Author: Ian Fleming - part 1
Bond Book Reviews: Ian Fleming
Currently published in UK by: Penguin Books.
1) Casino Royale ( 1953 )
Having read Casino Royale for the fifth time, it's like visiting an old friend after a number of years.
Inside the cover we are told that the book was finished on the eve of Ian Fleming's marriage to Ann Rothermere in 1952, so you can expect a slightly dated story. This was the beginning of what was to become of one of our coolest heroes, James Bond. Where his successors have failed is Fleming's eye for detail, the introduction of SMERSH which is conjunction of two Russian words Smyert Shpionam meaning 'Death to Spies' - used in Dalton's The Living Daylights. Also his pal, Felix Leiter is around to give support against the evil Le Chiffre. The glamour and Bond's conquest is in the shape of Vesper Lynd who comes to a different end for a Bond girl. The setting at Royale-les Eaux sees Bond in his 2nd home, a casino where his 'other' skills are to be viewed. I only wished that the film version could have been part of the series and not made as a silly rip-off with David Niven & co.
Update 1: Wishes come true as the new movie version was released on 16th November, 2006 with Daniel Craig as the new 007 ( seen on last right book above ).
Update 2: In 2002 all Fleming books were reissued with new cover designs with sexy lady poses ( see bottom of page ). In 2006 this book was reissued with an introduction from author Jeffrey Deaver who discusses Bond as 'a hero'. The American author is the latest commissioned to write a 007 adventure and his book will be published in 2011.
2) Live And Let Die ( 1954 )
The second of Fleming's stories takes Bond, like the movie, to New York's Harlem and an encounter with a gangster called Mr. Big. He is smuggling gold coins ( see cover ) into America and we learn that he is "forty-five years old, born in Haiti, half Negro and half French" and is named Buonaparte Ignace Gallia, hence Mr. Big - no movie double identity as Dr Kananga.
Helped again by his CIA pal, Felix Leiter, the pair do a tour of Harlem's night-clubs in order to meet the bad guy. In the process, Leiter 'jazzes' his way out of trouble while James has to take care of some goons including Tee Hee ( not lasting as long as in the movie ). Bond escapes after being helped by the cards of the beautiful Solitaire who on turning them reveals "He tells the truth." She is slightly more 'adult' than Jane Seymour and is named Simone Latrelle, aged 25, brought over from Haiti by Mr. Big with her powers.
Parts of the story like Leiter's unfortunate capture which ends "He disagreed with something that ate him" and Bond's follow-up visit has been used for Dalton's Licence To Kill and the ending with Bond & Solitaire being dragged behind Big's yacht re-used for Moore's For Your Eyes Only.
It is the latter Jamaican action covered in the book's final 80 pages where we meet up with ex-Lt. Commander Strangways and his helper Quarrel who are to feature in Dr. No. Both provide expert support for 007 in his quest to stop Big and rescue poor, kidnapped Solitaire.
It's worth a read as one of Fleming's best Bond adventures helped by his knowledge and observations of America & Jamaica.
Personal Note: Last read many, many years ago under a palm tree on a beach in St. Lucia ... aah heaven until a nearby Caribbean steel band started playing The Wedding March.
3) Moonraker ( 1955 )
A week in the life of a British secret agent with Fleming breaking another story into 3 parts ( 1: Monday 2:Tuesday, Wednesday & 3: Thursday, Friday ).
M invites James to his Club due to a member cheating at cards ( no Goldfinger hasn't joined ). This is no ordinary cheat but Sir Hugo Drax who heads up a rocket project to safeguard Britain's security & future. The rocket is called The Moonraker. Of course James works out Drax's cheating methods and ensues an enjoyable card game.
Later Bond is assigned to Drax's security team at his Kent rocket base due to the death of one of his team. There he meets his Police contact Gala Brand ( the love conquest ? ) and both team up to find out what Drax is up to.
No exotic locations, just the Kent coast ( very familiar to this reviewer ) and plenty of the usual action & tension as Bond is involved in another race against time. The villain's ending is similar to something used in the movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Despite narrative being now over 45 years old this is Bond & Fleming at their best !
4) Diamonds Are Forever ( 1956 )
The narrative opens in the South African desert with a scorpion making a kill and getting smashed which leads to the start of a diamond smuggling ring ( shades of Live And Let Die ). James is sent by M first to check out The House of Diamonds with the Police in London's Hatton Garden run by Rufus B. Saye. He later replaces a diamond smuggler called Peter Franks and is sent to a London ( not Amsterdam ) hotel to meet the contact, Tiffany Case who is more interesting than her silly movie counter-part.
Arranging to transfer the diamonds in his golf balls, 007 heads for New York closely monitored by Miss Case. Here he meets a hunchback ( not a Vegas comedian ) called Shady Tree who arranges to pay Bond ( now using his real name not Franks ) at a race meeting in Saratoga. Joining up with his pal Felix Leiter, now ex-C.I.A. and with Pinkerton's Detective Agency, helps fill in the blanks of his diamond trail. Leiter drives James to Saratoga in order to collect his pay-off but things go wrong with Felix's helper, a jockey who ends up with 'hot' mud in his face.
