So, back in the 50’s, there was this British guy who had done some pretty awesome stuff during World War II. What did he do with this experience? He went on to write some of the best spy fiction there is to be read.
Ian Flemming introduced the world to James Bond, here in Casino Royale. James Bond of the literary world is NOT the James Bond you see as portrayed by Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Even Sean Connery doesn’t truly accomplish the translation of Bond from book to screen. Fear not, I will not analyzing the role of each Bond actor. Well, not here anyway. Look for that in posts about the movies.
Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale is our introduction to the world of James Bond, 007. Bond is a cold blooded professional. He has two kills to his credit, which is what earned him the 00-status; permission to kill for Her Majesty. M (Bond’s boss) details Bond to travel to Royale-Les-Eaux in Northern France. There he is to play high stakes baccarat, with the goal of bankrupting Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is a major player for SMERSH, the Soviet anti-spy agency. SMERSH is loosely translated to ‘death to spies.’ Warm, loving group; right?
Throughout the book, we are also introduced to Bond’s very particular habits. As he states (and this is me paraphrasing) since he has little else in the world, he takes an almost perverse pleasure in food and drink. And boy, does he. The precision with which he orders is fascinating, and I think gives a real good look into what the 50’s were like.
So, needless to say, Bond makes it to the game. After some troubles, he is able to defeat Le Chiffre. But, that’s not the end of the story. Le Chiffre orchestrates the kidnapping of Vesper Lynd, the finance representative from MI6, who was in control of Bond’s money. Fun fact: Bond, the cold hearted bastard, starts falling for Miss Lynd. Bond chases after Vesper, and is caught himself.
He is then tortured by Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is in deep with SMERSH and REALLY wants the money Bond won from him. Just as Bond is sinking into deep despair and acceptance of his fate, a gunman walks in and dispatches Le Chiffre. Turns out SMERSH caught up with Le Chiffre, and Le Chiffre’s time had run out. Bond is saved because the SMERSH agent had no orders regarding Bond.
After this experience, Bond decides to quite MI6 and marry Vesper. Too bad; so sad. Looks like Vesper was a double agent for SMERSH! Racked with guilt, she takes one too many sleeping pills and ends her misery. In a letter left for James, Vesper details how her lover had been captured by SMERSH, and how they were using him as leverage to get Vesper to work for them.
Bond, understandably pissed decides to NOT retire, and communicates to MI6 that Vesper was a double, and that ‘the bitch is dead.’
Not gonna lie. That closing line is one of my favorites. Leading up to those lines, we see a Bond who has a new, albeit personal, mission: stop SMERSH. This will be a minor and sometimes major plot point in the following books.
I really enjoyed this first entry in the Bond literary saga. Its well written, and at under 200 pages, moves quick. Even the description and execution of the baccarat game is fascinating. Clothes, cars, food and locales are described in a way that makes you feel as if you were there. Any fan of the movies should give at least this first entry a read. Or, if you are fans of modern thrillers check this out. Being written in the 50s gives this an almost fresh feel after years of reading Clancy, Cussler, and the like.
James Bond returns in Live and Let Die.