Live and Let Die (1954) – Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming’s second James Bond book finds its way to my book shelf this week as I delve into the character’s literary history as well as all the 007 films I haven’t covered for the blog.

It’s an enjoyable novel, although it is steeped in way too much racist language and descriptions as Bond goes after Mr. Big, a gold smuggler who is using voodoo as a cover, and is raising funds for the Russian organisation SMERSH.

Bond’s adventure takes him from New York to Florida to Jamaica, as he is determined to bring an end to Mr. Big’s gold rush. He finds himself coming to the rescue of Mr.Big’s kept woman, the possibly psychic Solitaire.

With Felix Leiter helping Bond once he lands State-side, the pair prove to be a thorn in Big’s side, but soon the pair have to head to Florida, having stirred up a hornets’ nest in New York and the story races to its climax.

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Besides CIA agent, Leiter, the novel features some familiar supporting characters that are recognisable to the 007 films fan, Strangways, head of the Caribbean section for MI6 appears. He shows up in the first film, Dr. No, as does the fisherman, Quarrel (who also appears with a junior appended to his name in the film version of Live and Let Die).

The book also features a number of sequences that show up throughout the film series. Solitaire travel by train, just as they do in the film (not to mention the use of voodoo). Leiter’s attack from a shark in a warehouse break-in sequence was used in Licence to Kill, and Solitaire and James being tied up to be dragged behind a boat over coral and turned into shark bait shows up in For Your Eyes Only.

Despite the racist descriptions and use of same language, the book is solid entertainment, and no where near as big and bold as the Bond films became. It’s slick, gritty, and the story moves rapidly, even as it caters to 007’s objectification of women. The violence is sudden and intense, and the spycraft, simple now, is still solid.

Fleming piles in his details, shooting them out rapid fire, like Bond’s Beretta.Clothes to cars to food are all described, and commented on, even as Bond trains for the underwater insertion into Mr. Big’s island base.

I enjoyed the read, not quite as much as Casino Royale. The racist language kept me at bay, and prevented a total engagement, but I will happily delve into the next one, and the rest of the series, because…

James Bond will return.

IAN FLEMING

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