On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) – Ian Fleming

The eleventh 007 book, and tenth novel, by Ian Fleming is this week’s entry on the Book Shelf, and you could see how the film series would begin to influence the continuing novels as we get a mention of Bond’s parentage, with his father being a Scot, and there is an increasing sense of Connery charm to the character.

The novel is actually very similar to the film made from it, so even the producer’s realised they had something good with this story, though minor changes, and set pieces would be added to the film version.

James Bond is getting ready to tender his resignation to M. He’s been on the Blofeld case since the conclusion of Operation: Thunderball, and he is beginning to feel like the entire running down of leads, and a waste of his abilities.

He ends up meeting a woman who is very much his equal, Tracy, but who, when he meets her, is on the verge of suicide because of her painful past. The pair click however, and her father, a capu of a high-ranking mafia family, offers James a deal if he will marry Tracy.

He declines, but does express interest in continuing to see her, in return he asks for information on Blofeld.

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And so begins an expansive adventure that takes him to Switzerland, where Blofeld, who has transformed himself, has a new plan for a reborn SPECTRE. A plan that will bring the UK to economic and agricultural ruin through biological warfare.

Blofeld has some new found vanity, and is seeking to have himself proclaimed a count, and Bond uses that desire as a cover, posing as a genealogist and historian, in order to get inside Blofeld’s base at the summit of Piz Gloria.

There are some very familiar sequences, and the film made sure to lift some of the best dialogue as well, and some of it is simply cracking. There are some recognisable names and continuity that is fun. May still serves as his house keeper, Loelia Ponsonby has retired as the secretary for the 00 section, and Mary Goodnight has replaced her.

There are some nice moments with M as well, but most of all, I like how the story takes its time to tell its story, and lets the action rip when its needed.

What I like most about the novel is that, unlike the film, Bond has to work at his knowledge, and his skills, he isn’t simply proficient at everything as the films seem to have made him. He spends time studying, training, and working on his cover, and it still comes apart pretty quickly when it gets blown by a fellow agent.

Then, of course, there is the romantic side of the story, and even though Fleming doesn’t pay it lots of attention, its there, and it changes 007. And anyone who has read the novel, or seen the film knows that that ends badly for James.

It will also no doubt focus him on his task of hunting Blofeld down when he returns in You Only Live Twice.

IAN FLEMING
IAN FLEMING WRITER: JAMES BOND 01 May 1958 CTS62014

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