What would it be like to have the run of London with no adults around? You could live where you wanted, go where you wanted, do what you wanted... Just don’t get caught by the few grown ups who've survived the plague. They're likely to eat you.
That's the (rather dark) premise of Charlie "Fast Show" Higson's latest book for young adults. The author has already charmed kids with his five Young Bond books, starting with Silverfin back in 2005, and now he's fulfilling a personal ambition and writing zombie horror tales for youngsters. SFX was at a special presentation on Tuesday where Higson screened a 10-minute trailer to promote the book's concept, and then answered questions with a little help from friend David Baddiel.
"I've always wanted to write a book where all the adults disappear and the kids have the run of the place. It's always been a fantasy of mine to go and live in Buckingham palace, or go to the Tower of London and try on all the suits of armour," said Higson. "I also wanted to write a scary book for children - my 10-year-old is fascinated by zombies!"
On the big screen, Higson himself succumbed to the boils-and-blood ravages of the disease as he explains how society breaks down. His grotesque appearance was provided by the make-up artist who contributed to the Fast Show, The Mummy films and Shaun Of The Dead. Talking to David Baddiel about the book on stage afterwards he explained that there aren't really any children's books about zombies. "Girls like vampires, boys like zombies," Higson mused. "The great thing about zombies is you can smash them to pieces. You're allowed to do what you like to a zombie."
The adults in his book, much like people in 28 Days Later or I Am Legend, are not so much risen from the dead as infected with a disease, and Higson was happy to take questions about this, as well as discussing similarities with classics like Lord Of The Flies. "In Lord Of The Flies we see how it all goes wrong when kids are left alone," he said. "But in my book they've already gone through that process and are now putting the world back together. It's more about kids working together and working things out."
The Enemy is published by Puffin Books on 3 September 2009 in hardback, priced £12.99. It's planned as the first in a series of books called Fourteen (the disease infects those over the age of 14). Visit the official site here .