Ian Fleming's James Bond: The Novels


A few months back I looked over at the Bond books sitting unread on my shelves and figured it was high time I made my way through them. I didn't intend to blog about them, but that's sometimes how these things go. 

When I got to the end, I decided to make a spreadsheet with the following categories, 005 pts for each. (I considered using a 007-based rating system as a tribute to You-Only-Blog-Twice's rating system, but it was easier for me to work with zero-to-five.)

- Plot and Writing: As so many have already identified both the recurring themes (the thrill of motorcars, the end of Empire, contempt for Americans and the French, the detailed asides about marriage, the drinking, the smoking, the birds, fish, and scorpions, etc.) and structure (M gives Bond an assignment, Bond meets Villain, Bond meets Woman, Bond takes Woman, Villain Captures Bond, Villain Tortures Bond, Bond beats Villain, Bond convalesces, usually with Woman, Bond loses Woman) and as these examinations reverberate through practically all of the various sites that look at Ian Fleming's Bond, I assigned points for this section not based on any of that but just on the degree of enjoyment I got from reading them.

- Allies: Bond is always helped by the local Station folk of wherever he's adventuring or his foreign government counterparts. The one who appears the most is Felix Leiter, Bond's eager-to-please, competent-but-inferior (naturally) CIA/ Pinkerton's pal. I assigned points based on whether or not these helper-characters did much for the story besides help get Bond from A to B. 

- The Ladies: I don't care to determine which women of Fleming's Bondverse pass the Bechdel Test, nor which ones best encapsulate the fantasy girl ideal - or that even subvert that ideal - for a man of Fleming's generation. I assigned points here much as I did with the Allies section: which ones works for the specific story being told the best rather than just fulfill a role.

- Ditto for The Villains. And finally:

- Is It Like the Movie? Not a category I assigned points for, but I know of at least a couple of readers who might appreciate this.

I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out which covers of the many editions to showcase, and whether or not to quote any of the in-depth-reviews out there.

When I was growing up and they were on my older brother's shelves, they looked like this.

I decided to use the covers from the Signet US paperbacks (the ones I currently own) and the UK Penguin centenary editions with covers by Michael Gillette. (The artists for the Signet editions are unknown to me. I'm sure the information exists out there, though- probably here.) 

I'm not saying these editions are the best-looking of the lot; the Bond books have gone through so many editions worldwide that to choose the best would be a post of its own requiring much consideration. A post I'd love to read, certainly, maybe even write, but beyond our scope today.

As for which of the "in-depth reviews out there" to include, I decided to link only to the appropriate Literary007 post. Great site. You can access them by clicking on the year-of-publication beneath the covers below.

One last thing: I didn't include The Spy Who Loved Me. Not because I think it's a bad book - I actually quite like it. I didn't know what to make of it at first, but it grew on me. Bond, however, is basically a supporting character in that one, and I couldn't figure out how to properly represent it within the categories described. I was amused to discover that this was first published in the United States (serialized in Stag magazine) under the name Motel Nymph. Nice.

Ready? Let's have it.
(1965 - there doesn't seem to be a Literary 007 review for the book, so here's a link to Christopher Lee's reflections on its author.)

The prominent third nipple over the heart made an obvious target! Bond walked thoughtfully down to the beautiful crescent of white sand fringed with gently clashing palm trees.

That exclamation point after the third nipple sentence greatly entertains me. The mind of Bond.

Plot and Writing (003.5) - The last of Fleming's Bonds to appear, and the first one I read. Not sure why I started with this one, except that I've always loved the movie.

Bond returns from Russia, where he's spent a year being brainwashed after the events of You Only Live Twice, to assassinate M. He fails, and the brainwashing is reversed. To get him back on his feet, M sends him to Jamaica to take out Francisco "Pistols" Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin believed to have killed several British agents. Bond infiltrates his organization  in his usual fashion.

This is a half-finished affair. Fleming's health was failing during the writing of the first draft, and he was unable to revise it before his death a few months later. It's still a fun enough little story, with enough touches of the Bond aesthetic to keep the reader interested.

Allies (003.25) Felix Leiter, posing as an electrical engineer at the hotel. Not one of his more essential roles, but not the worst.

