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On writing the sequel to 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'

March 23, 2011 |  4:10 pm

Chittychittybangbang
The offer to write a sequel to the book "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" came as a surprise to British author Frank Cottrell Boyce. It shocked me even more, because it turns out that "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was written by spymaster novelist extraordinaire Ian Fleming. Who knew that the man behind James Bond 007 was behind the flying car story? Not me.

OK, everyone else knew, including Boyce. So, although the offer came out of the blue, he wasn't entirely gobsmacked when he was contacted by the Fleming family and asked whether he'd like to write a "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" sequel. In the Guardian, he writes:

I had one of those moments a year or so ago when the Fleming family got in touch and asked if I would consider writing the sequel. It was as if they'd offered me the loan of a 1920s Paragon Panther -- yes obviously I'd love to drive it but do I really want that responsibility? Wouldn't it be better to leave it safely parked on the gravel in a motor museum?...

Writing a new Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book gave me the chance to harness a potent pleasure that I couldn't generate myself: nostalgia. It worked for Russell T Davis when he took on Doctor Who and for Steven Moffat when he set Sherlock in the present day. Obviously it would work for me. Except...the book was written by Ian Fleming and the film by Roald Dahl. These are two fairly tough acts to follow....

My salvation turned out to be the car. Because Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a real car -- a series of four real cars in fact -- built by Count Louis Zborowski for racing at Brooklands and for land speed records. Their monstrous engines were so loud a bylaw was passed banning them from Canterbury city centre. The fourth Chitty was ceremonially buried on Pendine Sands after being wrecked in a land speed record. Somehow knowing the car was real and that Fleming's brilliant invention was just one episode in its life, freed me to play with the whole of its history, real and imaginary.

Boyce is the author of the children's books "Framed" and "Millions," the latter of which was made into a film by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"). Boyce started out writing screenplays -- including "24 Hour Party People" and "Code 46" -- so maybe the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" sequel also has a chance of heading to the screen. So far, though, it's just a project in the works -- the Guardian doesn't reveal its title.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Sally Anne Howes, Dick Van Dyke and, in hat, Benny Hill in the 1968 film version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

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