The fourth James Bond adventure by Ian Fleming is on my book shelf this week, and I dug into it eagerly. Despite some troubling moments of racism, 007’s literary adventure in this book is damned enjoyable, and you can see a number of themes and locales survived the jump to the big screen with Sean Connery’s final foray as the secret agent.
007 is brought in to put a stop to a diamond smuggling operation that starts in Africa, passes though London, onto New York and then into Vegas, all overseen by an American group of gangsters which James maybe underestimating.
He’s slipped into the pipeline and meets Tiffany Case, a woman with a truly horrid childhood that affects her dramatically. As he runs the pipeline he encounters both ends of the controllers, the Spang brothers, one in London, one in Vegas, a crook named Shady Tree, and a pair of killers with homosexual leanings, Wint and Kidd.
The book even opens with the scorpion which is seen in the film. There are car chases, shoot outs, and even the return of Felix Leiter, his first appearance since his run-in with the shark in Live and Let Die, and he is no longer with the agency but working for the Pinkertons as an investigator. But his friendship with James remains solid.
Crisp, violent, sexy, this is a strong entry into Fleming’s world of 007, though the racism in those few scenes is especially troubling.
There are no gadgets, it’s just Bond, his wits, and abilities, and by the end of each story so far, he’s taken on new scars. He’s definitely not some superhuman secret agent that he becomes in the films of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 80s. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a little closer to the target as he gets hurt, beaten, tortured, and is very much not indestructible.
We get to see New York, and Las Vegas through Bond’s eyes, and Fleming’s prose as it was in the late 50s, and it’s not so decidedly different now. His relationship with Tiffany, is both flirty, and surprisingly honest, once they open up to each other about themselves. She may in fact, be one of the stronger female characters Fleming has created so far in the series.
This one was a cracker of a read, and I was overjoyed to have Leiter return to the fold. Despite the loss of an arm, and a leg, he still proves he’s a worthy friend, and puts himself on the line for Bond throughout the narrative.
While not as big as the films, this one is big, gritty, exotic, and violent. A solid entry in the 007 literary world, and probably my favorite of the ones I’ve read to date.
James Bond will return in…
From Russia With Love