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  1. The Charlie Higson CBn Interview II

    CAUTION: While there are no major plot spoilers contained in this interview, Charlie does speak at length about character relationships and motivations in Hurricane Gold. For those of you wishing to remain 100% spoiler free… beware.

    In February 2005 CBn had the honour of being the first Bond website to interview author, comedian, and

    John Cox

    “The Fast Show” star Charlie Higson, who had just been announced as the new James Bond continuation author. At the time, Higson’s first Bond novel, SilverFin, had yet to be released, and a question hung in the air: Would fans embrace a series that featured a 13-year-old James Bond?

    Now, two years later, Higson’s “Young Bond” novels have been published in over 23 countries with sales of the first three books topping a half million in the UK alone. The Young Bond DossierThe books have been praised by critics and embraced by Bond fans young and old. This Thursday, 6 September, sees the fourth book in the series, Hurricane Gold, published as a hardcover by Puffin Books. It is expected to be another bestseller.

    Now John Cox of The Young Bond Dossier once again sits down with Charlie Higson for CBn to find out how his journey has been, and what’s in store for James in the final two installments of his Young Bond series.

    The Charlie Higson CBn Interview II

    JC: The last time we did a CBn interview was right before the release of SilverFin, and now here you are working on the final book. How has the journey been, and has the series turned out the way you envisioned?

    CH:

    Well, it seems to have gone by very quickly. But it must have been a few years ago that I started writing SilverFin. I had no idea where it was going to go. You know, they said they wanted five books but if the first one hadn’t done well, there wouldn’t have been any more, so…

    JC: Oh, really? There was a cut-off?

    CH: Well, I think they probably would have had it go to two or three, but nobody’s going to keep publishing books that aren’t successful. Luckily, everywhere except over your side of the pond they’ve done really well. That’s the only thing that we’ve yet to crack—The States. And we’ve had some comings and goings with publishers, but I think that’s been sorted out now. But over here it’s been absolutely amazing.

    QUOTE: Well, obviously I've got to come up with a torture which isn’t too horrible...

    The success has been quite phenomenal really. You know, I always thought “Yeah, the first one will sell a bit on the name of James Bond. After that, who knows?” But luckily the kids here seem to like that kind of old-fashioned action-adventure story.

    JC: Before we talk about the new book, I just wanted to play catch up a little bit. I know you’ve already done a lot of interviews about Blood Fever, but I don’t think anyone has asked how you came up with the mosquito torture—which I think is a new Bondian iconic torture.

    CH: Well, obviously I’ve got to come up with a torture which isn’t too horrible because then we wouldn’t be allowed to use it in the books if it’s too graphic. I can’t have him having his testicle crushed in a nutcracker and things like that. So the idea of doing it via third party, by a mosquito, works very well. But it’s mainly having spent many holidays as a kid in the Mediterranean. Certainly for an English person, where we don’t have mosquitoes, one of the vivid memories of going on holiday in the Mediterranean is being bitten to shreds by mosquitoes. So I thought that’s something that kids could relate too. Always in the books I’m trying to think of things where a kid could think, “Yeah, I can imagine that. I can picture being in that situation.” The thought of being tied down in the middle of a mosquito swamp is pretty unbearable, I thought. So it had some resonance.

    JC: Something else that I think has emerged as a Bondian classic is what I call the “breakaway henchman” of Double or Die. (Charlie laughs) The henchman who comes away from every encounter missing a body part. Was that planned, or did it evolve as you wrote? It felt like maybe it was something you discovered on the way.

    CH: It did start to evolve as I was writing it and I started to think, this is a good thing, this sort of steadily diminishing villain. Most of my stuff evolves as I write. I tend to write quite quickly. I have rough ideas for characters and situations and I’ll write a quick first draft and I’ll keep changing even as I go through the first draft and I’ll go back over it and over it. And, yeah, definitely I went back and added a few more. I added a couple of things I eventually took out because it was kind of getting a bit too much.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    It’s very nice when you’re writing and you suddenly get an idea like that. You know it’s the terrible question you always get asked is “where do you get your ideas from?”. And who knows really? But that one definitely came about through the processes of writing.

    JC: Actually, I think you just partially answered my next question, and that’s how much of the books you outline before you start, and do Ian Fleming Publications have any input on the story?

    CH: When I started I had initial discussions with IFP. We talked about where they’d like the fifth book to be set and where it all might end up and some of the themes, so I started thinking of a kind of story that would go through all five books. Then I immediately started thinking I need to do some skiing in one of them at the Alps, there needs to be some underwater thing… So I started thinking about all the Bond themes, and working them out roughly where they might lay in the books. I’ve changed that slightly as it’s gone on. So I plan things out to a certain extent. I like to know where each book’s going to end up. But getting there I don’t always know.



    I’d written most of Blood Fever—certainly the first or second draft—before SilverFin came out. So [Blood Fever] wasn’t influenced by the first book particularly. I just wanted to push it a bit more into the, kind of, “Bond world”. And then when I started getting reactions to SilverFin, that slightly started to influence how I was going about the third book. But then of course the second book came out and I started getting reactions to that, and I was thinking “Oh, dear. Have I gone down the wrong route with this third book?”

    But, in the end, you can’t be swayed by what people think. And particularly you have to be careful trawling the Internet and seeing people’s comments and kind of knee-jerk responses to things. You gotta in the end stick with what you want to do—what I like writing about and getting a reaction off my kids. But it is quite fun trying to switch the books around a bit and make them all a bit different and surprise people. Certainly with the new one, with Hurricane Gold, I’ve done a completely different kind of a structure for it. Because I thought it was starting to get a little bit obvious that you’d have the first third of the story in Eton, and then he’d go off, out for a big adventure. In Hurricane Gold there are no scenes at Eton at all.

    JC:No scenes at Eton? That’s a surprise.

    CH:Well, there are letters from his friends at Eton and from Mr. Fairburn, so you’ve got this kind of parallel story of what’s going on at Eton. And Bond is round the other side of the world cut off from all that and his kind of feelings about that.

    QUOTE: I had to go back and think, 'Well, why on earth is it called SilverFin?'