Ladies (002.75) - Mary Goodnight - Bond's former secretary - and Tiffy, the proprietor of the Dreamland Cafe. Goodnight is a more endearing character in the novels than she is in the film version of TMWTGG, but that still doesn't quite catapult Bond's former secretary into iconic Bond Girl status. (If it does, then Loelia Ponsonby is a step ahead of her.) Outside of driving Bond around and all-signs-point-to-banging at novel's end, she doesn't have much to do. Tiffy is interesting enough, but she only appears in one scene.

Villains (003.5) - Scaramanga isn't much of a Bond villain, it must be said. I do love the fact that he has his own private train - I picture him in happier times, riding the rails by himself in his engineer's cap and muttering to himself - and his final confrontation with Bond in the swamp is well-done. He exudes an appropriate amount of competence and menace.

Is It Like the Movie? Not at all. Scaramanga's sexual warm-ups before his assassinations inform the lyrics to the theme song, though. Total: 13 pts


"Mister Bond, I suffer from what the early Christians called 'accidie,' the deadly lethargy that envelops those who are sated, those who have no more worlds to conquer. (...) If I see you again, you will die in a manner as ingenious and appropriate as I can devise."

I took some liberties with this quote from Mr. Big. Call it a mash-up. That goes for most of these excerpts.

Plot and Writing (003) - Bond is sent to Harlem to investigate Mr. Big (Buonaparte Ignacio Gallia) who is suspected of selling 17th-century gold coins from the lost treasure of Sir Henry Morgan to finance SMERSH (Смерть шпионам!) operations in the United States. He teams up with Felix, who loses an arm and a leg for his troubles, and follows Mr. Big to Jamaica to complete his mission.

This one is well-regarded by Bond aficionados, but I had trouble getting past the racial politics of the prose. Unremarkable for its era, and Fleming does takes pains to individuate several characters. And for a non-Yank, his almost-journalistic impressions of Harlem, highways, and Florida are fantastic. But it's still rather relentless in treating Bond, Felix, and Solitaire as real characters and everyone else as part of a shiftless mass. This kept me at a distance, reading it in 2015. I don't think it's cause for a class action suit or anything, and I'm not sure why I found it only too alienating here and not elsewhere, where it's equally prevalent, but there it is.

Allies (003) - Poor Felix. This is the first appearance of Strangways, Head of Station in Jamaica, and Quarrel, Bond's Jamaican sidekick. Fleming described their relationship as "that of a Scots laird with his head stalker; authority was unspoken and there was no room for servility." Others have described it differently. He seems to me a Jamaican of his era brought to life through Bond's/ Fleming's eyes very vividly. And that's all he has to be.

Ladies (003) - Simone Latrelle, the descendant of French Haitians and a clairvoyant so disinterested in men that her nickname is "Solitaire." (Guess who re-awakens her interest in men?) She's okay, but she's more of a Gothic trope (the sort normally played by Barbara Steele) than a Bond girl. Not that Gothic tropes can't be Bond girls, of course. The film's Solitaire is much better.

Villains (004) - Mr. Big is pretty cool. The SMERSH-trained black American gangster is a bit too close to the idea that the Civil Rights movement in the United States was just a communist front. But hey, what wasn't a front communist-or-otherwise in the Cold War amirite? Death to Spies. That aside, he's written pretty well, and his whole set-up makes a lot more sense in the book than in the film. Speaking of:

Is It Like the Movie? Somewhat. The film adds quite a bit. A portion of Leiter's fate (and the "He disagreed with something that ate him" line) is appropriated later for License to Kill. Total: 13.5 pts


"There's nothing so extraordinary about American gangsters," said Bond. "Mostly a lot of Italian bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meatballs and squirting scent all over themselves."

Plot and Writing (004.25) - M tasks Bond with infiltrating a smuggling ring transporting diamonds from mines in Sierra Leone to the United States. Bond must infiltrate the smugglers' pipeline and smash it to pieces. This takes him to NYC and Las Vegas to do battle with the Spangled Mob, across the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, and to Sierra Leone, and to Sierra Leone to shoot the last American usurper on Crown Colony soil.

Bond's end-pages wrap-up of Tiffany Case ("It reads better than it lives") seems to me an apt description of the plot, too. Nothing all too remarkable in the summary provided above, but it's very enjoyable. This novel is, in many ways, where the British Empire ended up; interesting lens for the events within.