Due to the payment error, James is sent to Las Vegas to collect his money where he meets up again with Tiffany now very handy with a deck of cards. It is in Vegas Bond has to get to grips with the Spangled Mob but he is captured and takes a hell of a beating. Miss Case comes to the rescue and helps him escape in a train but another train follows resulting with an explosive conclusion. Luckily old Felix drives them to safety and suggests a quick American exit, so they board the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner only to be pursued by two thugs called Wint & Kidd.
Will Bond close the diamond chain in South Africa ( not on a boat as in the movie ) and get back to Tiffany waiting in his London flat ? This story is slightly padded out towards the end but is a satisfactory case for our hero.
5) From Russia, With Love ( 1957 )
The latest print includes an introduction by Anthony Burgess ( written in Lugano in 1987 ) where he compares 007 to Sherlock Holmes and looks at his immortality. Fleming's story is broken down into 2 parts. The first, The Plan is 77 pages of SMERSH's planned efforts to trap our British spy with no sign of 007. We are introduced to Donovan 'Red' Grant, Chief Executioner of SMERSH and told his background. He disappears at the end of part 1, only to reappear in the train scenes at the end of part 2.
Of course there are differences to the '63 movie ( Turkish contact Kerim Bay is sometimes Darko Kermin and events take place in different order and for different reasons e.g. the Russian Embassy's explosion is for revenge of Bay's death not as an escape diversion ) but the main narrative thread is still 007 being sent to Turkey to recover a "brand new Spektor machine". M checks to see if James is over his liaison with Tiffany Case ( as this book follows Diamonds Are Forever ) and that he lives up to the expectations of the beautiful Tatiana Romanova. It is interesting that the second part, The Execution concludes in Paris not Venice as the train passes this Bond film land-mark. The story's ending still has Rosa Klebb getting the point - but not deadly - and 007's life is left hanging ? This Fleming novel with it's well researched narrative and thrilling climax proves an equal match to my favourite Bond movie.
Note. The dropped ',' from the latest prints of the book's title.
6) Dr No ( 1958 )
After surviving Rosa Klebb's poison, M believes James deserves 'a spell in the sun'.
So he is sent back to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of Commander Strangways ( who helped Bond with his Live And Let Die case ) and his secretary/assistant Mary Trueblood. M thinks that they have run off together but like the movie both have been murdered by 3 blind men. Before departing Major Boothroyd recommends some new firepower and M insists 007 changes from his Beretta to a Walther PPK 7.65 mm gun ( he is also issued with a Smith & Wesson revolver ). At the airport there is no sign of Felix Leiter ( remember Jack Lord ) just his old fitness trainer from his last visit, Quarrel the Cayman Islander. This narrative follows similar to the '62 movie but there's no romantic liaison with the Governor's secretary and the nightly encounter is with a deadly centipede not a spider ( who appears later ).
On working out the Chinese connection Bond & Quarrel head for Crab Key, the lair of the mysterious & deadly Dr Julius No. The morning after arrival, James' first encounter on the beach is with a beautiful naked girl but with a broken nose called Honeychile Rider who has to tag along for his investigations. Is there a dragon ( an improvement on the movie one ) ? Is Dr No just living off the island's bird dung ( guano ) or does he have a more evil plan ? Can James survive No's evil tunnel tests ? Will Honey meet a 'crabby' ending ? All are answered in an enjoyable Caribbean adventure.
Price Check: My paperback set me back 30p ( £0.30 ) in 1973 and now the 2004 version £7.99.
7) Goldfinger ( 1959 )
Another of Fleming's novels broken into parts ( 3 - Happenstance, Coincidence & Enemy Action ). Like the movie Bond's first encounter with the villain Auric Goldfinger is when he bumps into him cheating at cards in Miami. James resolves the problem and walks away with his girl, Jill Masterton as a 'hostage' but it's not until very later that he discovers Goldfinger's revenge.
Back in London M sends James after a serious gold smuggler who is revealed to be Mr. Goldfinger. Meeting up again at the Golf Club, James is challenged to a match by him in order to recover his lost Miami gambling money. In a more detailed match Goldfinger, without his henchman Oddjob as a caddy, is beaten on 'rules' but still invites James to his home for dinner. It is at this coast retreat that the Korean Oddjob demonstrates his deadly Karate skills on the furniture and his liking for cats.
Next Bond, in his Aston Martin DB III, follows Goldfinger's Rolls-Royce across Europe. Along the way he has to reverse into another following car driven by Tilly Soames. She hitches a ride to Geneva but later that night gets captured along with 007 near our villain's gold melting factory. Avoiding a cutting moment ( no laser in this version ) James talks his way into Auric's plans along with Tilly ( revealed as Jill's sister ) who lasts longer than her movie counter-part but still comes to the same fateful end.
When they wake up in New York, Goldfinger reveals his criminal master plan to break into Fort Knox to some tough gangsters ( NB. Mr. Solo doesn't turn down the offer and become an Oddjob cube ! ). Among them is the lovely Pussy Galore, a gang leader who is more interested in Tilly than James.
So can James stop the biggest gold robbery ever and get Goldfinger & Oddjob ? Will James melt Pussy's heart ? Without giving too much away there is a similar plane blow-out ending but it's not Goldfinger getting sucked out into oblivion.
This is enjoyable Bond to the very end.