    But I thought, yeah, let’s switch it around a bit and just launch him straight in at the beginning fully into the adventure. Because I was feeling—I may have gone through this elsewhere, I don’t know—after Double or Die which was cold, grey England at Christmas, I really thought it was important to send him off somewhere hot and glamorous for the next one. And in fact, that was kind of the reaction Ian Fleming got after Moonraker. He got lots of letters from people saying “We don’t want to see Bond in Kent. We want to see him somewhere nice and sunny. We don’t want to think about England anymore in the winter.” So I’m sort of trying to vaguely, as you know, echo the way that Fleming’s five books went.

    JC:So that has been a conscious choice—to echo the Fleming books?

    CH:As I’ve gone on, it is kind of helpful to have something like that. And just think “Well, yeah, I mean, he tried…” Because Moonraker was very much like a sort of detective story—a procedural thriller. I have my suspicions actually that it was something he was probably working on even pre-Bond and he kind of thought “Yeah, I can use that for Bond.”

    JC:Really?

    CH: Yeah. Because it is very different from the other ones. And yet it is one of the more popular books. It does seem to come out quite high in polls quite a lot. But I’m not slavishly thinking “Right, I’ve got to this in the next one and this in the next one.” But it’s quite fun to go through that same process that he went through when he was reacting to readers’ comments and what people like or disliked in the books. So all the sort of wintry skiing stuff that was going to be in the fourth book I’ve just about managed to shift it into the fifth book, which will open in the Alps. And then he kind of drifts through summer after that. So it’s got a bit of everything in book five. But book four, by sending him off to Mexico, I could just about get him somewhere warm and exotic before he has to get back to Eton. But as usual, he’s living quite an action-packed life (laughs).

    JC: One last question about Double or Die. The postscript at the end when we meet the adult James Bond… That was unlike anything that’s yet been in a Young Bond novel and I was wondering where that idea came from and what you think about it?

    CH:

    Well, I have to tell you I’m of two minds as to whether or not it was a good idea. I think it was quite fun to do. Unfortunately, some of the kids reading it think “Oh, so he’s not going to be a kid anymore in the books. He’s grown up now is he?” But as soon as they see the next one they’ll know that’s not true. I kind of felt everybody knows that James Bond does grow up to be a spy. It’s not a great surprise. We know he’s going to live in each of the books and carry on and do things. And I wanted to talk a bit about the whole Alan Turing thing and ENIGMA and that kind of world. And I thought rather than just putting a sort of dull postscript about what went on, I thought, “Well, let’s try just to have a little glimpse of adult Bond.” It was quite fun writing, actually, because I could call him “Bond”, rather than “James”. I did at that point start thinking, you know, it might be fun to write an adult Bond novel after all.

    JC: Oh? Any chance you may write an adult Bond novel?

    CH: Well, when IFP first approached me they said “We are looking at writing some new James Bond books” and I thought Christ how would you do that? That’s going to be really difficult trying to do a new adult Bond and try and keep him James Bond. And what can you do that hasn’t been done before?

    QUOTE: It's my attempt at a fictional Caribbean island in the great Fleming tradition.

    And then they said, “But it’s for children and it’s about him as a kid” at which point I thought “Oh, right. Okay, now I get it. We might have some fun with that. I can twist it round and have some more input for myself.” So I easily got very excited about the project. And, obviously, over the years the question of adult Bond books has come up in discussions with Ian Fleming Publications. Just in conversation. And, you know, I thought, “Well, could I pull it off?”

    I mean, it’s been great fun writing the kids’ books and there’s a certain degree of freedom you get. You think, “This is a little bit implausible, isn’t it?” Well, it’s a kid’s book! (Laughs) I think actually that was some of the strength of Ian Fleming. As he said, he was really a kind of permanent adolescent. He wrote things that a lot of writers would have thought “Oh, no, that’s a bit implausible, that’s a bit far-fetched or whatever.” But [Fleming] thought, “No, let’s do it.” And so he was kind of freed of those restraints, and that’s what makes his books so much fun really. So I think maybe one day it might be nice to have a crack at the adult Bond. I mean—I’m really excited to see what Sebastian Faulks has done with it and what he’ll come up with. I think that’s going to be a really terrific book.

    JC: So you haven’t had a peek at the manuscript for Devil May Care?

    CH: No. No. God, you know how secretive IFP are. I did know the name before the announcement, but not long before. As you know, they play their cards very close to their chest. But I am hoping I will get a kind of proof copy.

    JC:Okay, let’s talk about Hurricane Gold. You already mentioned that you changed the location from the Alps to give Bond a little fun in the sun. Mexico is a great choice because Bond has actually never been to Mexico.

    CH:No, you know, Fleming was quite limited in his choice of locations. He just wrote about places that he’d been to. From Russia with Love he’d just gotten back from a trip to Istanbul and he was obviously excited by it. A lot of them are set in Jamaica obviously because he knew that really well. He loved the Alps.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    He’d spent a lot of time there as a kid. And the Japan [book] came about by a trip that he’d taken.

    I was actually torn between Mexico and North Africa as a location. But then I read somewhere that Fleming was never keen on North Africa and always dismissed it as a location for Bond. I don’t know what his objections were but he didn’t like the idea of North Africa. So I thought well, Mexico. And then I can start in Mexico and end up in the Caribbean. Geographically it makes sense. I thought I really had to have something in the books of the Caribbean because it was such a big deal for Fleming. And I’ve always loved Mexico and wanted to write something about Mexico. I love the food and the music and growing up on all those cheesy westerns and 1930s thrillers that are set there. So it was just quite fun for me.

    JC:It’s a great choice. I’m excited about it. The island, where the criminals are…

    CH: “Lagrimas Negras”.

    JC:Is that fictional or based on something real?

    CH: No. It’s totally fictional, yes. It’s my attempt at a fictional Caribbean island in the great Fleming tradition (laughs).

    JC:Unless it’s a surprise, can you tell us what the title Hurricane Gold refers to?

    CH:

    Well, as with all the other titles, it came very late in the day after many, many different titles. In fact, my working title for the book was “Lagrimas Negras”, which was very quickly rejected by the publishers as being incomprehensible to English readers. As I said, we went through lots of titles. There was originally in the book a big sequence that was set in a gold mine. But I changed that because I felt in Blood Fever we’d kind of done the silver mine thing. So in the end I changed it to an abandoned oil field, which there were a lot of in the 1930s in Mexico. There was a big oil boom there.