Allies (003) - Not my favorite Felix moments. The way he shows up and moves things along in NYC were somewhat lazy. Not a dealbreaker or anything, though it does make me wonder if Bond ever return these sorts of favors. Ronnie Valance (head of MI5 and Bond's buddy from Moonraker and elsewhere) is namechecked. 

Ladies (004) - Tiffany Case, the smuggler, tough but lonely. I bought her and Bond's relationship, both the falling into and falling out of it. Nothing against Jill St. John, but Tiffany is a better character in the book. (And there's no Plenty O'Toole to be found.)

Villains (003.5) - The Spangs are just gangsters. Nothing special, though they're sketched out pretty well. (Also, like Scaramanga, Serrafimo Spang has his own private train.) Wint and Kidd, "the homosexual killers," are a tad underdeveloped. As Bond mulls them over, there is ample speculation about how allowing women to vote turns folks homo or homicidal. He wonders the same in Goldfinger re: Pussy Galore and Tilly. Bond's got a lot of crazy ideas. 

Is It Like the Movie? Outside of retaining some of the same names and locales, not at all. Total: 14.75 pts


"Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.' I propose to wring the truth out of you." Goldfinger's eyes slid slowly past Bond's head. "Oddjob. The Pressure Room."

I'm almost positive no one in the history of Chicago has ever used the word 'happenstance,' though it is a word that is fun to say aloud in a Chicago accent. Try it and see. Great quote either way.

Plot and Writing (004.25) - Bond runs into Junius Du Pont, with whom he gambled back in Casino Royale. DuPont is playing Canasta with a mystery-man named Auric Goldfinger, whom he suspects of cheating him. Bond confirms this and after blackmailing Goldfinger into repaying DuPont's lost money, spirits away his secretary Jill Masterton.

Upon return to London, M sends him after Goldfinger, who is believed to be smuggling gold out of the country. After a memorable round of golf and an invitation back to Goldfinger's for dinner, Bond trails him across France to Switzerland, where he runs into Tilly Masterton, who is there to avenge the death of her sister. After capture and a torturous interview, they're hired as Goldfinger's personal valets (!) and have a front row seat for Operation Grand Slam, Goldfinger's mega-crime plan to steal the US gold reserves from Fort Knox.

The plot hinges on some ludicrous developments, and the writing is very Golden Age comic-booky in spots. But who cares? Tremendous fun from start to finish. 

Allies (003) - Tilly isn't much of one. She almost immediately abandons Bond (and her sister's vengeance) for Pussy Galore. But hey, Bond's the one got her sister killed, so all's fair, I suppose. Felix appears with his usual improbable gusto. I wondered when reading whether he took greater satisfaction in saving his country's gold supply or being able to once again come through in the clutch for his old pal Bond.

Ladies (003) - The name Pussy Galore is iconic, but she manages to stand out as ridiculous even while surrounded by so many other over-the-top personalities. The idea of an all-lesbian crime gang named The Cement Mixers is wonderfully dirty, though. Much is made of Bond's "delesbianizing" her, and while I understand this, it seems Pussy is the type of girl who pursues whatever catches her fancy, male or female, legal or illegal.

Villains (004.5) Goldfinger is often mentioned as the high water mark of the bombastic Bond villain. I can't argue with that, even though he's not my personal favorite. He not only wants to bring the world to its knees by cornering the market on gold, he wants to be a Picasso of crime. And he delivers many speeches suitable to those ambitions. 

The real-life Goldfinger (Erno, a Hungarian architect immigrant to the UK) threatened to sue Fleming over the use of his name. Fleming said he would be happy to add an erratum slip to the book changing the character's name to "Goldprick." They settled out of court, and Fleming sent the real-life Goldfinger six free copies of the book.

Is It Like the Film? - Very much so, although Goldfinger's scheme is changed from stealing the gold to blowing it up. And the circular saw of the novel is changed to the laser beam of the film. The famous "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die" is an invention of the script. Total: 15.25 pts


Bond stood and waited for his unspeakable end. He looked into the blue jaws of death and saw the glowing red filament of the firer deep inside the big tube. Soon he, too, would flame like a torch.

