Ian Fleming’s final James Bond book, the second published posthumously and the fourteenth 007 book overall is a collection of previously published quartet of short stories. And it’s a great collection to go out on, though of course Bond would continue to live on under other authors, and of course, as an ongoing film franchise.
First up is Octopussy. Set in Jamaica once again, Bond plays a peripheral but important character in this tale. He visits a retired British Major, Dexter Smythe, who served during World War II, and may have committed murder and theft using material claimed from an intelligence raid for his own personal gain. We revisit Smythe’s story as he recalls it and shares it with Bond. It is intercut with Smythe skindiving and visiting his favourite coral reef off the beach of his home, and the consequences that play out for him when 007 allows him to decide for himself how to face the result of his actions. This story served as the backstory for a sequence in the film of the same name.
The Living Daylights is my favourite of the stories, and you can see how it directly influenced a section of the film of the same name. 007 is assigned to Germany, at a place that will become infamous as Checkpoint Charlie where a fellow agent is coming over, and he’s been assigned as sniper to protect him, and watch for his opposite number on the other side of the Wall who has been assigned to terminate the agent.
As Bond waits for events to unfurl, he watches the gathering of an orchestra on a nightly basis, including a lovely woman with a cello case going to and from the building. It should come as no surprise that he finds her attractive, and that it is also revealed that she is the assassin he’s been sent to stop.
Property of A Lady is another rather familiar sounding story with elements of it showing up in the film version of Octopussy. Bond attends an auction of a previously unknown Faberge emerald sphere. He’s there because the sphere is a payout to a KGB spy within MI6 (of which they are aware and feeding misinformation) and they are using the auction to flush out the top KGB spy in the UK.
And finally, 007 in New York, probably the least enjoyable of the stories in the collection as we find Bond in the Big Apple to warn a fellow MI6 agent that her boyfriend is, in fact, KGB. He has a catch up with a previous acquaintance, Solange, and recalls his favourite recipe for scrambled eggs (seriously).
With Fleming’s passing other writers would take a swing at crafting adventures for the iconic secret agent, and that’s good, because I love both the film franchise, and now having made my way through the original books, I want more. The first up was Robert Markham writing under the pseudonym, Kingsley Amis.
James Bond will return in Colonel Sun.