    But the publishers had got very excited about the idea of gold. And obviously there was a lot of stuff about the Mayans and Mayan gold in the book. And they said “we’d love to have gold in the title somewhere” because they were working on this concept of making a gold book. These days, you’ve got to think about marketing even as you’re writing the book. And there is a hurricane early on in the book. So those were the two themes. Then I was kind of knocking around and I thought “Hurricane Gold” actually sounds quite good. It’s quite a nice combination for a title. So I suggested that to them and they jumped at it, at which point, as with SilverFin, I had to go back and work it into the book a bit.

    But I did—I came up with an ancient Mayan saying, which I created, which is the concept of “hurricane gold”, which is a great treasure which if you hang on to it, it will destroy you and all your family and bring your house down about your head. And that’s kind of the theme of the book is this secret that everybody’s fighting to get hold of which is destroying anybody who does get hold of it.

    Image: Charlie Higson

    So if you read to the end of the book the title does makes sense. And I quite like when you do get a kind of theme or something you can think up, even after you’ve written maybe the first or second draft, and then you can go back and work it in. It gives an extra dimension to the book.

    And exactly the same thing happened with SilverFin because we eventually came up with this title of SilverFin, at which point I had to go back and think, “Well, why on earth is it called ‘SilverFin’?” So I made up the story of the Scottish legend of the big fish and I named the loch “Silverfin” and I named the serum “SilverFin” and it kind of all worked very nicely actually. I’m still slightly trying to work out why Double or Die is called Double or Die (laughs). But if you ask a load of kids to give a title to a book that they’ve never read, what do you expect?

    JC:Well, there is gambling in the book—

    CH:Yeah. I mean, I did try and work in a bit of that, the concept of—well, they “shoot the moon”—which is what the original title was—it’s similar to that. It’s kind of “all or nothing”.

    JC:I know you had a favorite of the three, but I don’t think you’ve ever said what that was?

    CH:Well, it’s a bit like asking a father which is their favourite child.

    JC:Oh, not the books. I’m talking about the titles. The three title choices.

    CH:Oh, the titles. Right. Well, I quite liked “The Deadlock Cipher”.

    JC: I suspected that was your title.

    CH:But it is a little bit… sort of Sherlock Holmesy. It’s quite a nice title. I don’t think actually, in the end, it really is much of a James Bond title. And I know that some of the kids, having read the book said “Oh, yeah, maybe it should’ve been called ‘The Deadlock Cipher’” But, you know, they didn’t know what it meant. And it was confusing for them. And also a lot of them thought it was “The Deadlock Kipper”. Do you have kippers in America?

    JC:Kippers? We don’t have kippers here. At least, if we have them, they’re not called kippers.

    CH: It’s smoked haddock. Smoked fish that a lot of people have for their breakfast. It’s called a kipper. Yeah, a lot of kids thought the title was “The Deadlock Kipper”, (laughs) which wasn’t right.

    QUOTE: I did at that point start thinking, you know, it might be fun to write an adult bond novel after all.

    No, I think it was a little bit too artsy-fartsy and erudite for a James Bond title. Anyway, I liked all three of them so I was happy with the choice in the end. It was pretty obvious that the kids were going to go for [Double or Die] because it sounded like a James Bond title.

    JC: It does. It looks good in print too. I know you test your books out on your boys as you write them. What’s their reaction to Hurricane Gold and do they have a favorite Young Bond novel? Or maybe a favorite gruesome death?

    CH:(Laughs) They like all the deaths. Yes. I mean, actually funny enough, the bit that still really sticks in their mind—certainly with the two youngest ones, because they were very young when they read it—is the opening sequence of SilverFin with the eels and the mutant man in the loch, which does seem to freak out quite a lot of kids, that chapter, which is kind of nice. No, they don’t have a favourite particularly. And yeah, luckily they did really like the new one. I made sure it’s fairly non-stop action from the beginning. It’s a kind of… not exactly a roller-coaster ride, but the central image—theme—of the book is this rat run, a homage, if you like, to Doctor No and his… I don’t know how he describes it, but his kind of “corridor of pain” that James Bond has to work his way through. The guy who runs this island has his own equivalent. It’s much bigger and more elaborate.

    JC:Is that the Avenue Of Death?

    CH:It’s the Avenue Of Death, yes, which is a series of passages with traps and dangers you have to work your way through. And so to a certain extent the whole book is structured like that when James starts off, and he’s got to work his way through these series of disasters and problems, and eventually he arrives at the island and then he has to do the whole thing again in miniature in the Avenue Of Death. So I did make sure that it was pretty rollicking action from the beginning so my kids don’t get bored. Because I remember when I was reading Blood Fever to them, we were about halfway through, and one of them said to me: “Dad, when’s the story going to start?” And I was thinking, “What are you talking about? We’re halfway through the book. It’s been nothing but plot.”

    Image: Charlie Higson

    But what they actually meant was, “When’s there going to be another fight?” As far as they’re concerned, that’s what story is. It’s a lot of fighting—loosely separated with a bit of talking and some scene-setting. So I kind of felt, Let’s start the story on page one in Hurricane Gold and then push it through. So it’s a good reaction. Jim, my twelve-year-old, said a really nice thing to me. When I finished it, he was silent for a moment, and then he said, “Oh, I wish I could have adventures like James Bond.” And that’s exactly the response I want to have from kids—just think “What a great adventure! Wouldn’t that be fun to do!” So luckily, yeah, they do still enjoy the books. I have made sure that there’re a lot of very grisly and gruesome deaths in the book that will stick in a child’s mind.

    JC: You mentioned “adventure novel”. I know you just did a program about the reemergence of the boy’s adventure novel. My sense from the plot description is that Hurricane Gold maybe leans more toward a classic boy’s adventure novel than a James Bond novel? Or am I wrong?

    CH: Well, the background to it is spies and stolen secrets. And I think certainly when he gets to the island at the end, it is very much a homage to Doctor No and any kind of those—the criminal base at the end. So I think there are a lot of Bond elements in it. There are these American gangsters, so there are echoes of Diamonds Are Forever which is—obviously—about gangsters, in that case, diamond smuggling. In this case, it’s gangsters involved in smuggling something else.

