunning artwork owed a clear debt to Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jim Steranko. Like Steranko, Gulacy reveled in quasi-sci-fi technology and weaponry and innovative, experimental page layouts. (One particular standout turned the page into a maze, following Shang-Chi's progress against a variety of opponents as he navigated the labyrinth.) He also brought his own obsessions to the table, like Bond-inspired, movie poster-style splash pages, relentlessly sexy women in proto-Gaultier fashions, and the liberal use of famous actors' likenesses to "cast" the book with everyone from Bruce Lee (upon whom Gulacy's Shang-Chi was clearly based) to Marlon Brando, Christopher Lee (as Fu Manchu, of course), and even Groucho Marx. The result was a truly unique book that far transcended (and consequently outlasted) the kung fu movie trend from which it was born, and drew influence from all sorts of popular culture. I think it may be my very favorite Marvel comic. Long unavailable outside of back issue bins, the entire 125-issue series has at long last been reprinted over the past few years in four massive, hardcover omnibus volumes, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Marvel has also recently begun a line of cheaper paperback "Epic Collections."

As for the movie, it's hard to say how closely it will resemble the comic book. But I certainly hope Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham (Jean-Claude Van Johnson) retains the heightened espionage vibe, and the supporting character of Clive Reston. Marvel is, of course, hoping that a superhero film with an Asian lead and Asian and Asian-American talent behind the camera (they are looking to hire a director of Asian descent) will find similar box office success to their excellent black superhero pic Black Panther and this past summer's megahit and milestone for cinematic representation, Crazy Rich Asians. Not since the kung fu craze of the early Seventies has the moment been so right for a Shang-Chi movie! I can't wait to see who they cast as Shang-Chi, and who gets chosen to direct. This movie has the potential to finally deliver a spy film heightened to futuristic Marvel proportions on a truly epic scale!

Nov 23, 2018

La La Land Records to Release Expanded Score for THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH

La La Land Records has announced another expanded James Bond score! Hot on the heels of their unexpected but extremely welcome Die Another Day expanded score last year, the specialty label has another David Arnold score on tap. On November 27, they'll release a remastered and expanded 2-CD set of Arnold's stellar second Bond score, 1999's The World Is Not Enough. It will be packed with previously unreleased music, including tracks fans have been clamoring for for nearly two decades like "Snow Business" and the gun barrel music, along with hitherto undreamed of rarities like two early song demos performed by Arnold himself (one for the title song, and another for "Only Myself to Blame," which was intended for the closing credits and not used, but included in its final version on the original soundtrack CD). Unlike La La Land's Die Another Day, which omitted the Madonna title track (some would say mercifully), this new The World Is Not Enough release will include the songs! (The excellent theme performed by Garbage, and the album version of "Only Myself to Blame," performed by Scott Walker, who also performed the greatest Bond theme not written for a Bond movie, "Deadlier Than the Male" from the terrific Eurospy film of that title.) Liner notes by Tim Greiving will include new remarks from Arnold, legendary Bond lyricist Don Black, and director Michael Apted. This special expanded score will be strictly limited to 5,000 copies. It will go on sale on the La La Land website at noon, Pacific Time, on Tuesday, November 27, retailing for $29.98. I really hope this trend continues, and La La Land eventually releases expanded editions of all of David Arnold's James Bond scores!

Here is the full track listing for this one:

TRACK LISTING:

Disc 1
Score Presentation

1. Gun Barrel*† / Bond Has Left The Building*† 3:13
2. Show Me The Money† 1:27
3. Come In 007, Your Time Is Up† 5:20
4. Balloon* 1:03
5. The World Is Not Enough 3:54
-Performed By Garbage
6. Dr. Warmflash* :30
7. Access Denied 1:34
8. M’s Confession 1:35
9. Welcome To Baku 1:42
10. Snow Business* 1:15
11. Ice Bandits 3:42
12. Out Of The Snow* / Stay With Me Please* 1:27
13. Casino Jazz* 2:12
14. Casino 2:56
15. Card Game* 1:27
16. Devil’s Breath* 2:08
17. Elektra’s Theme 2:06
18. Body Double 3:00
19. Welcome To Kazakhstan*† 1:32
20. Going Down - The Bunker (Extended Version)**† 8:50
21. Bond’s Bedroom Bombshell* :38
22. Pipeline† 4:16
23. Elektra Turns* / Renard’s Plutonium Gift* 1:38
24. Remember Pleasure (Extended Version)** 3:14
25. Caviar Factory (Extended Version)**† 6:03
26. Submarine Surfaces* / Renard Greets Nik* / M Clocks Locator* 1:52
27. Bomb* 2:30
28. Torture Queen 2:24