Plot and Writing (004.5) - M sends Bond to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of Strangways. Upon learning that Strangways had been investigating the activity of Dr. Julius No - the reclusive owner of a guano mine on the Crab Key part of the island - prior to his disappearance, he enlists Quarrel's help to infiltrate the facility. It turns out Dr. No's real business is to sabotage missile tests at nearby Cape Canaveral. Bond must negotiate an obstacle course of death, poisonous spiders, and a giant squid before he can kill the good Doctor by burying him in a mound of spoonbill excrement.

It's possible I'm overvaluing Dr. No, but everything from the dinner-with-Dr.-No scene to the end I found absolutely riveting, particularly the out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire giant squid business. And as Bond is often contrasted against St. George, it was fun to see him fight a literal (so to speak) dragon. Speaking of:

Allies (003.5) - Adios, Quarrel.

Ladies (004.5) - It was difficult for me to imagine anyone other than Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, but going into these books, I knew that unless the text explicitly described one of the Bond Girls differently, that was going to be unavoidable for me. Here it makes little difference - she's more or less the same from page to screen.

Villains (003.75) - Dr. No, lord of spoonbill shit, is a tad too Fu Manchu and given to even more grandiose speeches than Goldfinger. But all the monologues are interesting, to say the least, and he's got an underwater lair, an  army of "chigroes" i.e. black Chinese-Jamaicans, and a flamethrowing-tank done up like a dragon. That's how you super-villain, folks. 

Is It Like the Film? - Only a very few changes: the centipede that threatens Bond in his hotel room is changed to a tarantula, presumably because tarantulas read better on-screen, and the film adds a few more girls. And plays down the whole "chigro" thing. Total: 16.25 pts


Always he had seen the essential step ahead that would have been hidden from the lesser man. He was a man of the world, a great womanizer, a high liver, with the entree to cafe society on four continents and the last survivor, conveniently enough, of a once famous Roman family whose fortune, so he said, he had inherited. He was the perfect man for SPECTRE, and the perfect man, rich Nassau playboy and all, to be Supreme Commander of Plan Omega.

Plot and Writing (004.25) - M tells Bond he's smoking and drinking too much and sends him for a rest cure at a spa. While there he tousles with an associate of a new criminal organization, SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion.) Upon his return, he learns SPECTRE has hijacked two nuclear bombs and plans to detonate them unless the governments of the western world cough up £100,000,000. M sends Bond to the Bahamas, where he quickly gets on the scent of Emilio Largo (SPECTRE Number One), allegedly visiting the islands as a treasure hunter. Bond, Felix, and the crew of the US submarine Manta race to intercept Largo and his boat the Disco Volante before zero hour of Plan Omega. 

Though Fleming wrote this one off as "immensely dull," I couldn't disagree more. I missed this one when I wasn't reading it.

Allies (004.25) - Is this Felix Leiter's best turn? It might be, although he of course over-commits himself in the final assault. This enables him to dramatically wave off Bond's offer of assistance, though: the shabby nobility of living within Bond's shadow. Beside Felix, Bond becomes fast friends with the captain of the Manta submarine, and the final battle is a rarity in the Bond novels, befitting the stakes: a team effort. 

Ladies (004) - Dominetta "Domino" Vitali, Largo's mistress and the sister of the pilot that SPECTRE hired to hijack the bombs and then murdered. She's similar to Tiffany Case in many ways.

Villains (005) - Intro SPECTRE. And from first to last (the unfortunate Count Lippe, Blofeld running his meeting, and Largo for the rest of the book) they live up to whatever idea you have of the organization.

Is It Like the Film? - Very similar, yeah. Well, no jet-pack sequence in the book, but otherwise. Total: 17.5 pts


"I suppose you know you're both mad as hatters."
"So was Frederick the Great, so was Nietzsche, so was Van Gogh. We are in good, in illustrious company, Mister Bond. On the other hand, where are you? You are a common thug, a blunt instrument wielded by dolts in high places. Having done what you are told to do, out of some mistaken idea of duty or patriotism, you satisfy your brutish instincts with alcohol, nicotine, and sex while waiting to be dispatched on the next misbegotten folly. Try and summon such wits as you possess and see (yourself) in a realistic light and in the higher realm of my own thinking."

