Tuesday, July 21, 2009

James Bond Daily: Casino Royale

The first James Bond novel was published in 1953; it was Ian Fleming's first book. (And I looked at it just a few years ago.)

I don't know if I have much more to say about it than I did in 2006; the book's Bond is very different from the movie Bond -- even the supposedly "tough" ones, like early Connery and parkour-happy Craig -- but I want to think about those differences more, as I read more of the books.

Another thing I'll want to think about is the shape of the series -- Bond is seriously injured in the middle of Casino Royale, at the hands of an enemy, escapes through no action of his own, seriously considers resigning from the service, and is nursed back to health by Vesper Lynd, who turns out -- as so many Bond girls do -- to not be quite as true and trustworthy as she appears. And, as I recall, something quite similar happens in You Only Live Twice, the last novel to be published when Fleming was alive.

Casino Royale is a tough novel of applied spycraft; it's definitely sensationalized -- I doubt any real-world spy ever set out to ruin his opposite number at the baccarat table -- but it's solidly set in the real Cold War '50s, with many references to the events and names of the day that would affect a spy like Bond. Fleming was surpassed in psychological realism by many later writers of spy novels, but Bond is still a fascinatingly spiky character, deeply damaged and re-healed broken like a badly set leg. And we do have to remember that his world is not ours -- doubly so, since his world is nearly sixty years in the past now, and the feral world of the Cold War practitioners (or of any similar agents, now or ever) is very different from the world of law most of us live in.

1 comment:

Major Major said...

Dusko Popov described in his memoirs, Spy/Counterspy, how while in Lisbon transporting $50,000 of Abwehr operational funds, he managed to silence a fellow gambler who he thought was being obnoxious by slapping the stack on the table when the guy had called for no limits. Who was his British escort? Ian Fleming!

Joseph T Major

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