The tenth James Bond book, and the ninth novel, is this week’s 007 Book Shelf entry, and it’s a bit of a unique creation. It’s a small, almost non-event in the life of secret agent James Bond, and is told from the first person perspective of the heroine of the tale, French-Canadian Vivienne Michel.
Recently having arrived back in North America after schooling in England, and some time on the continent, with events that shaped her life, and her loves, Viv decides on buying a Vespa and motoring down from Montreal to Florida, working odd jobs along the way.
We join her at The Dreamy Pines Motor Court, where she’s been convinced to stay on for a day or two and help close down the season in exchange for room, board and a cash payment. It sounds a little too good to be true, and it is as Viv becomes the key star in an insurance scam.
It seems the owner is planning on burning down the hotel, which isn’t turning a profit, and collecting on the insurance. To facilitate this he sends along two villains, Horror, a tall, thin baddie who has steel capped teeth (sounds familiar) and a hairless brute named Sluggsy, who has an eye no doing things to Viv before they burn her and the place down.
In the midst of a storm, and with the ‘vacancy’ sign left on, someone shows up on the doorstep looking for a room just before Horror and his compatriot can put their final actions, and desires into place. Bond, James Bond.
007, having been on assignment in Toronto, is also travelling south, and calls it a night at Dreamy Pines after having suffered a tire puncture. He cottons to what is going on immediately, and forces his way into the scene, and oddly enough, the baddies let him, and let Viv tell him everything that is going on, before racing to a fire and (shades of this week’s film Quantum of Solace), gun shot filled finale.
Everything comes from Viv’s persepctive, and for the most part it works, though Bond doesn’t show up until two thirds through the book. The first part of the novel is all Viv’s story, how she got her, her spoiled romances, and her new goals and perspective on life.
This keeps most of the sexist and racist things that tend to show up in Fleming’s other 007 books from surfacing, though he makes sure the baddies say a few nasty things, and just when you think Viv is a smart, well thought out creation, even she descends in the last chapter or two to sexist things about her own sex.\
And that’s too bad.
While this one is a non-adventure for Bond, it definitely tells an interesting story from the view of a woman who brushed up against the sex and violence that 007 deals in for one night.
James Bond will return in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service…