Plot and Writing (005) - Bond is dispatched to Japan to petition the Japanese Secret Service, run by Tiger Tanaka, for use of their intelligence pipeline into China and the Soviet Union. Tiger agrees - if Bond assassinates the lord of the Castle of Death, a gaijin whose carefully-guarded estate houses a foremost collection of poisonous plants and has become a lightning rod for Japanese seeking to kill themselves. Upon showing Bond a photograph of the Lord of Death, Bond recognizes the man as none other than Ernst Blofeld. He infiltrates the castle, Blofeld puts on a full suit of samurai armor, and the two duel. In the aftermath, Bond sustains a head injury and loses all memory of his former life. The novel ends with Bond's heading off to the Soviet Union on a hunch he might discover himself there, and an obituary written by Mary Goodnight which for the first time reveals details of Bond's childhood.

I really love this one. The leaps it took, and the way it ended greatly entertained me. The setting also allows for an interesting window on post-WW2 Japan. And all the stuff at the castle is great fun.

Allies (004.5) - Tiger Tanaka and the Aussie intelligence officer (Dikko) are both cut from similar cloth as Bond's previous allies, but they're both standouts. Fleming uses Tiger as a mouthpiece for his own increasingly bitter take on postwar Britain and the U.S., which sometimes strains credibility. But not by much. He is also aided by the Suzuki family before and after his mission.

Ladies (003.5) - Kissy Suzuki is a rather mild Bond Girl, but she's effectively characterized in the short time allotted to her.

Villains (004.5) - Arguably the least of Blofeld's appearances, despite the samurai armor. Though, I love his cover as some mad collector of botanical specimens. ("The Shatterhands." Nice.) And basically everything about the scenes in which he and Irma Bunt appear. I was surprised to see Bond succeed in actually killing him.

Is It Like the Film? - Not at all, though elements of it seem to have been resurrected for the film version of The Man with the Golden Gun. Total: 17.5 pts


"Your majesty, men and women of England," the voice was a velvet snarl. "I am about to change the course  of England's history. In a few minutes' time the lives of all of you will be altered, in some cases, ahem, drastically, by the, er, impact of the Moonraker. I am very proud and pleased that fate has singled me out, from amongst all my fellow countrymen, to fire this great arrow of vengeance into the skies and thus to proclaim for all time, and for all the world to witness, the might of my fatherland. I hope that this occasion will forever be a warning that the fate of my country's enemies will be written in dust, in ashes, in tears, and in blood. I sincerely hope that those of you who are able will repeat my words to your children, if you have any, tonight."

Though the reader (and Bond) is well aware that Drax is a villain at the time he speaks these words, the audience hearing them (over the radio, prior to Moonraker's launch) is not. Nice effect.

Plot and Writing (004.5) - England is in love with Hugo Drax, an industrialist and rocket scientist who has offered to build for the Queen and people of England a rocket capable of hitting any of the capitols of Europe. M is suspicious, though, as Drax cheats at cards at his club (Blades). After Bond (aided by heroic amounts of champagne and Benzedrine, and a deck of stacked cards) turns the tables on him at the club, Drax retreats to his test site near the celebrated Cliffs of Dover. Bond follows and slowly uncovers the mystery - Drax and his team of rocket scientists are actually ex-Nazis who plan to fire the rocket at the heart of London. 

Allies (004) / Ladies (004.25) - Gala Brand doubles as both ally and Bond Girl in this one. She polarizes people, apparently, but I like her. The twist at the end that she's engaged and not going to sleep with Bond after all was good. Besides Gala, Bond is aided by Ronnie Valance at MI5.

Villains (005) - I absolutely love Drax and his Nazi rocket scientists. What a trip.

Is It Like the Film? - Unfortunately, it can't be. The plot very much hinges on being only ten years away from the end of WW2, and prior to the development of ICBMs. But it made me love the film even more for the wild direction EON took things in 1979. I didn't think that was actually possible; I assumed I was at Peak Moonraker. Total: 17.75 pts


"The World Is Not Enough."

Plot and Writing (005) - Forgive me, but I'll be covering this one for my From Novel to Film series, so I'll save discussion of the plot until then. Suffice it to say, I loved it.

Allies (004) - Marc-Ange Draco, a higher-up of Unione Corse, is a tad derivative of Darko Kerim from From Russia with Love, or Colombo in the short story "Risico." Perfect as a father-in-law to Bond.

