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This is my favourite of the 60s Pan covers.

N O   I N F O R M A T I O N   I S   U S E L E S S

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YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
14/09/2009

James Bond is a broken man at the outset of You Only Live Twice. He’s bungling assignments, drinking hard, gambling bad and embarking on fruitless one night stands; all in effort to erase the loss of his beloved Tracy. He’s shell shocked and feeling every bit of his age. Fleming describes Bond’s despair in a short stream of consciousness, abstract thoughts and absent manners. M offers him one last chance to prove his worth to Queen and Country, a hopeless diplomatic mission to Japan.

Under first the bellicose friendship of the Australian Dikko Henderson, as garrulous and indulgent as Kerim Bey, and then the watchful tutorship of Tiger Tanaka, head of Japan’s Secret Service, Bond begins to purge himself of those morose thoughts. It is the appreciative attentions of Tiger Tanaka that make up the bulk of the novel.

In this respect much of YOLT is little more than a travelogue through Japanese culture. However Fleming’s writing is never less than excellent and his journalistic style allows him to weave his true life experiences into the narrative. It’s a mature, studied piece of work. The scenes between Tiger and Bond are informative, descriptive and witty. Fleming isn’t poking fun at the hosts; it is Tiger who goads Bond, constantly referring to his “gross drinking habits” and his Western taboos. It’s an education for both Bond and the reader.

Tiger Tanaka is a slick, powerful leader with a “formidable, cruel, samurai face.” We first meet Tiger over a game of scissors-paper-stone; he takes it exceedingly seriously, there is “glitter in the dark eyes.” Being all at once intelligent, calculating, determined and honourable, he is as much a father-figure, or more accurately a brother-figure, to 007 as M. Bond remains stoic through much of his schooling, but displays more genuine affection for Tiger than any other companion. At one point Bond reveals his inner turmoil by composing a haiku, a poem of seventeen syllables: “You only live twice, once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.”

YOLT represents Bond’s haiku as a journey , reflecting his state of mind about life and the world. When Bond offers an exchange of intelligence information, Tiger is scathing of Great Britain: “You have not only lost a great empire, you have seemed to be anxious to throw it away... It is like giving smelling salts to a punch drunk heavyweight before the inevitable knockdown.” Bond responds forthrightly, but Fleming’s sentiment is shining through. The Cold War is changing the political map and he isn’t certain of James Bond’s or Britain’s place in it; is it time for them to disappear forever?

To maintain face and gain much honour – and the appropriate co-operation – Bond agrees to assassinate Dr Shatterhand, a peculiar Swiss botanist who lives in a remote castle hideaway. Shatterhand turns out to be none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has shed the skin of SPECTRE and developed “a disinterest in humanity and its future.” His solution is to provide a garden of death for inclined citizens to commit suicide. This psyche mirrors Bond’s own lassitude; but while 007 wanted to remove his self from the active world, Blofeld wishes only to provide the ultimate means for others. Bond searches his soul to settle his “ancient feud” and accepts whatever fate has in store for him: “If my second life [death] comes up, I would rather look it in the face.”

Blofeld’s castle of death is as bizarre as it is deadly. Fleming is invoking Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker in the gothic nature of the surroundings with “pink dragonflies flitting above the graves” of sulphurous fumaroles and piranha infested pools. Bond’s “sleep is full of ghosts and demons and screams” and the castle is a brooding, towering presence. There is grim tension in the hideous Question Room where Bond is forced to confront his nemesis.

The eventual battle between the two adversaries is admirably horrific and Bond suffers much personal and physical cost. A stray bullet knocks him unconscious and causes amnesia, wiping James Bond away forever. Recovering on the Ama island of Kuro, Bond, or Taro Todoroki, falls in love with Kissy Suzuki and at last achieves a semblance of peace.

By its end, YOLT is by the far the most sorrowful of Fleming’s novels for here Bond has fought and overcome his devils and found a little slice of paradise. Fleming paints the innocence of life on Kuro, of Kissy and her cormorant David and of golden days diving for sea shells. It’s the closest we ever get to seeing Bond away from the bright lights and the big cities. There’s little verbal affection between the cautious lovers. Instead Fleming relies on the unspoken word, the communication of eyes and limbs, of trust and companionship. Bond contents himself “with a smile into Kissy’s eyes” while the girl’s own eyes “never left him and the low sun shone... and turned the soft brown to gold.” Kissy prays to the island’s Six Guardians for Bond’s safety and is overjoyed like no other Fleming heroine at Bond’s return and recovery.

Tiger Tanaka likens the wealth of the Ama to very little, to “sparrow’s tears.” It is deeply poignant that Bond’s happiness is interrupted at the very moment his life takes a change for the best. Even the devotion of Kissy cannot prevent it.

For Fleming the pull of the high life was always too great. Bond’s epitaph is his own motto: “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.” He doesn’t allow his hero any respite either. One word, “Vladivostok,” is enough for Bond to abandon his harmonious existence. As with the previous OHMSS, James Bond ends on a lonely journey: “compared with the blazing significance to him of that single Russian word on a scrap of paper, his life on Kuro, his love for Kissy Suzuki were of as little account as sparrow’s tears.”