Total Disc 1 Time 73:58

Disc 2
Score Presentation Continued

1. I Never Miss 3:32
2. Submarine #1 4:11
3. Submarine #2** 6:26
4. Sub Gets It* :46
5. Christmas In Turkey 1:28
6. Orbis Non Sufficit*† 4:01
7. Only Myself To Blame 3:36
Performed by Scott Walker

Total Score Time 97:58

Additional Music

8. Gun Barrel (Separate Elements)*† 1:14
9. Welcome To Baku (Film Version)** 1:42
10. Snow Business (Alternate)* 1:27
11. Elektra’s Theme (Alternate)* 2:05
12. Going Down - The Bunker 6:26
13. Pipeline (Full Mix)**† 4:15
14. Remember Pleasure 2:45
15. Caviar Factory† 6:01
16. Submarine 10:19
17. The World Is Not Enough (Demo)* 3:59
Performed by David Arnold
18. Only Myself To Blame (Demo)* 2:56
Performed by David Arnold

Total Additional Music 43:09
Total Disc 2 Time 67:40

* Previously unreleased
** Contains previously unreleased material
† Contains “James Bond Theme” written by Monty Norman

Thanks to Neil for the heads-up!

Oct 20, 2018

Paul McCartney Releases Previously Unheard Alternate Studio Version of "Live And Let Die"

Yesterday Paul McCartney announced two new, multi-disc, super deluxe reissues from his Archive Collection, the Wings albums Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway. The latter will include among its copious bonus tracks the album version of his classic 1973 James Bond title track "Live And Let Die" (which originally appeared on the George Martin-scored soundtrack LP and as a single, but not on a Wings album) along with a previously unissued alternate version. (This makes sense, as the song was recorded during the Red Rose Speedway sessions.) The alternate version, labelled "Live And Let Die [Group Only, Take 10]," is stripped down, lacking Martin's gloriously bombastic orchestral arrangements, and includes some extra screaming from Paul at the very end. It's an interesting listen! While "Live And Let Die" has been covered by almost everyone, it seems (including Guns'n'Roses, Billy Joel, Ginger Spice, Chrissie Hynde, Duffy, and perhaps most thrillingly, the must-listen version from Brazilian band Pato Fu), and McCartney has included it on almost all of his live albums, alternate studio versions from Wings are quite rare. As far as I'm aware, this is the first such official release.

One of the DVDs in the massive, deluxe Red Rose Speedway set will also include a live performance of the track, listed as "Live in Liverpool," but with no date given on the track list. The DVD also includes the 1973 James Paul McCartney TV Special, which marked the debut of "Live And Let Die" (preceding the film's premiere by a few months), showing footage of the band in the studio interspersed with clips of the film.

You can listen to the alternate version below, courtesy of Universal Music Group:


Read more about the sometimes surprising connections between The Beatles and James Bond over the years in my post "The Beatles vs. James Bond (or Blond)."

Oct 18, 2018

New James Bond Short Story to Appear in November/December PLAYBOY

Continuing a long tradition begun with the publication of Ian Fleming's short story "The Hildebrand Rarity" in the March 1960 issue, James Bond will once again appear in the pages of Playboy Magazine this fall, in a brand new short story. The only difference is this one will be in comic book form. Dynamite and Ian Fleming Publications announced jointly today that an exclusive, 6-page story from the team behind Dynamite's James Bond Origin comic book will see print in the November/December issue. Like the series, the story is written by Jeff Parker (The Interman, Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and drawn by Bob Q, both of whom have done stellar work on the first two issues of the comic. The new story takes place in March 1941, flashing forward a bit from events in the current issues. According to the press release, "James is dropped off the coast of Belgium to help a Resistance cell take out a supply train that's important to the Nazis." This is very exciting news, not just because it extends a longstanding tradition of appropriate brand partnership, but because more James Bond Origin is definitely a good thing! As previously reported, James Bond Origin bridges the gap between the Young Bond novels and Fleming's Casino Royale, finally telling the story of James Bond's war years. The November/December issue of Playboy hits newsstands October 30, but the digital version is already available now. The first two physical issues of Dynamite's ongoing comics series James Bond Origin are currently available in comics shops or digitally.

