Higson delivers a James Bond oasis in 2023

Charlie Higson, with his On His Majesty’s Secret Service book, has delivered a James Bond oasis for 2023.

The cinematic Bond isn’t close to another movie adventure. Ian Fleming Publications, overseen by the heirs of the author, is mostly dealing with Kim Sherwood’s “James Bond without James Bond” trilogy.

Higson’s novella — written and published quickly to coincide with the coronation of King Charles III — is what James Bond fans get for now.

Higson’s book is both modestly sized (noticeably smaller than current continuation novels) and a modest page count (161 pages).

Yet, Higson captures many of the Bond memes. A villain with an outrageous speech. A villain with an outsized plan.

Higson also provides long (relatively speaking) action sequences. His version of Bond observes a lot of about the world of 2023, the way Fleming’s Bond made observations about the world of Stalin, Kruschev, and U.S. leaders such as John F. Kennedy.

Higson uses Fleming’s Bond as a vehicle to comment about the 21st century in Europe and the U.S. I’ve seen some Bond fans on social media object to that.

Regardless, Higson’s book is what James Bond fans are going to get for the foreseeable future. Sherwood’s trilogy features new 00-agents. Who knows when Eon will be ready to get on with things after the end of the Daniel Craig era?

Higson has also transitioned an analog Bond into the digital era. On His Majesty’s Secret Service references YouTube, bitcoin, social media, etc.

Other Bond continuation authors “timeshifted” Fleming’s creation. But in recent years, Ian Fleming Publications has mostly emphasized period pieces. Perhaps Higson really does show the old boy still has a place in modern times.

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.

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.

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.

IFP coming out with Higson adult Bond story

Charlie Higson, author of a series of Young Bond novels, is coming out with an adult Bond tale, Ian Fleming Publications announced today.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service is scheduled to be published May 4, two days before the coronation of King Charles III.

The new tale is timeshifted to the present day. Higson’s Young Bond novels were done as period pieces.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service concerns Bond being assigned to prevent the disruption of the coronation by “the wealthy, eccentric and self-styled Athelstan of Wessex,” according to IFP’s announcement.

The story will be available as a hardback, e-book and audiobook read by Higson. Royalties from sales will support the work of the National Literacy Trust, a U.K. charity, IFP said.

Here is IFP’s post on Twitter about the new book.

IFP releases designs for 70th edition paperbacks

The Ian Fleming Publications 007 logo

Ian Fleming Publications unveiled a “new look” for Fleming’s Bond books and other works.

The announcement came shortly after IFP said it was scrubbing offensive bits from the author’s James Bond novels. That move stirred controversy about being “woke” and censorship.

In today’s announcement, IFP said Webb & Webb Design Ltd. had come up with new covers.

Besides Fleming’s James Bond works, IFP unveiled new covers for The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities.

Footnote: Thrilling Cities caused Ian Fleming to (briefly) become involved with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fleming would co-create the character of Napoleon Solo before abandoning the project under pressure from Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

IFP has mostly ignored Fleming’s involvement with the TV project. Fleming sold his interest in U.N.C.L.E. for 1 British pound. IFP gets no money from U.N.C.L.E. as a result.

IFP says Bond story alterations in line with Fleming’s wishes

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

Ian Fleming Publications, in a statement issued Feb. 27, said alterations in new editions of the author’s stories are “something Ian Fleming would have wanted.”

IFP specifically said changes to Live And Let Die, the second Bond novel, were in line with changes made in the original 1950s U.S. edition.

“We consulted with a number of external parties but ultimately decided that, rather than making changes in line with their advice, it was instead most appropriate to look for guidance from the author himself,” IFP said.

Live And Let Die, featuring a Black villain with part of the story taking place in New York City’s Harlem, has various racial issues. The title of chapter five in the original British edition contains the n-word. It was changed to “Seventh Avenue” in the U.S. edition.

“The original U.S. version of Live And Let Die, approved and apparently favored by Ian, had removed some racial terms which were problematic even in mid-1950s America, and would certainly be considered deeply offensive now by the vast majority of readers,” IFP said.

IFP said it would apply similar standards to other Fleming stories.

“We thus decided to apply the sensibilities of the original U.S. edition of Live And Let Die consistently across all the texts,” IFP said. Racial words “likely to cause great offense now, and detract from a reader’s enjoyment, have been altered, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and period.”

IFP said changes are “very small in number.” Some books, including Casino Royale, Fleming’s first novel, have not been changed.

IFP has taken over the publishing of Fleming novels and short stories. New e-books are out now and new paperbacks are to be issued in April for the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale.

Fleming’s “books deserve to be read and enjoyed as much now as when they were written,” IFP said. “We believe the new Bond editions will extend their pleasure to new audiences.”

UPDATE: Andrew Lycett, a biographer of Ian Fleming, weighed in via a commentary in The Independent.

“I feel strongly that what an author commits to paper is sacrosanct and shouldn’t be altered,” Lycett wrote. “It stands as evidence of that writer’s – and society’s – attitudes at a particular moment in time, whether it’s by Shakespeare, Dickens, or Ian Fleming.

“But there’s no way Bond’s character in the Fleming books can be modified to make him politically correct. Fleming created a sexist, often sadistic, killer, with anachronistic attitudes to homosexuals, and to a range of people of different nationalities. These stand as evidence of how Britons (or at least some of them) thought at a particular moment in time.”

Bond stories being edited for racial issues, Telegraph says

Cover to a U.S. paperback edition of Live And Let Die

Some Ian Fleming novels and short stories are being edited and altered to address racial issues, The Telegraph reported.

According to The Telegraph, Ian Fleming Publications “commissioned a review by sensitivity readers of the classic texts under its control.”

Many of the examples cited by The Telegraph concern Live And Let Die, Fleming’s second novel, which has sequences set in New York City.

An excerpt from The Telegraph article:

In the sensitivity reader-approved version of Live and Let Die, Bond’s assessment that would-be African criminals in the gold and diamond trades are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” becomes – “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”

Another altered scene features Bond visiting Harlem in New York, where a salacious strip tease at a nightclub makes the male crowd, including 007, increasingly agitated.

The Telegraph said other changes are being made:

The ethnicity of a barman in Thunderball is similarly omitted in new editions. In Quantum of Solace, a butler’s race now also goes unmentioned.

This all comes after The Guardian reported, some of author Roald Dahl’s children’s books have been changed “to remove language deemed offensive by the publisher Puffin.” (Dahl was also a screenwriter on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.)

“Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work,” the Guardian said.

Various forms of entertainment have dealt with related issues for decades. In the 1990s, a cable TV version of a Bugs Bunny cartoon abruptly lopped off the end where Bugs, Elmer Fudd, and various Canadian mounties did a song in blackface.

Today, on TV and streaming services, there are disclaimers/warnings that appear ahead of a film.