I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In the novel that introduced James Bond to the world, Ian Fleming’s agent 007 is dispatched to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission? Bankrupt a ruthless Russian agent who’s been on a bad luck streak at the baccarat table.
One of SMERSH’s most deadly operatives, the man known only as “Le Chiffre,” has been a prime target of the British Secret Service for years. If Bond can wipe out his bankroll, Le Chiffre will likely be “retired” by his paymasters in Moscow. But what if the cards won’t cooperate? After a brutal night at the gaming tables, Bond soon finds himself dodging would-be assassins, fighting off brutal torturers, and going all-in to save the life of his beautiful female counterpart, Vesper Lynd.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
Two things about this book surprised me—first that Fleming was a pretty good writer, second that the book was so short! I’ve never attempted any of Fleming’s fiction before, partly because I saw some of the films of these works back about 30 years ago. You can’t live in a co-ed residence in university without at least having some of these movies on the lounge television set and I think I may have been dragged to the movie theatre as well (back when a movie only cost $5 and a person could afford to go).
Bond in the book is much less charming than Bond on the screen. He’s rougher around the edges and the racism & misogyny of earlier times are very apparent. It’s difficult for me to judge—how much of this is the fictional character, how much is just the zeitgeist of the 1950s, and how much of this is Ian Fleming himself?
I’ve requested a biography of Fleming from the library, to help me try to sort this matter. I’m also intrigued by how much he was influenced by the work of Agatha Christie. One of the very first scenes in Casino Royale involves Bond checking to see if his room has been searched, using exactly the same stratagem as a character in Christie’s They Came to Baghdad (the use of precisely placed, unobtrusive hairs). Undoubtedly Fleming read Christie, so I’m interested in that angle as well.
One can’t claim to have read spy fiction without reading Fleming, so I will pick up Live and Let Die in the near future and continue on during my Summer of Spies.