    It’s interesting, as the books go on, I’m less worried about pleasing the kind of James Bond purists. And, at the same time, there’s nothing in the books that will grate. It all fits in with Fleming’s scheme and his facts, and there’s the usual allusions to things in the adult books. But what’s interesting is over here in England, Young Bond is very much seen by the kids as character in his own right. They’re not constantly relating it back to James Bond and the adult Bond and all that. They enjoy the books for what they are, and the character in the books for who he is. And that sort of gives me a little bit more freedom. That being said, book number five probably will be the most similar in themes and plot elements to a Fleming book. And it certainly moves much more into the world of the Secret Service.

    JC:You anticipated my next question. So is book five going to be your From Russia With Love?

    CH:

    Well, yeah. I mean, it’s the one where it all gets quite serious and grown up. There’s a lot of stuff about Russian spies, German spies, stuff that was going on in the 1930s, the whole kind of drift toward the Second World War and all that. So it is very much saying, “This is where James Bond’s life is going to go.” But it will mean I’ve burnt quite a lot of bridges. I’ve said I’m not going to do any more Young Bond, and I can’t because I do eventually have to deal with Bond leaving Eton. He’s been there a lot longer than his allotted time, as you know. And so he very much needs the end of that period of his life in book five. But it may be that I can go on and do another stage in his life, or something different, but it would be very difficult to write any more Young Bond books after Book Five. It’s interesting, Fleming himself after the end of From Russia With Love left it in a position where maybe that was the last one. Maybe Bond was dead and he wasn’t going to do anymore. So there are all those kind of echoes of Fleming and what he was up to.

    I just hope that my book four, Hurricane Gold is better received than Diamonds Are Forever, which does tend to come out somewhere near the bottom of any list of Fleming books. It didn’t quite have what people wanted from a Bond book. But I am confident that I’ve got some great villains, some great characters and some great action sequences, and it’s probably more like Doctor No—which then again was a slightly different Bond book. It was going more into that almost sort of sci-fi area and more of a fantasy area. Although there’s no sci-fi or anything in this book, it does have a different feel from the other three. But I like that.

    JC:You mentioned the characters in Hurricane Gold… I’ve learned a little bit about the Bond girl, Precious Stone, which I think is a dynamite name, and I’m wondering how you come up with a Bond Girl name that’s outrageous but not Austin Powers parody?

    CH: It’s very tricky, and I’ve noticed on the websites it does kick up a storm of discussion about “Is this a crap name or not?” I don’t know. Any of the Fleming names you could have put them down on paper, if you’d never read the book and knew nothing about Bond, and said “This girl is called ‘that’”, you’d think “Well, I’m not sure about that as a name”. But once you read the book and you accept it and she becomes a character then you buy into it. I think if in the process of the book the character works and the girl becomes interesting, you can, if you want, call her anything you like. But, yeah, it’s hard to think of those names. Especially as I can’t do anything sexual—which Fleming was fond of—because of who I’m writing for.

    Actually in the first draft of the book she wasn’t called Precious, she was called Amaryllis Stone. I like the name Amaryllis and, obviously, there was a Fleming connection.

    QUOTE: So it is very much saying, 'This is where James Bond’s life is going to go.'

    A cousin, I think she was a cello player, who is alluded to in “From A View To A Kill” rather cheekily by Fleming. So yeah, there is a member of the Fleming family called Amaryllis and I just thought it was a great name to use. But the character in the book starts as a real bitch, a real nasty piece of work. Spoilt. But as she goes through these adventures with James—they’re kind of thrown together—she toughens up and you realize that underneath it all, she’s quite tough. By the end, the two of them are, taking on the world together.

    But IFP were a little worried. They thought, “Well, you know, she does start a slightly unpleasant character. Might it upset the family?” So, I wasn’t totally wedded to the name, so I thought, “Well, I’ll try and think of another name.” And she already had the surname of “Stone” so I thought “Well, actually, Precious Stone is quite a good name, and it’s quite good for the character, this kind of southern belle who lives with her father who absolutely dotes on, and so he’s called her “Precious” and she’s lived up to her name. I think it’s the kind of thing that by the end of the book hopefully you sort of forget what she’s called and just accept the character on the page. And actually, I’m not sure if in the book it’s ever spelled out as “Precious Stone”. She’s always called “Precious”. I think maybe it’s mentioned toward the end what her name is. But we know she’s called “Precious”, and her surname is “Stone”. But she’s always referred to as “Precious” rather than as “Precious Stone”.

    JC:I think it’s a great name, and “Precious” wasn’t an uncommon name in the ’30s…

    CH:No. Exactly.

    JC:The character of Jack Stone, the World War I ace? Is he based on anything in real life?

    CH: Nothing specific, no. In fact, when I started, he wasn’t a World War I flying ace, he was a kind of oil magnate. But in the writing of it, I wanted to slightly change where he was coming from. There’s quite a lot of themes in the book about what happens to heroes when they’re not needed anymore, and it became quite interesting in terms of the whole sort of myth of Bond—you know, how someone in wartime can be a great hero, doing great things, and then if you do those same things in peacetime… because in wartime to be a hero, you’ve got to kill a lot of people. So this is someone who was a big star, big hero, did all the kind of air shows after the war and all that sort of barn-storming stuff and then is quietly forgotten by the world and his money disappears. So he has to… well, you’re going to have to read to find out what happens to him.

    But there’s a lot of discussion about “What is a hero?” and what happens when a country doesn’t need its heroes any more and forgets about them. I read quite a lot about the air aces. Most of them were killed before they were about 20. They were about 18 or 19 year olds when they were air aces.

    QUOTE: It's interesting, as the books go on, I'm less worried about pleasing the kind of James Bond purists.

    JC: Interesting. A very interesting character for James Bond to encounter…

    CH: Yeah. He is—and as the book goes on one realizes that Jack Stone is not all that he seems. And there’s a lot of stuff about the relationship between Precious and her dad, and, of course, James Bond not having a father, he’s sort of jealous, I suppose, in a way, of her relationship with her father.

    JC: That just reminded me of something that maybe you can’t answer, but I’m wondering if at any point in the series—I guess it would have to be the next book—you’re going to deal with Bond’s parents’ deaths?

