Book Reviews · Events · Norwich

Book Review: Silverfin by Charlie Higson

Noirwich, Norwich’s festival of crime writing, is back this week. If you prefer stylish spies to dark detectives or canny old ladies, we recommend SilverFin, the first in a new series of books about a certain Mr Bond.

Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, died in 1964. Since then a number of authors have been given permission to use his characters, like William Boyd, who fictionalised Ian Fleming in his novel Any Human Heart, and Anthony Horowitz, who created teen spy Alex Rider. In 2005 TV writer Charlie Higson was commissioned to write Bond’s official backstory, starting with his first term at Eton College.

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Just a few of the rules of Eton College, designed to turn teenage boys into gentlemen.

Despite making lots of friends, James becomes a target for the school bully, American George Hellebore. George’s father Lord Hellebore traded arms during the Second World War and was a rival of James’ father Andrew. Lord Hellebore hosts the annual Hellebore cup, an athletics tournament his son is certain to win. When James catches George taking a shortcut through the cross-country trail, the race is well and truly on….

His first year over, James travels to Scotland to stay with his beloved Uncle Max. On the way he meets teenager Red Kelly, and vows to help him find his missing cousin, who failed to return from a fishing trip at nearby Loch Silverfin. The plot thickens when the boys learn that the land around the Loch has been bought by none other than the villainous Lord Hellebore. Their suspicions are shared by Detective ‘Meatpacker’ Moran, of the infamous Pickerton Detective Agency, who has been hired by Lady Hellebore to spy on her husband. Soon the detective is face down in the Loch, his body disfigured by monstrous eels. Did Red’s cousin Alfie meet the same fate? What about Lady Hellebore’s missing lover, who happens to be her brother-in-law? James can’t call on M, Q or the rest of MI5 to help- he doesn’t have a job yet! Can one (highly intelligent) teenager solve a missing persons mystery?

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Just what is causing the creatures in Loch Silverfin to act so violently?

Bond’s creator Ian Fleming famously worked for the Special Operations Executive (more commonly known as the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”) who spied for Britain in Nazi-occupied territory. He also smoked over 70 cigarettes a day. Charlie Higson, who graduated from UEA and used to work as a decorator, may not seem as qualified as Fleming, but Fleming’s books are notoriously racist and misogynist. Higson’s non-white characters aren’t based on villainous stereotypes and while ‘Wilder Lawless’ is closer to a pun than the average girl’s name, it’s a million miles better than “Pussy Galore”! A modern outlook certainly gives Young Bond an advantage- after all, who would suspect a teenager?

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Author Ian Fleming with Sean Connery, the first actor to portray James Bond on film. 

Recommended reads

SilverFin: the Graphic Novel is available to borrow from our QUICK READS section. None of Higson’s story is lost in the switch from text to illustrations. English artist Kev Walker has worked on 2000AD’s Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors, as well as the wonderfully gruesome Marvel Zombies. Play close attention to the Scottish countryside and you’ll find lots of tongue-in-cheek references to 007.

The CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore (QUICK READS 823.91 MUC) is based on a slightly darker premise. MI5 is recruiting orphans to go where adults fear to tread. James Adams, a mathematical genius, comes to their attention after his mother dies from an overdose. He has the potential to be a master spy- but first, he must make it through 100 days of training.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (QUICK READS 823.91 COL) is a thriller with lots of added fantasy. While attempting to discover the source of magic, teenage mastermind Artemis kidnaps fairy Captain Holly Short and tries to hold her to ransom for a metric tonne of fairy gold. Both sides utilise spy technology- hidden cameras, truth serum and sleeping pills- in the ensuing battle between Good and Evil. If only Artemis could decide which side he’s on…

This year’s Noirwich Festival will bring you talks and workshops with writers like Lee Child, Andy McNab and Linwood Barclay. Buy your tickets here.

References

Scio Central School Website Gallery, Ian Fleming and Sean Connery available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/34453299@N06/7362046718 (accessed on 11/09/2015)

Richardson, M J Cast with Care available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3475155 (accessed on 11/09/2015)

Allday, Rod Eton College bathing regulations at Athens available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2496274 (accessed on 11/09/2015)

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