While Playboy (which now bills itself as "Entertainment for All," not "Entertainment for Men") published many Fleming stories and serialized novels back in the Sixties, the magazine also has more recent history with 007. During Raymond Benson's tenure as continuation author in the late Nineties, he published two Bond short stories and an excerpt of his first novel in the magazine. (The stories were eventually collected in the Benson anthologies The Union Trilogy and Choice of Weapons.) The most recent James Bond short stories to be published in magazines were written by Samantha Weinberg during her stint writing the excellent Moneypenny Diaries spinoff novels, and focused on that character as well as 007. "For Your Eyes Only, James" (review here) was published in Tatler in 2006, and "Moneypenny's First Date With Bond" (review here) was published in The Spectator that same year. To date, neither story has ever been collected.

Thanks to Gary for the alert!

Oct 13, 2018

Network Finally Releases CHESSGAME: THE COMPLETE SERIES Based on Anthony Price Novels on DVD

Way back in May of 2015, Network announced they would release a Region 2 DVD set of the 1983 UK spy series Chessgame, starring Terence Stamp. This was exciting news, as it marked the series' first ever DVD release in its original episodic format. However, it never appeared. Months went by and the release date kept getting pushed back... until it finally disappeared from Network's website altogether. But now, more than three years later, it's back! And it's actually coming out, as it's available to pre-order right now! The actual release date is October 22, 2018.

Chessgame was adapted from Anthony Price's excellent series of novels about the intellectual spymaster David Audley and his rotating roster of assistants. Though he doesn't quite match the author's physical description of his hero, Stamp (Modesty Blaise) plays Audley. Robin Sachs (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) co-stars as Hugh Roskill; Michael Culver (Philby, Burgess and Maclean) plays Nick Hannah (an amalgamation of several Price characters including Col. Butler), and Carmen du Sautoy (The Man With the Golden Gun) plays Audley's love interest Faith, whose role is beefed up from the books. The six hour-long episodes cover the first three novels, The Labyrinth Makers, The Alamut Ambush (a truly terrific spy novel) and Colonel Butler's Wolf. They were subsequently re-edited into a trilogy of feature films for television syndication in the U.S., and are available that way on budget Region 1 and Region 0 DVDs of limited quality re-titled (respectively) Cold War Killers, The Alamut Ambush and The Deadly Recruits. Not only does this forthcoming Network release guarantee a level of quality not found on those discs, but it certainly offers a much more attractive package as well! And I'm looking forward to seeing the show in its proper episodic format, with its original opening title sequence. Price wasn't satisfied with these adaptations (and fans of the books will understand why), but they're still quality Eighties spy television. The 2-disc set is due out October 22, and will retail for £13.00. It's available through Network's website or on Amazon.co.uk.

Now if only BBC would release their trio of  Michael Denison/Lucy Fleming miniseries, Blood Money, Skorpion and Cold Warriors, we'd finally be pretty well appointed for serious Eighties UK spy series on DVD... (We've already got Smiley's People from BBC and Acorn, Mr. Palfrey of Westminster from Network and Acorn, Harry's Game from Network, and Glory Boys and The Contract from Acorn.)

Thanks to Jack for the exciting alert!

