Skip to main content

Interview with Charlie Higson

Until recently Charlie Higson was perhaps best known for his work on the Fast Show with Paul Whitehouse, but he's also an accomplished novelist with a successful series of young James Bond books on his authorial shelf.

He's about to release a new book, The Enemy, which is a zombie horror novel aimed at children. In SFX 187, on sale from Wednesday 26 August, we interview him about his personal heroes and inspirations - but with such an interesting, talkative chap there was much more to say than we had room for. Here are some more of his genre passions...

'I was absolutely obsessed with David Cronenberg's early films. I wrote a dissertation on him at university when he was still making cheap horror films. Before he went all serious! I'm still very fond of his first one, which has a number of different names, but I think it's normally called Shivers these days. It's so disgusting and it's mad. The other thing you note is that his horror films had very subversive endings – they didn't have happy endings. They always twisted things around and didn't give you that easy let-off at the end that horror films do sometimes now. The image at the end of Shivers of all the people who've been horribly infected dressed up to the nines and driving out in their fleet of cars to go and infect the rest of America is a very strong image. Films are great where you've got obviously intelligent people working in a very schlocky medium and thinking, "How far can we go with this?"'

'I was actually in America when Star Wars came out in '77. And I just remember seeing that and thinking, "This is the best film ever made!" I'd never witnessed that kind of American over-the-top obsessiveness. It's the first time I'd ever seen a queue for cinema where people were all dressed up as characters - and the film had only been out a couple of weeks. It was just so insane. And then of course the next film wasn't quite as good and the next one wasn't quite as good and then we all waited with great anticipation and the final three ones were absolute shit. It was like George Lucas had focused on all the wrong things when thinking why these films were successful. He hadn't twigged what it was - it was just like he got obsessed with the history and the bloody meaning of what it meant to be a Jedi. And cute things for kids. And those are the three things that people were probably least interested in, in the original film.'

'I loved all the Ray Harryhausen films, the Sinbad films and all that - the Argonauts obviously. CGI just isn't magic. Stop-motion, even though it looks a bit wonky, has a sort of human element to it and a handmade feel that just makes it so much more exciting. Mind you, I did watch RoboCop again the other day and the stop-motion robot in that is pretty ropey.'

'You always think as an outsider that there's such a thing as a literary circle, that there are places where writers go and hang out talking about books in some kind of club. But really you rarely meet any of them! Except for the random few you bump into while waiting to go on at a literary festival. I had an idea at one point of setting up a regular lunch date for the kind of writers who write action adventure stories for boys – you know, get Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz and Philip Reeve to come along. Eoin Colfer could be one... but I've never actually got around to organising it.'

'When I went to university, if you wanted to get on stage and entertain your mates it was always in the form of band, which is what I did. Harry Enfield, being a little bit younger than me, found more of a comedy scene. Harry started doing live comedy and started to get into TV. I got to know Harry and drifted into writing with Paul [Whitehouse] for him - just as something to do really! It didn't exactly snowball: it was a very long and slow process, but eventually led to the TV and I realised one day that I had become a comedy writer...'

'I was absolutely the ideal age for Monty Python, the sort of young teenager to get absolutely obsessed with it. Other things that made me laugh included Dad's Army, Morecambe and Wise, Porridge a little bit later - and then at university it was the Young Ones, which again seemed to speak to me. But I had absolutely no aspirations in that direction and it wasn't a career path. At the time there were still only three television channels and no such thing as "media studies"! When I was at school we had a very good art department and a forward-thinking teacher had a little television studio there, and we used to put on sub-Monty Python-type plays just for amusement. But I never had any feeling of, "Oh, I'd love to go into TV" or "This is something I might be able to do." Didn't cross my mind.'

'I have an office at home that is where I do the bulk of my writing now. My ideal day is to walk my youngest to school and come home and think, "I've got a whole clear day of writing ahead of me. Just think of all the stuff I'll be able to do today..." And then I'll just play five minutes of Call Of Duty online - and five hours later, I'm thinking, "I've still gotta write some of this book." I do actually love writing, but I like playing computer games as well! They take up way too much of my time...'

SFX: Thanks Charlie!

Click here to visit the official site of Charlie Higson's new book . You can read the rest of this interview in SFX 187, on sale from Wednesday 26 August with V on the cover. Click here to subscribe .