Ladies (004.75) - Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vincezo, the brief Mrs. Bond, is very memorable. But, it was impossible for me to picture anyone but Diana Rigg. And there's the one chick Bond hooks up with at Piz Gloria, whom I personally pictured looking like Patty Boyd.

Villains (004.5) - Ah, Blofeld. I'm sorry, I mean Comte Balthazar de Bleuville.

Is It Like the Film? - I'll have the answer up within a few weeks. Total: 18.25 pts


"The great trains are going out all over Europe, one by one, but still, three times a week, the Orient Express thunders superbly over the 1,400 miles of glittering steel track between Istanbul and Paris. Under the arc-lights, the long-chassied German locomotive panted quietly with the labored breath of a dragon dying of asthma. Each heavy breath seemed certain to be the last. Then came another."

Plot and Writing (005) - Fed up with Bond's disruption of their plans, SMERSH comes up with a plan to rid themselves of him and greatly embarrass the British Secret Service in the process. They send two of their agents into the West to spring the trap: Tatiana Romanova, whose cover is that she's fallen in love with Bond and wants to deliver unto England a Russian coding device ("Spektor," coincidentally enough), and Red Grant, a defected British sociopath who's promised the Order of Lenin if he kills 007.

Bond doesn't even appear in this book for a hundred pages or so, which allows for a fascinating glimpse into the world of SMERSH and a slow burn until he makes his appearance. And the sequences on the train are so perfectly paced. 

Allies (004.5) - Darko Kerim, head of Istanbul station, is a great and memorable character. Fleming indulges in a little Orientalism with him, particularly with certain aspects of his origin story, but a) Fleming? Orientalism? Surely not. and b) while I prefer the way the character is handled in the film, I formed the same attachment to him that Bond did.

Ladies (004) - The weak part of the book for me - her story (and conversion) is somewhat hard to swallow. Tatiana Romanova is a badass name, though.

Villains (005) - Some of the best here, from Kronsteen, the competitive chess player, to Red Grant, the British turncoat, to Rosa Klebb, the hatchet-faced lady with the poisonous-spiked shoe.

Is It Like the Film? - Very similar, yes. The Mouth of Marilyn Monroe becomes the mouth of Anita Ekberg in a billboard for Call Me Bwana. Total: 18.5 pts And finally:


"The bitch is dead now."

Plot and Writing (005) - M assigns Bond to play in a high-stakes baccarat game against Le Chiffre, the paymaster for a SMERSH-controlled trade union in France, whose funds he appropriated and must replace by winning big at the Royale-les-Eaux casino. M also sends along Vesper Lynd, personal assistant to the head of Station S (the Soviet Union). Bond beats Le Chiffre, who proceeds to kidnap him and Vesper. He tortures them both, but he is killed by SMERSH agents who arrive to clean up the scene. They brand Bond's hand with a "SH" for spy ('shpionam.') In the weeks that follow, Bond falls in love with Vesper, but when a mysterious man is seen tailing them, she grows cold. She commits suicide, and Bond learns that she was an (unwilling) double agent. He hardens his heart and commits himself to disrupting SMERSH wherever and whenever he can. 

The first of the Bond books is also the most dispensable in learning why Bond is the way he is. It's a great read and has within its pages all of the essential elements of the character.

Allies (004.5) - Felix's late-innings cash infusion to Bond, "compliments of the USA," is a fun moment. I also liked Rene Mathis, the French agent assigned to assist Bond.

Ladies (005) - Vesper Lynd is the other most important dead lady in Bond's life. Perhaps even more important than Tracy, actually - she's certainly referenced more, though that may simply be a question of timing. (Those references are: in Goldfinger, a drugged Bond wonders how he's going to introduce Tilly to Vesper in the afterlife; in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond tells Tiffany the song "La Vie en Rose," associated with Vesper in Casino Royale, brings up uncomfortable memories for him; and in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it's revealed Bond makes a yearly pilgrimage to Vesper's grave.)

Villains (004.25) - Le Chiffre is probably better in the film. SMERSH is of course mysterious and deadly; they always are.

Is It Like the Film? - Very similar (to the Daniel Craig film, I mean, not the 60s farce with Peter Sellers, nor the Climax! version, which I've never seen), tho the film adds elements that allows the production to move to Africa and the Caribbean. Total:  18.75 pts

How about you?