    CH: Well, I have thought that about that a lot. And Book Five is a lot about climbing in the Alps and obviously Bond’s parents died in a climbing accident in the Alps. But I kind of decided early on that it might be a bit pat, a bit obvious, if, you know, they were spies or they got caught up in some plot and were bumped off. I think that sort of thing has been done quite a lot in kids’ books of this nature. So I’ve resisted that. I haven’t fully decided, but I think I will resist that, because again, it might be something that you think he might have mentioned in his adult life. It may have had some resonance to him. Particularly if it was to do with a foreign power or something. So I think I will leave it just as an accident. There are some more revelations in Book Five about his family and spying and references back to Uncle Max, but I think I’ll leave that just as an accident and not go into the great mystery of Bond’s parents. It’s a bit Harry Potter. It’s a bit Alex Rider, the Anthony Horowitz books. I think I’ll just leave them quietly in their graves. (Laughs)

    JC:You’ve shared a lot about Book Five. Do you have a working title that you want to share with us now?

    CH:No. No. (Thinking) Something came to me the other day, but I forgot to write it down and it’s gone now. No. I don’t even have a working title for this one. It’s just Bond Number Five.

    JC:It must be close to finished. Or at least your first draft must be close to finished?

    CH:
    &nbsp





    I wish it was. I’m a bit behind. Actually, what happened was Book Four was not meant to be out till next year. Next January or February. And I had quite a busy year this year. I knew the first half of the year I had various other writing jobs, so I delivered Book Four early to Puffin, and pushed it through to make sure it was finished well in advance so that I could clear the decks to get on with other writing before I started on Book Five. But, of course, publishers being publishers, they got the book early and said “Well, we’ll publish it early!” So they brought publication forward by about four or five months, which basically means that I’m four or five months behind on Book Five. We obviously want to get it out for next year for the centenary, so I am working on it and I’m going to work on it through the winter, but it’s going to be quite tight up against the deadline at the end.

    JC:So the plan is to release the book next year?

    CH:Yeah, towards the end of next year. I mean that would be great for the centenary. There’ll be the Sebastian Faulks book. There’s some various big stuff the family has planned. There’ll be the paperback of Hurricane Gold. There’ll be the graphic novel of SilverFin. And there’ll be the last of the Young Bond books. It should be a good year. If I can finish the f——ing thing! (Laughs)

    JC:Finally, was there anything in the series that you wanted to do that you weren’t able to do. A location? Or a Fleming reference?

    CH:
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbsp
    &nbspWell I’m still trying to get quite a lot into Book Five… so, no, I think I’ve done everything I’ve wanted. The thing with books is they never turn out anything like you expected them to. And particularly me, because I don’t plan things down to the last full stop. I leave it quite fluid in the writing. And it changes a lot from one draft to another. And so, oftentimes the book you end up with is not the book you set out to write. But certainly in terms of locations and characters and stuff, I think I’ve covered the James Bond world. And, yeah, as I say, any last loose threads will be tied up in Book Five, I hope.

    JC: Thank you Charlie for being so generous with your time and answers. I think I can speak for most Bond fans that we really enjoy the Young Bond series and look forward to the release of Hurricane Gold on Thursday.

    CH: Cheers then. See ya.

    johncox @ 2007-09-01
  2. 'Licence To Kill' – A Look Back at the Royal World Premiere

    Dalton’s Rambo touch will shake Di!

    -The Sun, 1989

    On a sweltering June evening eighteen years ago on 13 June, Licence To Kill, the film that marked Timothy Dalton’s final appearance as James Bond, had its Royal World Premiere at London’s Odeon Leicester Square theater. To mark its anniversary, CBn offers a look back with some rare photos and mementos from that memorable evening.


    Program for the World Premiere, June 13, 1989.



    Billboards line Leicester Square.



    The Odeon Leicester Square gets ready for the big event.



    Rare parking pass for the evening.



    A ticket to the Royal Premiere.



    Timothy Dalton arrives with Carey Lowell.



    The newspaper 'Today' (not to be confused with 'Tomorrow') covers the event.



    Dalton meets Di (who, as noted, arrived wearing her Octopussy dress).



    Hail and farewell, Timothy Dalton.

    johncox @ 2007-06-23
  3. A More Mature Young Bond

    John Cox

    For this old 007 fan, Charlie Higson’s first Young Bond novel, SilverFin, was a mixed bag. Clearly a book written for a preteen target audience, it too often seemed to mimic a Harry Potter adventure. A risky concept this Young Bond idea, and in SilverFin, author Higson and the 007 copyright holders showed signs of understandable uncertainty.

    This is NOT the case with Young Bond Book 2: Blood Fever, which takes a confident quantum leap into maturity and gives Bond fans of all ages one of the best James Bond novels yet written. Notice I didn’t qualify this by saying “Young Bond” or “continuation” novel. I said JAMES BOND novel because this is a book that could have come from the pen of Ian Fleming.

    The key difference seems to be that SilverFin was written as a children’s book (that could still be appreciated by adults) while Blood Fever appears to have been written with a more adult readership in mind. This is a tougher, darker, much more violent book than SilverFin. It even includes a classic Bondian torture scene (but don’t panic, parents, the torture is more about endurance than person-to-person sadism). Not only is the content of the book much more adult, but so is the form. Words like “hell” and “damn” flow freely in descriptive passages as the tension mounts. But because Blood Fever chronicles the adventures of a 14 year old (or is he still 13?), it’s still a novel young readers will find thrilling. However, with its surprisingly high body count, Blood Fever might not meet with a chorus of approval from parents and grade school teachers, as did its predecessor. This book is bloody and dangerous, just as a James Bond novel should be, and it may need to be read beneath the sheets at night by flashlight or smuggled into the back bleachers of the schoolyard. Good! This is exactly where a James Bond book should be read. Ian Fleming would be proud.

    Blood Fever

    Blood Fever by Charlie Higson

    Plotwise, Blood Fever spends far less time at Eton than did SilverFin, getting Bond quickly to Sardinia where the bulk of the novel is set. The exotic setting clearly inspired author Higson, who infuses his story with a terrific sense of location — its history, culture, its sights and smells. This is something that was always a highlight of the best Bond novels by Fleming and later Raymond Benson, and it’s great to see the tradition continue in the Young Bond series.

    As with SilverFin, Blood Fever‘s narrative is driven by the slow unpeeling of mystery and the discovery of character rather than nonstop action one might expect (or dread) from something bearing the James Bond name. But make no mistake. Blood Fever does contain action. Clues to the subterranean caper simmer until it all boils over into a series of action-packed climatic set pieces, culminating with a scene of destruction as spectacular as anything in a big-budget James Bond film.

