Bond Book Reviews: Ian Fleming
Currently published in UK by Penguin Books.
- For Your Eyes Only ( 1960 )
Described in the opening as 'five secret occasions in the life of James Bond', this book has 5 short stories about our hero.
- From A View To A Kill
Bond is sent to Paris to find out why a bike messenger has disappeared from SHAPE HQ.
While in Paris he meets Mary Ann Russell who proves useful assistance with the case.
Who is behind the disappearing act ?
NB 'From' dropped from Moore's movie.
- For Your Eyes Only
Back to Jamaica ( not Greece ) and a Cuban gangster is trying to buy the property of The Havelocks who turn down the offer and are murdered. Their daughter Judy ( not Melina as in the movie ) seeks revenge with her bow & arrows ( updated to a cross-bow for the movie ). Meanwhile M, best man at the Havelocks' wedding, sends James to Canada to take care of the fleeing villains led by Von Hammerstein and Major Gonzales. On setting up the target Bond encounters Judy who reluctantly agrees to join forces in eliminating the enemy.
- Quantum of Solace
Bond has to go to a Governor's party in Bermuda where the host tells him an after dinner story of a government man called Philip Masters and his encounter with an air hostess called Rhoda Llewellyn whom he marries and brings to the island. Life doesn't turn out rosy for the couple. The narrator while showing James the exit delivers 'a sting in the tale' to conclude this marital affair.
M sends 007 to Rome to track down a drug ring on PM's orders. There he meets up with Kristatos who want money to reveal any clues, eventually he names Enrico Columbo.
This short story was re-used as part of Moore's For Your Eyes Only, nationality of characters may have changed ( Italian to Greek ) but Bond still views Columbo & Lisl Baum ( the latter not a fake Countess ) across a restaurant while their own conversation is monitored. After getting Baum a taxi , he has to travel to Venice later to meet her where he is tricked near the Lido peninsula. He is captured by the rogue Columbo ( like his movie counter-part ) who proves to Bond that he's not the bad guy. In this version as a reward for James, lady Baum doesn't get run over by a buggy !
- The Hildebrand Rarity
While in the Seychelles ( one of Fleming's travel haunts ), James is asked by a friend to join a fishing party as 'the local underwater ace' aboard a yacht looking for marine specimens. On this occasion a rare little fish called The Hildebrand Rarity. Leading this hunt is a rich American Milton Krest on his expensive sailing craft The Wavekrest
( both the boat's & owner's name to be used in Dalton's Licence To Kill ). Millionaire Krest has a young wife called Liz whom he likes to 'correct' with a stingray-tail ( something Sanchez does to Lupe in the opening of Licence .. ). Bond reluctantly captures the rare fish which still has the final say in this short adventure.
The book is worth reading if only to see how elements were used for the later movies.
- Thunderball ( 1961 )
This is the novel that gave Fleming all the legal trouble with Kevin McClory. It resulted with McClory getting credit, along with Jack Whittingham, for the 'screen treatment' that the novel is based.
One of points that this 007 adventure proves is that it doesn't need loads of locations with the Bahamas taking centre stage after a brief stop in the UK countryside. Following closely the movie's narration ( more Never Say ... ) with Bond sent to the health farm Shrublands by M, the stolen atomic bombs from a Vindicator plane ( not a Vulcan as in the movie ) flown by a money grabbing Guiseppe Petacchi who meets a gruesome ending and then an evil organisation holding the world to ransom. The love interest is the beautiful Dominetta Vitali with a slight limp. Later 007 discovers that is her stage name and she turns out to be Domino Petacchi, the sister of the pilot. It has a Roman-type villain called Emilo Largo who makes a good adversary for Bond and of course Blofeld who makes an early appearance with SPECTRE stating his deadly terms & instructions ( Mind where you sit ! ).
Being Fleming you get so much more detail and background than from watching the movie.
It's one of Bond's best adventures aided by The Man From The CIA, a man called F.Larkin who turns out to be .. ?
It's a 'must' read for Bond fans.
Update 2004: Penguin release the book as a Modern Classic with a photo of Sean Connery as Bond
on the cover. Alas it's an off-set photo of the actor drinking a Bloody Mary next to a bottle of vodka ? This new paperback will set you back £7.99 in the UK.
- The Spy Who Loved Me ( 1962 )
This story is told through the eyes of a Canadian girl called Vivienne Michel who is credited as co-author to Fleming. She writes in the opening summary "The spy who loved me was called James Bond, ..." and goes on explain how she is able to tell her story.
The book version, from my local library would have cost £ 6.95 in 1980 when published by Jonathan Cape, has a two page drawing* of the lay-out of the Dreamy Pines Motor Court with surrounding trees & chalets.
This is where the action takes place north of New York State.
Fleming again breaks the narrative into segments, part 1 ( Me ), 2 ( Them ) and 3 ( Him ... that's James Bond ).
So like Russia, 007 doesn't make an appearance until two thirds into the story by which time we are told of Viv's earlier life & lovers, Derek & Kurt when living in England.
Apart from a short bed-time story about spies ( & SPECTRE as this follows Operation: Thunderball ) which James tells to Vivienne to pass the time,
this is a basic gangster story with Bond playing the knight in shining armour saving the damsel in distress from two tough guys called Horror & Sluggsy.
Then he rides off into the sunset after a couple of love-making sessions.
Of course it bears no relation to the Moore/Bond movie but it's a different adventure & view-point of our famous spy whose number Viv soon forgets at the conclusion.
Note. * The drawing is omitted from my old Pan paperback last read in 1977.
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service ( 1963 )
Published a year after the cinema release of Dr. No, this adventure has 007 going after Ernst Stavro Blofeld again now set up in Switzerland. This time his evil plan is 'biological warfare' on dear old Britain.