James Bond will return in An Overview of John Gardner's Bond -

as soon as I get a chance to read them, that is. (These are the German editions - I recall seeing at least one or two of these at the Neu-Isenburg Zentrum, growing up.)

and Ian Fleming's James Bond: The Short Stories - coming up next. I'll likely cover all the other books sooner or later, as well. (Probably later.)


  1. I love all the paperback covers depicted here, but since they were the current artwork from when I was getting the books, I love those eighties ones with the silhouette-and-color covers the most. I've got about half of those, and plan to complete my collection at some point soon.

  2. The racial politics of "Live and Let Die" are rough. I'm currently working on a readthrough of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, and he goes to some of the same places. I give both Fleming and Lovecraft a pass in a way that I wouldn't coming from a modern author, because they seem typical of the times in which they lived. That doesn't mean I endorse it, or that I blame anyone whose modern sensibilities won't allow them to go there; it just means that for me, it's a baby-with-the-bathwater situation.

    I'd forgotten that Mr. Big's nickname was an acronym of his initials. Cool!

    1. I agree - it's a baby/bathwater situation. Ditto with Hemingway (though it's more complicated with that guy) and Fitzgerald. It's not a matter of excusing the sensibilities, just putting them in context. Sometimes it's too much, sure - I imagine that line varies widely for many different people.

      I've yet to read any Lovecraft, ridiculously (and me a Rhode Islander, to boot) but I understand that's a part of the scenery there, yeah.

  3. "The way he shows up and moves things along in NYC were somewhat lazy. Not a dealbreaker or anything, though it does make me wonder if Bond ever return these sorts of favors."

    Oh, I think we know the answer to that. You could make the argument that Bond is a symbol of aristocracy, and that the reason why somebody like Leiter is always there for him (and almost certainly not the other way around) is that it typifies the master/servant relationship.

    Again, I can imagine that sort of thing making some readers a bit queasy. But is it an accurate symbolic portrayal of the British-colonial mindset from an aristocratic point of view? I'm no expert, but it feels like that's a "yes."

    1. Absolutely. Fleming was an Eton grad and very much would have internalized the British public school worldview of John Ruskin and Cecil Rhodes, etc. I'm talking out my ass on this one, but you can see branches from those trees come out of Bond's (or Tiger Tanaka's) mouth often enough.

      I need to read one of these comprehensive Fleming bios out there.

  4. I can't quite recall what I made out of the lesbianism of "Goldfinger" when I first read it (this would have been when I was around the age of 12), but I don't remember that it had a negative impact. I suspect I was confused by the whole thing.

    The just-released-last-week continuation novel "Trigger Mortis" (by Anthony Horowitz) picks up where "Goldfinger" left off. Pussy Galore factors into the story, and while I won't give anything away about what happens from there, I'll say that I feel like Horowitz did a good job with it.

    1. I look forward to it! Presently, I'm reading "License Renewed." Got quite a few to go, but steady-on wins the race.

  5. Whereas I can't remember what I thought of "Goldfinger" 's lesbians, I can definitely remember what I thought of "Dr. No" 's chigroes. That concept blew my mind. I (obviously) knew there were black people, and I (obviously) knew there were Asian people; it never crossed my mind that somebody could be both!

    Twelve-year-old me took that in and sat there for a while thinking, trying to figure out what an exotic creature could possibly look like. I looked for them in the background of the movie the next time I watched it, and was disappointed to find none in evidence.

    I don't know that any of that is to my credit (or Fleming's), exactly, but I will say that I treated the idea with excitement and interest and not with disdain. So I guess there's that.

  6. The sections of Fleming's prose you use here are terrific. He was a better writer than he's generally been given credit for; pity he wasn't able to live another twenty years and keep on trucking.

    I very much enjoyed reading this post! I've not read the books in a couple of decades, but I'm hoping to return to them pretty soon. This has whetted my appetite considerably.

    1. Excellent! I had 4 or 5 contenders for each novel but didn't want to use more than one. I was worried I chose too many Bond supervillain quotes rather than an array more representative of Fleming's style. And I agree - he was a better writer than given credit for. His weak spots are easy to spot, but there's a lot more going on that smooths those over.