Happy 115th birthday to Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

May 28, 1908 (or 28-May-1908) marks the 115th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

Fleming, of course, was the creator of James Bond. He was also the co-creator (with Norman Felton) of the character of Napoleon Solo, the lead character of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The latter gets less attention because Fleming sold off his interest for 1 British pound in 1963.

Regardless, without Fleming, the 1960s spy craze would never would had happened.

One can debate whether there were better versions of the spy craze (in particular John Le Carre’s stories).

Yet Fleming (and Fleming-inspired properties) lifted all boats in the ’60s. Without Fleming, things would have been much different.

Bond (and his rights holders) try to decide what’s next

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a weird time to be a James Bond fan.

In terms of the films, we are — yet again — in another hiatus. This time, it’s entirely voluntary on the part of Eon Productions. Eon killed off the Daniel Craig version of Bond in No Time to Die. Where does it go from here?

The message from Eon: Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Put another way: Bond 26? What’s that?

In the literary Bond world, Ian Fleming Publications wrapped up a trilogy written by Anthony Horowitz anchored in the Ian Fleming timeline. It’s now emphasizing a timeshifted “James Bond is missing” trilogy by Kim Sherwood with a quickly done timeshifted Charlie Higson story. The Sherwood and Higson stories have nothing to do with each other.

Higson’s tale, On His Majesty’s Secret Service, was connected to the recent coronation of King Charles III, the long-in-waiting monarch. Meanwhile, Sherwood’s trilogy still has two parts to go. More James Bond without James Bond.

For now, Bond overall is in neutral. Aside from Higson’s story, there’s not much actual Bond.

All of this, you might say, is obvious. And so it is. Regardless, it’s one of the oddest periods for Bond fans.

About continuity in James Bond continuation novels

To listen to an audio version of this post, CLICK HERE.

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but apparently, it does….continuation in the 007 continuation novels DOESN’T EXIST.

Let’s take a look.

Colonel Sun (1968, by Kingley Amis, writing as Robert Markham): This novel by an Ian Fleming admirer, seeks to be tied closely to Fleming’s originals.

The Fleming heirs (at least then) wanted to keep the Bond novels going. The Robert Markham pen name was intended for future Bond literary stories.

But this initial effort didn’t get beyond Colonel Sun. Anne Fleming, the author’s widow, wasn’t that interested.

Licensed Renewed-Cold: John Gardner was commissioned by Fleming’s heirs to restart the Bond literary series. His novels were published starting in 1981 through the mid-1990s. The books were “timeshifted” from Fleming’s originals with references to the creator’s works. Gardner’s books included novelizations for the Licence to Kill and Goldeneye films made by Eon Productions.

Zero Minus Ten-The Man With the Red Tatoo: Raymond Benson, who penned the James Bond Bedside Companion, was hired to take over from Gardner. In addition to the novels cited here, Benson wrote short stories that first appeared in Playboy and TV Guide. Like Gardner, Benson’s stories were timeshifted. Benson also did novelizations based on Eon movies.

Sebastian Faulks (2008): Years after Benson’s exit, the Fleming heirs hired celebrated author Faulks to do a Bond novel for the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth. Supposedly, Faulks was “writing as Ian Fleming.”

Jeffery Deaver (2011): The American author was hired by the Fleming heirs to write Carte Blanche. It was intended as the start of a new timeshifted series. But nothing happened after publication.

William Boyd (2013): The Fleming estate hired another established novelist to do a period piece, set in 1969. Amusingly, the title came from a TV project Ian Fleming was involved with that would be retitled The Man From U.N.C.L.E. None of the publicity mentioned this. Perhaps the heirs didn’t appreciate that Fleming sold his U.N.C.L.E. rights for 1 British pound.

Anthony Horowitz (2015-2022): The Fleming estate hired Horowitz for what would be a trilogy set in the Ian Feming timeline. The first book, Trigger Mortis takes place after the events of Fleming’s Goldfinger novel. Forever and a Day takes place before Casino Royale. Horwitz’s final Bond effort, With a Mind to a Kill, occurs after The Man with the Golden Gun novel.

Since then, Kim Sherwood and Charlie Higson have done timeshifted novels. There is no way to tie all of this to a continuity.

If any fan thinks they’re being clever pointing out discrepancies, forget it. It’s like pointing out time differences in comic books and comic strips. It’s fiction. Ian Fleming himself changed Bond’s timeline while doing his novels and short stories. The likes of Superman, Batman, the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider-Man, etc., etc. don’t hold up to a firm timeline.

It’s fiction. That’s how it works.

An early 15th-anniversary post for The Spy Command

Happy Spy Command Day, says Griffey the Griffin

It’s very early to mark the 15th anniversary of The Spy Command. Still, the blog did come out in October 2008.

The blog has always sought to cut the wheat from the chaff. But some fans don’t appreciate that.

This blog has mostly been a hobby. And that has been the case for years.

Not everyone takes it that way. The blog has been accused of rooting for the box office failure of No Time to Die. Not true, but the blog posted the financial box office results.

More recently, a one-time prominent Bond fan criticized the blog. I won’t link it. Suffice it to say, the Bond fan sent me emails apparently looking for me to promote his recent publications.

Regardless, the blog will go on. The blog has always been more than James Bond. There are plenty of online places for promotion.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service debuts

On His Majesty’s Secret Service, the latest James Bond continuation novel, officially debuted today.

The novel represents Charlie Higson’s take on the adult literary Bond character. Higson previously penned Young Bond novels. Those books were set in the 1930s. The new book is timeshifted to the present day and ties into this week’s coronation of King Charles III, 74, who ascended to the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.

The MI6 HQ site today carried a review by Ajay Chowdhury, co-author of Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films.