When you now re-read this story from Fleming you naturally compare it to the '69 movie.
It is very similar in narrative to the movie except on a smaller scale e.g. the girls that Bond meets at Piz Gloria are British not 'International' & during the air-raid on Piz Gloria only one helicopter is used.
As we know along the way Bond meets up with the lovely Tracy, in this book she comes to his rescue as in the movie but isn't captured by the evil Blofeld. Also the marriage proposal takes place in an airport lounge not a barn with farm animals. Later the marriage's location is different in a British Consul General's drawing room with no sign of a 'weeping' Moneypenny or 'advising' Q. While Bond's final dialogue is as delivered by the under-rated Lazenby when we reach the sad ending.
It's good to go back to a book that you haven't read for a number of years and enjoy again.
Watch out for a brief appearance by Ursula Dr. No's Honey Andress in a Swiss restaurant.
Price Check: My old Pan paperback cost 30p ( £0.30 ) in the 70's, now this version in the 90's will cost you nearly £6 !
- You Only Live Twice ( 1964 )
In this sequel to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond has gone to pieces over the death of his wife, Tracy.
After 2 botched assignments, M gives our hero one last chance with an 'impossible' mission to Japan.
The book is divided into 2 parts ( I - 'It is better to travel hopefully ...' and II - ' ... than to arrive'.
The title appears half way into the narrative when Bond is asked by Tiger to write a 'baiku' ( like Japanese poet Bashõ ) - the verse of seventeen syllables.
Under the guidance of Dikko Henderson, who is more developed than in the film and doesn't get killed off in this story, Bond is put under the orders of 'Tiger' Tanaka of the Japanese Secret Service.
Tanaka, much older than in the film, introduces 007 to the ways of Japan.
James comes up with ..
"You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face."
Of course much smaller in scale than the big budget Connery movie and without the evil & attractive Helga Brandt or the lovely Aki.
Instead diver Kissy Suzuki provides the 2nd half love-interest and isn't required to marry Bond.
It is one of Fleming's best books due to his way of incorporating 007 into Japan's different life-style.
Bond's meeting with Dr. Guntram Shatterhand and his wife Emmy proves revengeful and the finale with his escape from the Castle of Death shows that our hero isn't indestructible !
M even writes an obit in The Times ... James Bond dead ? Never !!
Note. Yes another price check ... my old second-hand Pan paperback cost 3/6 ( that's 3 shillings & sixpence that's £ 0.175 ) when printed in the Sixties, now this Nineties' version will cost you nearly £ 6 !
My thanks to my local library.
- The Man With The Golden Gun ( 1965 )
After going AWOL for a year Bond resurfaces and has to prove his identity.
When he finally meets up with M, he tries to kill his boss.
Discovering the reasons why James is soon dispatched on another mission to dispose of
Francisco ( Paco ) "Pistols" Scaramanga, a deadly assassin known by the book's title and who carries
"a gold-plated long barrelled, single-action Colt .45".
On route to Havana, Cuba James has to wait for the next flight in Kingston Airport and recollects memories of Honeychile Rider who is now married to a Philadelphia doctor with 2 children. While waiting he makes the connection that Scaramanga is on his way to his beloved Jamaica. So James changes his travel plans and discovers his old secretary Mary Goodnight is now working on the island as assistant to Commander Ross who is Strangways' replacement ( see Dr No ). She now drives the deceased's old Sunbeam Alpine car.
It is interesting that James is now travelling undercover as Mark Hazard working for Transworld Consortium which has replaced Universal Export. Will he meet up with Scaramanga and carry out his orders ? .. he has easy chances to pump a bullet in the back of his target's head. There is no sign of Nick Nack ( Scaramanga's assistant ) who was created for the movie and James acts this role for part of the story. Who does James meet again working at the hotel ? It seems strange that of all 007's world-saving missions that this is the one that the Queen offers him a knighthood ( like Sir Sean ), will he accept ?
This novel has slightly larger print than normal and it's light narrative is padded out to fill the 191 pages ( normally around 230 ). Published a year after Fleming's death it is easy to imagine the author writing this one from memories of his travels around the beautiful island & 2nd home of Jamaica.
Worth reading but not the best of Bond adventures.
- Octopussy / The Living Daylights ( 1966 )
Bond covers over the years.
The original book & latest cover gives The Living Daylights
a mention but as you see my old Pan copy only has the title of Octopussy.
The book excludes The Property of a Lady short story.
Published around the time of England's greatest soccer moment in The World Cup,
perhaps this is why a doctor called Jimmy Greaves ( an English footballer ) pops up in the first of three short stories.
Fleming gives 3 small 'unimportant' cases to our super-spy ...
Bond is sent to Jamaica ( no hardship ) to sort out some paperwork concerning a retired Major Dexter Smythe, OBE, of the Royal Marines.
007 fleets in & out of the story which concerns some German war time gold.
On uncovering the mystery, Bond gives the elderly Smythe one week to think over the matter which is where the title comes in.
The Property of a Lady
Bond has to go to an auction to track down who is paying Miss Maria Freudenstein for her years of deception.
The object for sale is The Terrestrial Globe designed in 1917 by Carl Fabergé ( aka the title of the story ).
007 needs to spot the buyer in order to send him packing out of the country.
The Living Daylights
Bond is trained and sent to kill a sniper in Berlin.
Of course being James, his eyes are distracted by a beautiful blonde who carries a 'cello.
When he finally makes the shoot, there is a surprise which scares 'the living daylights' out of his target.
As we know elements of the first two stories were used in Moore's Octopussy and the last in Dalton's The Living Daylights.
The stories are a 'light read' but keep you entertained due to Bond's involvement and Fleming's descriptive writing.
the Penguin Group reissued his books with new
design covers ( seen right )