Oct 8, 2018

Trailer for Park Chan-Wook's John le Carré Miniseries THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL

AMC has released the first full trailer for their latest BBC co-production, a follow-up to the hugely successful 2016 John le Carré adaptation The Night Manager. This time the same producers at The Ink Factory (including le Carré and his sons Simon and Stephen Cornwell) chose to tackle the author's 1983 tome The Little Drummer Girl, and they brought on the great Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) to direct. The imagery in this trailer is as haunting and awesome as I expected from him! The Little Drummer Girl follows Charlie, a naive young English actress recruited by Israeli Intelligence into the "theater of the real"– to infiltrate a Palestinian terror organization. She soon finds herself seduced by both sides and caught in the middle. Florence Pugh (King Lear) stars as Charlie, Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies) plays Becker, the enigmatic stranger who seduces, recruits, and eventually handles her, and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) plays a ruthlessly clever, masterfully manipulative, somewhat Smiley-like Mossad spymaster, Kurtz. The miniseries will air on AMC over three consecutive nights in two-hour episodes, premiering November 19 at 9 PM ET/PT. Additional episodes will air at 9 ET/PT on November 20 and November 21. It's expected to play on BBC in the UK around the same time.

Oct 7, 2018

Tradecraft: Movie About Castro's Florida Sleepers "The Cuban Five" in Development

According to The Hollywod Reporter, there's a feature spy thriller in the works about the real-life Cuban spy ring known as "The Cuban Five." Based on Stephen Kimber’s book What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of The Cuban Five, The Cuban Five will tell the story of a cell of spies sent by the Castro government to spy on the Cuban exile community in Miami in the 1990s. They were arrested and convicted on espionage charges in 1998, and eventually exchanged in a spy swap in 2014. Clement Virgo (Rogue, Greenleaf) will direct, and Barrie Dunn wrote the screenplay. He and Kimber met with the actual agents in Cuba, and they have agreed to cooperate with the filmmakers. According to the trade, "Canadian indie producers Pictou Twist Pictures, Picture Plant and Conquering Lions Production have partnered with the ICAIC, Cuba's film institute, to co-produce [the film]."

Sep 9, 2018

Tradecraft: Sony Brings Teenage Superspy Alex Rider to Television

Teenage superspy Alex Rider is plotting a return to the screen. But it will be the small screen this time. Deadline reports that Sony has boarded Eleventh Hour Films' 8-episode miniseries adaptation of Anthony Horowitz's second Alex Rider novel, Point Blanc. (In America it was published as Point Blank, effectively crushing Horowitz's titular pun... probably on the same insulting assumption that Americans can't pronounce French words that led to Casino Royale initially being published in paperback here as You Asked For It.) The first Rider novel, Stormbreaker, was adapted into the 2006 feature film Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (review here), starring Alex Pettyfer, which fizzled at the U.S. box office after being terminally mishandled by The Weinstein Company. Eleventh Hour (Foyle's War) is Horowitz's wife's production company, and they've been trying to jumpstart new screen adventures for the hero of Horowitz's immensely popular YA spy series for a while now. Last year, ITV (home of wildly successful Horowitz-created dramas like Foyle's War and Midsummer Murders) had been in talks to produce an Alex Rider TV series, but they are no longer involved. According to the trade,  Eleventh Hour developed the new project on spec, and Sony will fully fund and look for broadcast or platform partners. Guy Burt (The Bletchley Circle) will pen the adaptation. Horowitz, who adapted Stormbreaker himself for the 2006 film, will executive produce.

Anthony Horowitz is one of Britain's most prolific and successful writers, straddling multiple mediums and somehow always hitting a home run. He created the excellent wartime mystery drama Foyle's War (starring GoldenEye's Michael Kitchen), which frequently featured espionage plots before morphing into a full-fledged spy drama as WWII ended in its timeline and the Cold War dawned. In a stroke of genius, Horowitz had the bright idea to combine James Bond with Harry Potter to create a YA sensation in the Alex Rider series, often turning to Ian Fleming for inspiration. Stormbreaker was largely modeled on Fleming's Moonraker plot (a wise idea, since kids were unlikely to be familiar with that since the movie was so different), and Point Blanc was a loose reworking of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (another safe bet since it's the film kids would be least likely to have seen). This approach evidently caught the eye of Ian Fleming Publications, who not only sought to create their own YA series with Charlie Higson's Young Bond books, but also eventually hired Horowitz to pen two official, adult James Bond continuation novels, Trigger Mortis and Forever And a Day. (I hope there will be more!) Horowitz has also produced bestselling Sherlock Holmes continuation novels as well as original adult mystery novels like Magpie Murders and The Word is Murder.

I really hope this new television take on Alex Rider proves successful and leads to adaptations of all the books!