Iain McLaughlin

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A Dirty Business

in Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond

A Dirty Business

In Paris, James Bond meets his match over appetizers and cocktails—with an aperitif of industrial espionage and chilly sadism. Off the coast of Australia, he learns about a whole new level of betrayal under the scorching light of a ball of thunder. In Siberia, he dreams of endless carnage while his fate is decided by one of his most cunning enemies and perhaps the greatest of his many loves.

And in Canada—where Ian Fleming’s work has entered public domain—James Bond finds freedom.

Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond lives in this shadow space of copyright law: a collection of nineteen new, exciting, transformative James Bond stories by a diverse crew of 21st-century authors. Collected herein are new stories about Secret Agent 007, as the late Ian Fleming imagined and described him: a psychically wounded veteran of the Second World War and soldier of the Cold War, who treated his accumulated injuries with sex, alcohol, nicotine, and adrenaline. He was a good lover … but a terrible prospect.

He was James Bond.

And in Licence Expired, he’s back in action.

Introduction by Matt Sherman

• Foreword: The Bitch is Dead Now by David Nickle

• “One Is Sorrow” by Jacqueline Baker

• “The Gale of the World” by Robert J. Wiersema

• “Red Indians” by Richard Lee Byers

• “The Gladiator Lie” by Kelly Robson

• “Half the Sky” by E.L. Chen

• “In Havana” by Jeffrey Ford

• “Mastering the Art of French Killing” by Michael Skeet

• “A Dirty Business” by Iain McLaughlin

• “Sorrow’s Spy” by Catherine McLeod

• “Mosaic” by Karl Schroeder

• “The Spy Who Remembered Me” by James Alan Gardner

• “Daedelus” by Jamie Mason

• “Through Your Eyes Only” by A.M. Dellamonica

• “Two Graves” by Ian Rogers

• “No Mr. Bond” by Charles Stross

• “The Man with the Beholden Gun: an e-pistol-ary story by some other Ian Fleming” by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

• “The Cyclorama” by Laird Barron

• “You Never Love Once” by Claude Lalumière

• “Not an Honourable Disease” by Corey Redekop

• Afterword by Madeline Ashby


There are some characters that become part of your life without you really becoming aware of it. They're part of the social consciousness. I am immensely fortunate to have written for a number of them... Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Dennis the Menace, The Broons... and in 2015 I was incredibly pleased to add James Bond, 007 himself, to the list. Licence Expired, The Unauthorised James Bond was published in November 2015 in Canada where Bond has dropped out of copyright and into public domain. There's a real buzz in writing for a flawed hero like Bond. My story was titled A Dirty Business.

Writing Bond was an interesting challenge. There are so many iterations of the character that if you're not careful they can seep into the thought process when I'm typing away. I definitely tried hard to focus on Fleming's Bond and re-read a couple of Fleming novels before starting. I wanted anyone reading it to recognise this as the 007 of Fleming, not the film version, not John Gardner's Bond or Raymond Benson's. Bond has flaws, he has failings, he has his duty and he doesn't always like it. He doesn't always follow orders exactly to the letter either.

The brief for this book was to do something different with Bond, and some of the authors really took that to heart. I know that some of the stories received mixed reviews. That's unavoidable in a book like this. When I was wondering what  to do, I was limited by the fact that I felt it needed to feel like Fleming. I've always had doubts about the UK being a bit too eager to please America. British politicians can't stop themselves from fawning over their counterparts from the States, whether it's Tony Blair with George Dubya Bush or the current (at the time of typing in September 2017 though I hope she won't be when you read this) Prime Minister and the current (who who will hopefully be in jail by the time you read this) President of America. Our politicians are just a bit too eager to please for my tastes, and I wondered about Bond landing a job that's actually Britain doing America's dirty work. That felt like a contemporary theme and that was enough for me to give me just enough separation from Ian Fleming while still using Fleming's tropes and attitudes in the writing.

The first draft of this ran to about 6400 words but in tidying it up I brought it down to exactly 5000. The only trims I regret making are at the start. Bond's scene with M was originally longer and the travelogue of him going to the island was more extensive and went into his boredom and his dislike for nuns. It didn't give the plot a huge amount extra but it gave that extra flavour of Bond. Ian Fleming did these lovely bits that sometimes feel self-indulgent... but self-indulgence is a theme of the Bonds, so it works.

I actually wrote first drafts of three pieces and then selected the one I thought best. One, Spider in the Web, was the opening chapter of a novel and finished on a real zinger of a historical incident - the idea being that the reader would have been disappointed to get only that chapter - while the other was The Enemy Within, which I think had something but needed a lot of polishing. They both needed more Bond-like titles. I had a fourth idea, for an ageing Bond in his 80s who realises that he's dying and who leaves the nursing home he's been forced into in order to take one final mission, knowing he would die on it. That never got past the first few paragraphs.  I just didn't want to write that Bond.

As it happens, both of those stories I didn't send have now seen the light of day. Spider in the Web became the first chapter of FireWalker, though the chapter was retitled To Kill the King, and The Enemy Within is one of the short stories in the anthology, For Queen and Country.


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