With all the fuss and fever that Sebastian Faulks has brought with the new Bond book ‘Devil May Care’ I have been itching to follow the trend and run out and buy it. However I thought it wasn’t really fair to do that until I had actually read Ian Fleming myself. I did debate for a while which one to read as ‘Casino Royale’ was fresh in my head from the movie. I thought about ‘Quantum Solace’ so as to be ahead of everyone before that film comes out, I have since found out that this is a cheeky new collection of short stories from previous novels. Plus at the moment there are so many different editions of all the novels! It truley is Bond Fever. In the end I thought ‘start at the beginning’ and so I did.
The story of the first Bond sees him having only just recently become a double-O and is sent to gamble against and hopefully bankrupt Le Chiffre, a French Communist labour leader, who was embezzling union funds to purchase a string of whore houses only to have them closed when they are outlawed by a new law. He is now looking to make money for other ruthless ventures and must be stopped.
This is the first novel in the James Bond series originally published in 1953 and it actually hasn’t dated very much which is quite impressive in the light of how the world has progressed since then. Bond is a steely character, a womaniser, and killer and has serious grudges with the world; he is not yet the suave Casanova that is depicted in later yarns and films. In fact forget the films and in particular the recent one though the character that Daniel Craig plays is pretty spot on.
If you are looking for ‘shaken not stirred’, Q and his gadgets or Moneypenny and her flirting you are going to be reading the wrong book. In Casino Royale what Fleming was doing was creating the character of Bond; he is much more questioning in this novel and a lot more aggressive and ruthlessly sexual even describing one moment having ‘the sweet tang of rape’. There are only a few main characters along side Bond and Le Chiffre one being his MI5 right hand woman (something that displeases the woman hating Bond no end) Vesper Lynd, can she tame Bond?
I really enjoyed this novel, I was however glad it wasn’t too long as with a premise of gambling and bankruptcy there isn’t too much more to this novel. The start and ends of the book are brilliant it’s the middle that goes on a little too long. I found myself a tiny bit bored by the endless explanations of how to play Baccarat which while were important to the story didn’t need to be discussed so endlessly. This is a brilliant spy novel and I am really glad I have given Fleming a go; I have already got my hands on ‘Live & Let Die’ and will be devouring that in the none too distant future.