“Rather like the movie ‘Skyfall’, ‘On His Majesty’s Secret Service’ is actually about the state of the nation,” he wrote. “Where the United Kingdom is in 2023. Bond ruminates on his own role of honour and of service.”

The Bond Experience channel on YouTube today posted an interview with Higson. In the interview, Higson said the project came together quickly, starting out as a short story and expanding into a novel. The initial goal, Higson told host David Zaritsky, was to write 10,000 words. The novel ended up being 40,000 words. On His Majesty’s Secret Service was written in March and edited in early April.

The interview is below. The portion about the origin of the project comes after the 18:00 mark.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service makes a splash

Ian Fleming Publications wants to make sure everyone knows about the U.K. debut of Charlie Higson’s On His Majesty’s Secret Service is about to come out.

Here is one post on Twitter from IFP:

Looks like a bit of an assembly line. But hey, fans of the literary James Bond have been hungry for a Charlie Higson take on adult Bond. The author has produced a series of “Young Bond” novels. Separately, Kim Sherwood is doing her own series of timeshifted 007 novels (without James Bond).

Ian Fleming Publications is taking action while Eon Productions, which controls the fate of the movie Bond, is on hiatus.

Higson says his and Sherwood’s 007 stories are separate

Charlie Higson, author of the upcoming James Bond novel On His Majesty’s Secret Service, says his book and Kim Sherwood’s 007 universe trilogy exist in separate universes.

“My book and Kim’s book exist in 2 separate universes. They don’t relate,” Higson wrote on Twitter. “Kim’s book and world are her own creation. I’ve tried to do a tweak/update of Fleming’s world.”

Higson added his novel “is a one off for charity so I don’t think it can be described as a cash in.”

Both On His Majesty’s Secret Service and Sherwood’s Double or Nothing (with two sequels to come) are timeshifted to the present day. Higson, who penned a series of “Young Bond” novels, sets his novel to coincide with next month’s coronation of King Charles III.

Since 2008, Ian Fleming Publications has come out with mostly period pieces, including novels by Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, and Anthony Horowitz. Jeffery Deaver had a timeshifted novel that amounted to a reboot of the literary Bond.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service is scheduled to be published May 4 in the U.K. The book is to be available in ebook and audio book form on that date in the U.S. It may be available in regular book form later in the U.S.

Bond 26’s delay spur other efforts

The James Bond film franchise is in the midst of another hiatus. It’s not known when the franchise will get going again. How is this affecting the spy genre?

Literary Bond gets a chance to shine: In 2022, Ian Fleming Publication came out with Double Or Nothing by Kim Sherwood, a modern-day tale featuring other 00-agents while James Bond is missing. The novel is just now coming to the U.S.

Also, Charlie Higson, who penned a series of “Young Bond’ novels is getting his chance to do an adult Bond novel with On His Majesty’s Secret Service, a story related to the coronation of King Charles III. That will be published in all forms in the U.K early next month. In the U.S., we’ll get an e-book version and an audiobook at the same time. A print version may be out shortly.

Other spies get a chance to shine: Amazon is coming out with a streaming series called Citadel featuring operatives of an independent spy agency. A movie titled Maude vs. Maude with Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry is in development, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Jolie previously headlined the 2010 spy movie titled Salt. Berry had the lead female role in Die Another Day, the 2002 James Bond film. Richard Madden is one of the leads for Citadel. He has been part of speculation for playing 007 in Bond 26.

There are other spy-related projects, including Argylle (whose cast includes another would-be Bond, Henry Cavill).

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series gets a free run: Tom Cruise is coming out with a Mission: Impossible film(later this year, with a follow-up in 2024. This may be the finale for Cruise’s M:I movie series that began in 1996.

Bond fans note (with justification) that M:I stunts appear to be modeled after earlier stunt efforts in 007 films. But what makes the M:I series different is how Cruise seems all-in on the stunts.

We’ll see about all this. But nature abhors a vacuum. If the makers of the Bond franchise want a break, others clearly will take up the slack.

UPDATED: Reader Jack Lugo reminded me about this upcoming project, Ghosted, with Chris Evans and Ana De Armas. The latter was a memorable part of No Time to Die.

IFP unveils cover to Higson’s adult Bond novel

Ian Fleming Publications today unveiled the cover to Charlie Higson’s adult Bond continuation novel, On His Majesty’s Secret Service.

IFP late last month announced that Higson had been hired to produce the novel. The author previously had penned a series of “Young Bond” novels.

Higson’s new work is scheduled to come out in May to coincide with the coronation of King Charles III.

“The books will feature an eye-catching gold foil effect, fit for a king,” IFP said in a tweet.

Here is the tweet IFP sent out today:

Literary James Bond reaches 70

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

Today, April 13, is the 70th anniversary publication of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming.

In those seven decades, Bond became one of the major fictional characters of the 20th century. The film series, produced by Eon Productions, kept that going into the 21st century.

Those first-edition copies of Fleming’s Casino Royale sell for a lot. In the mid-2010s, a friend of mine got quite a lot for his copy, part of an auction of his various 007 collectibles.

Since that book’s publication, the world of James Bond has evolved. The movie series eclipsed the literary Bond.

Still, Fleming’s originals attracted prominent fans. In the United States, that included Hugh Hefter, founder of Playboy magazine, and President John F. Kennedy (1961-63). Hefner, when Raymond Benson was Bond continuation author (1997-2002), revived Playboy’s tradition of serializing Bond short stories and novels.

Ian Fleming Publications, run by the heirs of the 007 author, is coming out with new editions of the Fleming originals. There are some alterations that are controversial.

Regardless, nobody would care unless James Bond still elicited excitement and interest.

So, Mr. Bond, happy 70th anniversary.