    The villain in Blood Fever, Count Ugo Carnifex, is a true Bond baddie in the most classic sense, with a lair and scheme reflecting every inch of his megalomania. This is the best drawn Bond villain, book or film, we’ve encountered in some time, even if his plot isn’t of the “ticking clock” variety. Secondary characters are also marvelously conceived, particularly the pirate Zoltan the Magyar and the delicious Vendetta. Amy Goodenough, who exists largely in a parallel storyline, is a true Bond Girl in the best literary sense (not the ‘Yo Momma’ Halle Berry sense) and carries her part of the narrative so authoritatively, her passages could have been plucked from her own novel.

    But it’s the character of young Bond who stands head and shoulders above all others. The timid, apologetic youngster of SilverFin is long gone. Here, we have a teenage James with all the confidence, athletic skill, and luck of Ian Fleming’s secret agent. He coolly defies the villain, finds kinship with bandits, and derives visceral excitement by diving off high cliffs and driving fast cars. When forced into a gladiatorial boxing match with a much larger boy, Bond relishes the opportunity to “get his fight on.” This Bond is no Harry Potter clone or Alex Rider wannabe. This is the boy who will become 007 and who could kick the pixy dust out of any character in the Potter universe.

    One thing that is still not a part of the Young Bond universe, even in this more mature version, is sex. However, there is some simmering eroticism in how Ugo’s decrepit sister leers at handsome young James, and clearly, the animalistic Vendetta has some carnal curiosity. Bond even delivers his first “hard kiss on the mouth” in Blood Fever. But that’s as far as Higson takes it. Bond’s resistance to his female admirers seems more rooted in chivalry than nervous preadolescence (as in SilverFin), and besides, danger is always too close for such “distractions.” However, with Higson’s writing abilities and IFP’s willingness to push the boundaries, one wonders if the series may take a chance down the road (maybe when it shakes the shackles of U.S. publisher Disney/Hyperion). But, for now, Higson and the copyright holders are keeping the series “child safe” in this regard.

    Some Bond fans have resisted the Young Bond series based on concept alone. Even I admitted that SilverFin wouldn’t change the minds of the most entrenched fans. However, with Blood Fever, that resistance is now foolish. Bond fans are denying themselves a better Bond adventure than most of the recent James Bond films with their overblown action and under drawn characters. Here, that formula is reversed. There has been much talk lately about bringing Bond “back to basics.” Well, those basics are being practiced right here in the Young Bond series.

    So for you holdouts, my advice would be to take the plunge with Blood Fever. Young or old, this is James Bond at his very best!

    Purchase Blood Fever from Amazon.co.uk.

    johncox @ 2006-01-22
  4. Geoffrey Keen, 1916 – 2005

    The James Bond family has lost a member. Geoffrey Keen, who played The Minister of Defense in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985) and The Living Daylights (1987), passed away on November 3, 2005, at the age of 89.

    Actor Geoffrey Keen

    Actor Geoffrey Keen

    Among Keen’s 100 film credits were Genevieve (1953), Doctor in the House (1954), The Long Arm (1956), The Spiral Road (1962), and Taste The Blood of Dracula (1969). Keen also appeared the David Lean classic, Doctor Zhivago (1965).

    By the 1970s Keen’s big-screen career consisted mainly of his appearances in the Bond movies. However, there was a steady stream of theatrical engagements, as well as an increasing involvement in television. His most memorable small screen role was his portrayal of Brian Stead, a ruthless oil company chairman, in Troubleshooters.

    The Living Daylights signaled his retirement at the age of 71. Since the death of his third wife, Doris, Keen lived a quiet life in Surrey. He no longer enjoyed watching the films in which he appeared, calling them “ghosts which will only haunt me”.

    Keen is survived by his daughter and by his second wife.

    CBn offeres its sincere condolences to the Keen family.

    johncox @ 2005-11-07
  5. 'SilverFin' U.S. Paperback Coming in April

    Click to open gallery

    Click to open CBn’s SilverFin portrait gallery

    CBn has learned that the U.S. paperback edition of SilverFin, the first Young Bond novel by Charlie Higson, is scheduled for release in April 2006.

    Publisher Miramax/Hyperion released a hardcover edition of SilverFin in April of 2005.

    Miramax/Hyperion bought the rights to the first two Young Bond novels last year. The Disney owned company plans on releasing Young Bond Book 2, Blood Fever, in May 2006. (Pre-order at Amazon.com)

    It’s not known whether the publisher will remain in the Young Bond business for Book 3, which is due for release in the UK by Puffin Books in January 2007.

    In other Young Bond news, Player One (the company behind the upcoming SilverFin mobile game) has given CBn a nice look at the new Young Bond logo. This logo first appeared on the German edition of SilverFin. It’s expected the English language books will retain the original Young Bond logo while the games, graphic novels, and some select foreign editions may use the logo below.

    Click to open gallery

    Related links

    johncox @ 2005-11-06
  6. Brosnan Bares All For Playboy

    Caution: Excerpts from this interview contain language that my be offensive to some readers.

    The notoriously candid Pierce Brosnan has given an in-depth interview to the notoriously open Playboy Magazine, and the result is both oddly un-revelatory and shocking. What follows are excerpts from the Bond related sections of the interview in which Brosnan continues expressing bitterness about his tenure as James Bond, and even extends his wrath to former Bond star George Lazenby.

    Playboy: Where you ready to step down as James Bond?
    Brosnan: It would have been a trip to do another one. I prepared myself to do it. I psyched myself. But they have set sail. The made their decision. They want to reinvent it and make it a period piece. The want to get a younger guy.

    Pierce Brosnan

    “I’ll always be known as Bond, but now I don’t have the responsibility of being an ambassador for a small country ruled by a character.”

    Playboy: How does it feel to be told that you’re too old?
    Brosnan: It was kind of shocking to have ageism come on me when I was just getting started. It’s shocking to be told that you’re too old, that you’re past your sell-by date.

    Playboy: Do we detect some bitterness?
    Brosnan: It’s bloody frustrating that the f*ckers pulled the rug when they did. It was like, “Come on, we’re family here. You talk about being a family. You know my late wife; you know my family now. Yet I get a call from my agents at five in the afternoon in the Bahamas, and I hear that you’ve shut down negotiations because you don’t know how, where or which way to go and that you’ll call me next Friday?” What can I say? It’s cold, it’s juvenile, and it shouldn’t be done like that, not after 10 years and four films.

