On May 6, 2005 Charlie Higson concluded his 7 city US promotional tour for SilverFin with a talk and signing at Olsson’s Bookstore in Arlington, Virginia.
The event was well attended, the discussion was lively, and the bookstore did brisk business, with many patrons buying multiple copies for friends, co-workers, grandchildren, etc.
Higson began the talk with a bit of history of how he was chosen, and then read part of the first chapter and then the paragraphs that introduce the villain, Lord Hellebore.
After opening up the floor to questions, I wasn’t shy so I dove right in with the first one:
Why did Higson choose to have Bond be born in Switzerland, since Pearson says he was born in Germany, and was it a tough decision to have Bond born outside the UK?
Higson said he had not read Pearson’s biography of Bond (although he did think it was clever of Pearson to have Bond born in Germany as a foreshadowing of the war), and there were two reasons for Bond’s Swiss birth – his mother was Swiss, and it also kept up the theme of Bond as an outsider, something that happens throughout SilverFin.
Young Bond Book 1: SilverFin
CBn forums veteran, Dlibrasnow, chimed in next, with a question about Martini the horse and whether Book 2 would have more subtle or not so subtle references to the adult Bond. Higson somewhat apologized for the lack of subtlety with Martini, but there was no way he could work the real drink in because of Bond’s age. He said there would be more references in future books, and they would be more subtle. Higson also revealed that the father of a future Bond villain is in SilverFin.
Another attendee asked about Higson’s other projects, and he said that he was still doing comedy writing, and had just gotten a job writing for a feature film.
Dr Shatterhand, webmaster of the terrific James Bond website Dr. Shatterhand’s Botanical Garden, then asked if Higson had heard from either of his predecessors – Raymond Benson or John Gardner. Higson said he had not, and did not expect to. He likened Bond authorship to the Bond actors – once their time is done another fills his place.
Next I asked about his writing process. I mentioned that Fleming wrote early in the morning and never looked back at his previous pages until the chapter was done. Higson was intrigued by this and said that he too tries to complete a first draft quickly before bogging down in editing. He was grateful for the invention of the word processor, a luxury Fleming didn’t have. As far as timing he said that he kept normal office hours when he was writing.
The funniest part of the evening came when Higson described using his sons as sounding boards for his work. He said if they fell asleep when he read a chapter to them, he knew it was too boring and had to rework it. One of his sons kept begging his father to have characters killed off as soon as they were introduced. “Have him get stabbed!”, “Throw him off a cliff!”, etc.
After the discussion was over, the book signing began. After the crowd thinned out, the core CBn crew was left and so we took photos and asked a few more questions. I asked which of the stops were the best attended, and he said Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Virginia. Dr Shatterhand asked if he had ever been to DC before, and Higson said yes, about 20 years ago, with his band, The Higsons. I asked if there were other SilverFin tours planned – Europe perhaps, and he said that the circuit isn’t quite like the American one, and that he most likely would not be doing a European book tour.
Next I told him that I thought he captured the feeling of boarding school acurately, which he was releived to hear since he had not attended one. I also said I appreciated that he made Bond’s father a graduate of the University of St Andrews, where I had studied as well. We chatted a little bit about how beautfiul Scotland is.
Dr Shatterhand got in a quick interview with his video camera, and put Higson on the spot about his describing some Bond fans as “mad.” Higson handled the question with aplomb, saying that enthusiasm is one thing – devoting your life to James Bond is another.
After the interview was over, Dlibrasnow, Dr. Shatterhand, and I said our goodbyes and thanks to Mr. Higson. We probably kept him a little longer than we should have, but he was gracious to the last. I hope his tour for Book 2 will be as entertaining.