Goldfinger (1959) – Ian Fleming

This week’s 007 is the seventh novel in the series, and while it bears some similarities to the film that would eventually spring from it, it is also very much it’s own thing.

Secret Agent James Bond finishes up a mission in Mexico, like a pre-credits adventure, which does get alluded to in the film version, and finds himself with a night to spare in Florida. Here he bumps into one of the card players he shared a table with in Casino Royale, who asks for his help in foiling a cheat at canasta. One Auric Goldfinger.

From there, he finds himself assigned by M. to trail this Goldfinger to Geneva, and reclaim the gold bullion in his possession, as by law, it actually belongs to the British government.

Bond thinks he’s only after a smuggler, until he discovers a much bigger plan at work. One that centres on the American gold bullion repository of Fort Knox.

There are familiar things in the book that make the translation to the film, including a round of golf, where Goldfinger cheats (again) and a tricked out Aston Martin (though nowhere as well-equipped as it would be in the film version).


And Tilly Masterson survives almost to the end of the novel, developing a bit of a crush on Pussy Galore, who may or may not have homosexual tendencies, but definitely has a scarred childhood, and can apparently be swayed by the appearance of Bond, though she doesn’t show up until almost three-quarters through the story.

And while we learn of Jill Masteron’s death, Bond isn’t the one to discover her, though apparently she was painted gold, as a message to be heard by 007. There’s no laser beam on a table, but instead a high powered circular saw, though most of the scene plays out similarly.

The story moves along at a crisp pace, and the stories definitely feel like they are more in line with the James Bond that some people only know from the films. He’s still got that dark edge, is violent and brooding, but he’s also human. He’s not indestructible, is frequently hurt in the line of duty, and unfortunately shares some of the sexist and racist prejudices that were prevalent at the time – and that bothers me.

I’m glad he will change with the times.

The book was an exciting and fun read, and you can see the bones that would make the film, and what would be adapted. Pussy is not a pilot, but is the leader of a gang of women out of New York, and apparently has a bit of an acrobatic history, though it’s not used at all in the service of the story.

Fleming’s detailed fast-paced story telling, though even he couldn’t make golf exciting for me, serves Bond well, and as I drew to the conclusion, I knew James Bond will return in…

For Your Eyes Only (a short story collection).




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