    When asked how he assessed his four Bond films (GoldenEye,1995; Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997; The Word Is Not Enough, 1999; Die Another Day, 2002) the actor responded:

    Brosnan: All the movies made money. Creatively, maybe, they could have been stronger, but they were Bond movies, and they advanced a certain degree out of the dolddrums where they had been. They were tricky to do. I never really felt as as though I nailed it. As soon as they put me into a suit and tie and gave me those lines of dialogue, I felt restricted. It was like the same old same old. I was doing Roger Moore doing Sean Connery doing George Lazenby. I felt as if I were doing a period piece dusted off. They never really took the risks they should have. […] It would have been great to light up and smoke cigarettes, for instance. It would have been great to have the killing a little more real and not wussed down. My boys watch the movies on DVD, so I see them from time to time. I see myself with nowhere to go, and it’s all rather bland.

    Brosnan went on to expresses his disappointment that the sex scenes in his Bond films where never steamy enough for his own tastes (“It would have been great to have sex scenes that were right on the button.”). When asked who would be his ideal Bond Girl, Brosnan had this to say:

    Brosnan: Monica Bellucci is a ravishing beauty — a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. She screen-tested to be a Bond girl a while back and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the day instead.

    Asked about the reports of his clashes with Teri Hatcher in the set of Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce explained:

    Brosnan: The Teri Hatcher incident was blown out of proportion. She was late to set because she was newly pregnant. I didn’t know that until the end of the day. […] I was vexed because I had a call time of six or seven AM, and we didn’t do any work until three or four in the afternoon. No one told me her situation until afterwards. By that time I’d already shot my mount off and cussed and moaned and groaned. That’s all it was, a storm in a teacup.

    The most bizarre part of the interview is when the topic of former Bond star George Lazenby arose. This has garnered some outside press attention, so here is the Q&A in it’s entirety.

    Playboy December 2005 issue

    Playboy December 2005 issue

    Playboy: How about George Lazenby, who played 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? He once said about you, “If he walked into a room, I doubt anyone would look up. But this is the 1990s and women want a man who shows his feminine side. Pierce definitely has that.”
    Brosnan: George is just an angry, old, pissed-off guy. He was never an actor but some pissed-off Aussie who doesn’t know how to show his feminine side. I met him, and he’s got that kind of brittle edge to him. People want to take swipes. I have no idea why.

    Brosnan went on to suggest Clive Owen would make a good James Bond, but when the conversation turned to his new film, The Matador, Brosnan once again let his fury fly:

    Brosnan: I would like to see this film be a glorious poke in the eye to certain parties and to be a success and have other glorious roles follow in it’s wake. […] When the f*ckers try and hem you in with Bond, it’s great to come back with The Matador. It’s great to say, “F*ck you, a**hole. F*ck you who wouldn’t give me a job. F*ck you who thought I was some wuss. F*uck you, who thought I was a pretty boy. F*ck you, who thought anything of me without even knowing me or giving me the chance. F*ck you.” But when you go around with all that inside you all the time, you end up completely mangled so you have to let it go.

    To read the entire Pierce Brosnan Playboy interview, purchase the December issue of Playboy Magazine. To subscribe, visit www.playboy.com (Caution: this link/website features frontpage nudity).

    Related Articles:

    johncox @ 2005-11-05
  7. 'Blood Fever' U.S. Hardcover Available for Pre-Order

    The U.S. edition of Charlie Higson’s second Young Bond novel, Blood Fever, is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com. The release date currently shows as May 2006. Price is $16.95.

    Blood Fever

    Blood Fever UK edition

    As with SilverFin, the U.S. edition of Blood Fever will be a hardcover.

    Blood Fever sees young James Bond traveling to Sardinia during his school break where he becomes embroiled in a plot involving art theft, smuggling, pirates, and a mad Italian count bent on restoring the Holy Roman Empire. In Blood Fever James will learn to snorkel and skin dive, and will endure what author Higson calls “a nasty torture scene.”

    Blood Fever is the second book in Charlie Higson’s bestselling Young Bond series. Book 1, SilverFin, was released this year. CBn recently revealed the first details of Young Bond Book 3 which is set for release in January 2007.

    Pre-order the U.S. hardcover edition of Blood Fever from Amazon.com (May 2006)

    Pre-order the UK paperback edition of Blood Fever from Amazon.co.uk (January 5, 2006)

    Related links

    johncox @ 2005-11-03
  8. 'SilverFin' Mobile Game Coming in January

    Player One Limited, leading global publisher of games and entertainment content for mobile phones, has announced plans to release of the first ever Young Bond themed mobile game.

    SilverFin Moble Game

    click to enlarge

    SilverFin Moble Game

    click to enlarge

    SilverFin Moble Game

    Based on the best-selling book by Charlie Higson, Young Bond – SilverFin will be released in January 2006 alongside the new Young Bond book, Blood Fever. The game features 15 puzzle filled levels set over three locations with a variety of enemies to avoid. The game will be available from all mobile networks WAP sites for a cost of £5.

    Pete Russell, MD for Player One, commented: “SilverFin begins the story of the boy who is to become the most popular fictional British hero of all time. James is a chip off the old block and we are delighted to be launching the first ever Young Bond game for mobile phones. Developed by Bafta award-winning company Morpheme, the thrilling game has unrivalled playability and captures the essence of the irrepressible Young Bond.”

    The Young Bond SilverFin game follows the story of the bestselling novel where an adolescent James Bond investigates the mysterious dissapereance of a local boy in the Highlands of Scotland, and soon finds himself confronting a madman with a sinister plot for global power. The Independent described SilverFin as “one of the publishing sensations of 2005.”

    Thanks to Player One, CBn is able to show Young Bond fans the first exclusive screenshots from Young Bond – SilverFin.

    To access and bookmark the Young Bond wap page for up-to-date information on what is available by mobile, text GO BOND to 85080. For full terms and conditions visit youngbond.com.

    Player One Ltd is a leading global mobile content provider and games publisher, leveraging World renowned sports and entertainment IP. Formed in 1999, the company has grown its stable of properties across a range of applications and platforms including Java and BREW and holds a rapidly expanding library of high quality sports and entertainment brand licenses content featuring some of the strongest brands in sport.

