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).
Beautiful, fortune-telling Solitaire is the prisoner (and tool) of Mr Big—master of fear, artist in crime and Voodoo Baron of Death. James Bond has no time for superstition—he knows that this criminal heavy hitter is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, after tracking him through the jazz joints of Harlem, to the everglades and on to the Caribbean, 007 has realized that Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced. And no-one, not even the mysterious Solitaire, can be sure how their battle of wills is going to end…
***2018 Summer of Spies***
Wow, this book has not aged gracefully. The casual racism really overwhelmed everything else for me. The dust jacket stated that Fleming had spent some time with the NY police as research. He seems to have absorbed their attitudes towards African-Americans without any reservations. All the black characters seem to be superstitious, criminal, or both. At least he allows Mr. Big to be a really talented criminal, not a push-over.
Fleming’s own attitudes towards women shine through his Bond character with regard to Solitare, the white woman who he rescues from Mr. Big. Fleming seems to have regarded women as conquests and told many people that women were more like pets to him than people [per Andrew Lycett’s biography of IF]. Fleming was well known as a womanizer and was accused by several people of being ‘a cad and a bounder,’ something which he did not dispute. Solitare is mostly a prize for Bond, something to be enjoyed once the action is over with.
Despite that, there are some bright spots—Fleming was very familiar with Jamaica, owning a house there and spending a great deal of his time swimming, diving, and fishing while he was in residence at Goldeneye, his Jamaican home. The scenery and details of this setting are extremely well realized in Live and Let Die. The descriptions of fish during Bond’s dives are fabulous, too. Unsurprisingly, the Jamaican portions of the book are far superior to those set in the United States. [I also thought that the fishy method of smuggling was an ingenious invention and I loved the shark tank!]
One can’t have a Summer of Spies without James Bond, so I’ll be proceeding on to Moonraker in short order. And, incidentally, I still love Paul McCartney's song Live and Let Die which was written for the movie version.