Oct 9, 2013

Young Bond Returns in 2014

It's been a big week or two for fans of the literary 007! Yesterday, William Boyd's James Bond continuation novel Solo (set in 1968) was published in the United States (after debuting in the UK a few weeks ago), and today Ian Fleming Publications announced that the Young Bond spin-off series (targeted at Young Adult readers) will resume in 2014 under the stewardship of a new author! Between 2005 and 2008, author Charlie Higson penned five novels for IFP (beginning with Silverfin) about the adventures of James Bond as a boy, long before he ever became a spy. Since Higson was working in the timeline of Fleming's novels (originally published in the 1950s and 60s), these boyhood adventures took place in the early 1930s while the future 007 was a student at Eton. This premise, clearly designed to cash in on the young adult fiction boom that came in the wake of Harry Potter's success, seemed ludicrous to many Bond fans when it was first announced, myself included. But somewhat improbably, Higson pulled it off with astonishing success. His novels were highly enjoyable, respectful of the original Bond canon, and huge hits in the UK. One thing we always knew about Bond's childhood, thanks to the obituary M writes in Fleming's You Only Live Twice, was that he was kicked out of Eton after an "incident" involving a maid. Higson's Eton-set series, therefore, was headed inexorably towards that moment, and sure enough, in his final volume, By Royal Command, James Bond is expelled from Eton.

The new series, therefore, will pick up after that, presumably following the teenage James to Fettes. According to IFP's press release, Random House will publish a quartet of brand new Young Bond adventures starting in fall of 2014. Unfortunately Charlie Higson isn't back for this round. Instead the new Young Bond novels will be written by Steve Cole. Cole is the author of the Atrosaurs books (a children's series I'm not familiar with, evidently geared towards younger readers than the Young Bond novels), as well as several Doctor Who tie-ins and, most relevantly, a teen spy series called Tripwire (the latter co-written with Chris Hunter). According to IFP, he is also a lifelong fan of Fleming's Bond novels. Here's a quote from Cole along with some pertinent details from the press release:
‘I first encountered Bond in print as a teenager, when I read "From a View to a Kill." Fleming´s writing was so vivid and authentic, Bond and the world he inhabited seemed suddenly real to me – and the danger and glamour led me through book after book. It´s both a thrilling privilege and an exciting challenge now to be shaping a new era in the life of such an iconic character – with many firsts and surprises to come as James´s life in the dangerous 1930s develops.’Cole’s first Young Bond novel will launch with a bang in Autumn 2014. It will be published in hardback on RHCP’s highly respected Jonathan Cape children’s imprint.
So these ones will all be published in hardcover in the UK. Higson's first three books debuted as paperback originals before switching to hardcover with the fourth book, Hurricane Gold. (Though the first three were subsequently reprinted in hardcover limited editions.) Those were published by Penguin children's imprint Puffin in Britain, and by Miramax/Hyperion in the United States. No U.S. publisher has yet been named for the new quartet of Young Bond novels. Well.... here's hoping Steve Cole has what it takes to live up to Higson's superb start! I can't wait to find out. (And in the meantime, I've just ordered the first book in the Tripwire series for a taste of his spy style!)

Read my review of Higson's third Young Bond novel, Double of Die, here.
Read my review of Higson's fourth Young Bond novel, Hurricane Gold, here.
Read my review of Higson's fifth Young Bond novel, By Royal Command, here.
Read my review of The Young Bond Rough Guide to London here.

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