    Related Links

    johncox @ 2005-11-02
  9. Does Cécile De France Have a Date at Casino Royale?

    Two weeks ago Dark Horizons reported that Belgium born Cécile de France was among the actresses rumoured to be in consideration for the role of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Now de France’s name is listed below Daniel Craig on IMDb’s Casino Royale webpage.

    Could this mean the actress has landed the part?

    Cécile De France

    Cécile de France in 2005
    © www.Biosstars.com

    Of the many names bandied about in the weeks following the announcement of Craig as Bond (Jasmine Lennard, Angelina Jolie, Billie Piper), de France seems one of the more realistic Vesper contenders. Says director Martin Campbell, “First of all, what we’re going to get is a terrific actress. I think that’s really important. She has to look beautiful, she plays a very important role in the piece, and she also spends a lot of time with Bond. So clearly, when we decide who it is, it’s got to be somebody who has all of those attributes.”

    One of France’s most promising young actresses, Cécile de France was awarded the coveted Cesar award for her role in Cedric Klapisch’s L’Auberge Espagnole. Born in Belgium, de France’s early interest in theatre led to her theatrical training at L’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Techniques du Theatre in Paris and Lyon. After graduating in 1998 stage and TV roles were followed by such feature films as L’Art délicat de la seduction, Irène, and the horror thriller, Haute Tension (2003). Around The World in 80 Days with Jackie Chan marked her debut in an English language Hollywood film.

    “It’s a terrific part,” says director Campbell. “It’s actually probably the best Bond girl part, if you will.”

    In other Casino Royale casting news, IGn Filmforce is reporting the possibility that English actor David Suchet (best known as TV’s Hercule Poirot) may be in the running for the role of the villain Le Chiffre.

    Casino Royale will be the 21st James Bond film produced by EON Productions. The MGM/Columbia Pictures production begins shooting in January in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy and the UK. It will be release worldwide on November 17, 2006.

    Update (6 November, 2005)

    Cécile De France’s manager has told the Belgian newspaper La dernière heure that while de France did audition for a role in Casino Royale, the actress did not get the part.

    Related Articles:

    johncox @ 2005-10-31
  10. Majority of CBner's Approve of Craig as 007

    It’s been just over two weeks since the announcement of Daniel Craig as James Bond and the media has not been kind to the actor. Articles have appeared harping on the fact that Craig just doesn’t LOOK like 007. Pundits complain that he’s not as tall as the other actors who have played the part, and that he has blonde hair (ignoring that fact that Roger Moore sported near blond hair in one of his best Bond films, For Your Eyes Only).

    The media has also cavalierly characterized Bond fans as rejecting Craig, snatching negative comments from the various online forums to run as “evidence” of this. The Contra Costa Times even characterized CBn’s satirical “What are you blaming Craig for today?” thread as a prime example of fan discontent.

    However, two separate polls taken on CommanderBond.net show 80% of Bond fans here on the internet’s largest James Bond forum support the casting of Daniel Craig as 007 or will wait for the movie before they judge.

    Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig

    In a poll taken on the day of Craig’s announcement, 59% of Bond fans said they approved of Craig; 28% disapproved; and 13% elected to “wait and see.” The same poll taken two weeks later — after the avalanche of negative publicity — showed CBn support of Craig actually moving up to 61% with 21% electing to wait and see. Craig’s disapproval rate fell to only 18%. (These results are as of 29/10/05 — the CBn Daniel Craig poll remains open.)

    Composer David Arnold, who scored the James Bond screentests for EON Productions, takes aim at those who have judged Craig too quickly: “It would be a very foolish person who made any kind of judgment from how he answered tabloid questions at a press conference,” Arnold told the BBC. “People should be very excited about what’s going to happen.”

    Indeed, “what’s going to happen” seems to be the key to understanding why EON dropped former Bond Pierce Brosnan in favor of Daniel Craig.

    Both director Martin Campbell and EON Productions have said Casino Royale will be a Bond film grounded in realism and suspense, much more that any pervious Bond film. One the largest and longest “set-pieces” in this new film will be an intense gamble scene. As in the original Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale will also feature a brutal torture scene. It’s a bold and risky approach. The last attempt at realism, 1989’s Licence To Kill, did not find favor at the U.S. box office. Nevertheless, Bond fans on CBn approve of the new approach by 76%.

    But even going beyond this new realistic approach is the fact that Casino Royale will attempt to restart the James Bond franchise. Director Campbell has confirmed that his film will portray one of Bond’s first missions as a double-oh agent. But Casino Royale will NOT be a prequel, nor is it meant to fit into a chronology with the other 20 films (despite the re-casting of Judi Dench as M). As screenwriter Paul Haggis puts it, “the producers are doing with James Bond what the Batman franchise did with Batman Begins.” Casino Royale is not Bond 21 — it’s Bond #1.

    Daniel Craig is James Bond

    Daniel Craig is James Bond

    Taking all this into account (which the media has universally failed to do), the casting of Daniel Craig as James Bond begins to make perfect sense. Eon has vowed “back to basics” Bond films before, but they usually fall short. “We always start out trying to make another From Russia With Love and end up with another Thunderball,” says producer Michael G. Wilson. But the selection of Craig shows the filmmakers are deadly serious this time, extending this new “realism” to casting the lead role. An impossibly handsome male model type or an actor known for light comedy would not work in Casino Royale (just as Craig would not work in, say Moonraker). This is a film that will show what James Bond would really look and act like. The REAL James Bond. Even Columbia Pictures head Amy Pascal ultimately gave her thumbs up to Craig based on this criteria. “He seems like he could be a spy,” she said.

    Meanwhile, back here on CBn, even some Bond fans who initially rejected Craig are starting to rethink their position.

    “I was very against Craig becoming Bond, but now he has I actually really welcome it,” says member MKKBB. “I have now totally changed my mind about Craig, and can’t wait to see what he does, and hope all fans will get behind him, and all the others will wait to see how he turns out next November.”

    Casino Royale will be the 21st James Bond film produced by EON Productions. The MGM/Columbia Pictures production begins shooting in January in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy and the UK. It will be release worldwide on November 17, 2006.

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    johncox @ 2005-10-30