Watch out, Young Bond. There's a rival in town. The name's Twigg, Kevin Twigg, the teenage hero of The Accidental Secret Agent, by Tom McLaughlin. The book, recently published by Oxford University Press, is a comic tale of schoolboy fantasy, reluctant spies, dastardly plots and villainous characters. And as expected, it is full of James Bond references.
The story introduces us to Kevin, a thirteen-year-old who craves excitement and has daydreams about being a spy. Kevin gets his chance when he meets a spy, who happens to looks exactly like him. The spy yearns for the quiet life, and the two swap places. Kevin is taken for the real spy when he enters the portals of MI7, and is tasked with rescuing top scientist Dr Brainiov, who MI7 suspected has been kidnapped by the sinister Mr Snelly.
The nods to James Bond come thick and fast. The cover uses the gunbarrel motif. A bottle of cola is shaken, not stirred, and Kevin has a 'licence to get all up in your face'. Kevin's ambition is to own the ultimate mobile phone, the MiPhone 25, which would make him feel like James Bond. He also reveals that he 'watched the latest James Bond film last night'.
Kevin's secret agent doppelgänger is called Jake Pond and has the code number 006 and a half. And Jake Pond's father, we're told, has three nipples, obviously recalling Scaramanga.
At MI7 headquarters, Kevin, posing as Jake Pond, witnesses spies at work, monitoring communications and receiving training in martial arts (the latter possibly being another allusion to the film of The Man With The Golden Gun). The M figure is called P, and the gadget master is called T.
Inevitably, Kevin is issued with gadgets – a tracking device, a TV watch and a mobile phone. (The running joke about the phone, incidentally, reminded me of something Young Bond author Steve Cole said during his talk at the Whitstable Literary Festival, that the most useful gadget a spy could have today is an ordinary mobile phone.)
The book includes several plays on the 'Bond, James Bond' line, and during the course of his mission, Kevin gets to don a dinner suit when visiting a casino. And in the best traditions of Bond, there are Bond girls – the mysterious Alesha and the Kevin's reluctant sidekick, his sister Elle.
The Accidental Secret Agent is a fun read, with plenty in it for the Bond fan to enjoy. The book joins the growing list of children's books, some of which I described in an earlier post, that reference James Bond. Such books demonstrate how James Bond remains relevant across generations, and help to introduce some of the essential ideas or memes of Bond to younger readers.