70 years of James Bond – the past, present and future of the 007 novels
Corinne Turner, Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications, reflects on 70 years of James Bond – and what the future holds for the 007 novels.
James Bond has been the work of Corinne Turner for over 30 years. During the course of those three decades, she has overseen the republishing of classics such as Casino Royale (which turns 70 today, 13th April 2023), Moonraker (her personal favourite) and the 12 other Ian Fleming penned novels (plus two short story collections) as well as continuing 007’s adventures with other authors.
In her tenure as Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications, Turner has kept the Bond machine powering forward into the 21st century, maintaining the legacy of the character but also developing him for a contemporary audience. To put it simply for film fans, she’s the Barbara Broccoli of the books. Which makes her the perfect person to catch up with to discuss 70 years of Britain’s favourite spy, the future of the books and one very special story fit for a King’s coronation.
As we speak, it’s an exciting time for Bond fans. All of the classic novels are getting a reprint with very jazzy new covers, Kim Sherwood became the first woman to write a Bond book with last year’s Double or Nothing, and a special 007 story has been created to coincide with King Charles III’s coronation, aptly titled On His Majesty’s Secret Service.
Of the upcoming novella, which will be released two days before Charles is anointed King, Turner says: “It came together very late. I wish we’d thought of it last year but it wasn’t until February when there was an announcement [on the coronation] that we sat down and said, 'Yep, we’ve got to do this.'”
The author of On His Majesty’s Secret Service – the plot of which sees Bond thwart a shady plot to disrupt the King’s coronation – is Charlie Higson, who has prior experience with the character through his Young Bond spin-off series.
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On enlisting Higson for their royal mission, Turner says: “We only had a couple of months to do it and Charlie has always made it clear he wanted to do an adult Bond after the tremendous Young Bond stories so he was the perfect fit. It was originally supposed to be only 40,000 words but Charlie got carried away.”
One of Turner’s biggest challenges is keeping Bond fresh for a 21st century audience especially as the character doesn’t always lend himself to modern sensibilities, with the key being finding the right authors: “You need to find somebody who will enjoy doing it, someone who really loves the books, someone who can both work from Fleming and also create something fresh. The films can change actors and we can change authors.”
She later adds: “You also need to find somebody who understands what’s going on in 2023. James Bond has changed over the years, in the films he changes and in the books he also changes to suit the current audience.”
Anthony Horowitz, who has written three Bond novels over the last decade, was fortunate enough to be able to pull from leftover Fleming material that was initially written for a planned but ultimately scrapped TV show.
That of course prompts the enquiry of there being more Fleming papers for future authors to pull from but it looks as if the author’s archives have been more or less emptied: “We actually used a couple of TV scripts and outlines of TV scripts that Ian had written and he’d already turned a lot of them into his own short stories. There were a couple he hadn’t but there’s not a lot left. Nothing particularly substantial, I’m afraid.”
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So what does the future of James Bond in book form look like beyond On His Majesty’s Secret Service? Well, there are plans and lots of them, it’s just that Turner runs a tighter ship than M and there will be no leaks or hints here. But she does say big things are coming.
“We have things in the pipeline but like Bond’s world, it’s on a need to know basis. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. But we do have exciting things in the pipeline. What we don’t do is work to a tight schedule. We put something out because it’s quality and the right project. If it’s not right then we won’t do it. We’ve got to do Ian Fleming proud.”
As the world’s most famous spy hits 70 with a gulp of a Vesper martini, he remains as popular as ever. The news of who will replace Daniel Craig as the movie’s Bond is a permanent fixture of gossip both online and off and the announcement of Higson’s novella generated more publicity than most full-length novels. James Bond is as much of an icon of British pop culture as Shakespeare or the Beatles, but why is that?
Turner, who is better placed than virtually any other living person to answer, says: “It’s fantasy. It’s escapist. They’re not too serious. You can actually enjoy yourself. And honestly, the films do a fantastic job of keeping him fresh.”