10 from 10



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THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
20/09/2009

The Man With The Golden Gun is the shortest of Bond’s adventures and the one with the least derring-do. It has none of the inspired locations of OHMSS and YOLT, none of the blood and guts of DN and LALD, none of the individual vivid characters of FRWL and, sadly, no worthwhile plot. Bond is back in Jamaica, but he is not at his best.

The novel is most interesting at its beginning when a brainwashed James Bond returns to London. He’s under orders from the KGB to kill M, but before he reaches his target, Bond passes through an intriguing series of security checks. The confrontation is swift and Bond’s full of recriminatory dialogue: “You’ve been making war against someone or other all your life and for most of my adult life you’ve used me as a tool.” M remains unmoved. Saved from Bond’s cyanide gun by a sheet of armour plated glass, he resolves to send 007 back into action against the professional assassin Francisco Scaramanga.

The plot tails away from here into a mixture of bribery, corruption and drug running. Scaramanga is in the pay of Castro and has enrolled a KGB enforcer and some American gangsters to help fund his more expansive operations. The hoodlum convention is vaguely familiar from GF, but has none of that novel’s panache. The story is all a bit low key and, like TB, also one of Fleming’s weaker efforts, Bond stumbles across the villain and his plans by chance.

Basically TMWTGG is about Bond versus Scaramanga. The Cuban marksman is built up to be a formidable adversary. M reads a dossier outlining the assassin’s craft and wonders “if he had just signed James Bond’s death warrant.” But when the two duellists come face to face, Scaramanga measures Bond all-the-wrong-way and invites him into his eagle’s nest. He may be a crack shot, but he’s not particularly bright. Scaramanga’s behaviour resembles that of the western gunfighter, twirling his gold Colt .45 and shooting a pair of kling-klings. He’s got “the cat like menace of the big man... the cold immobility of the eyes” and a drooping moustache. At one point he even dons a Stetson. His solution to a problem is to exterminate it.

Bond doesn’t scare easily, but even he “had a quick vision of himself writhing on the floor... without the power to reach for his weapon.” In fact Bond is having difficulty adjusting to life following his electric shock treatment. He sweats a lot and suffers nightmares and flashbacks and daydreams. As he waits for his impending downfall, Bond’s hand twitches like an itching fingered gunslinger, “evidence that... the enemy’s fire was not going unanswered.” He’s like the lone sheriff in “High Noon” counting the hours to the inevitable showdown.

The novel is peppered with similar references to the Wild West. Bond visits a clapboard cat house; the Thunderbird Hotel is unfinished, supported like a frontier town by wood and nails; Bond performs a trick shot; a woman is tied across train tracks; there is a climatic shoot out on said train; a railway bridge is destroyed by dynamite; even the title has a spaghetti western ring to it.

Bond receives help from the cavalry and a prim school ma’am, in the guises of his chum Felix Leiter and his secretary Mary Goodnight, the latter providing a chaste love interest. Curiously this once dark haired beauty is now a blonde. It must be the Caribbean sun. Their relationship is unexciting, the least sensual since Gala Brand. Bond fantasises about Mary as a manager might his sexiest member of staff; meanwhile she blushes, admires, smiles and says al the wrong things.

The redeeming feature of TMWTGG is Bond’s duel with Scaramanga, played out in a mangrove swamp surrounded by snakes and land crabs. The Cuban is wounded, but “the eyes still bored into Bond’s with arrogant superiority... the granite of his face not crumbling even minutely in defeat.” Bond can’t kill in cold blood and the anticipated gunfight ends chaotically; shot and about to be stabbed, Bond fires five bullets into Scaramanga: “the big man stood for a moment and looked up at the deep blue sky. His fingers opened in spasm... his pierced heart stuttered and limped and stopped. He crashed flat... as if someone had thrown him away.”

Scaramanga’s demise has all the hallmarks of a death scene from one of Louis L’Amour’s pulp western novels. However, in an ironic twist, Fleming has the assassin’s own bullet tipped with snake venom and Bond suffers the fate he’d intended for M – although he survives of course.

It’s hard to warm to TMWTGG and there are many reasons for its disappointing performance. Among those often cited are that Fleming was ill while writing it (true), that Kingsley Amis finished it (not true) and that it was never revised (quite probably). It certainly lacks much of Fleming’s recognisable adjectives and similes’. It feels like a tired tale from an equally tired author, short on ideas and situations. Unfortunately it reads like it too. The two shootouts which bookend the novel frame it in gold, but the hollow interior is a panorama as dull as the muzzle of Scaramanga’s Derringer pistol.

3 from 10



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OCTOPUSSY
21/09/2009

Ian Fleming’s posthumous collection of short stories, Octopussy, was published in 1966 and initially contained only two tales, the title story and The Living Daylights. The paperback edition included a previously published adventure, The Property of a Lady, which Fleming had written for Sotheby’s in-house magazine “The Ivory Hammer.” Each story is slight and has interest, but none are riveting and they all share familiar world weariness. All the characters are tired of their lives or professions; one suspects Fleming was also.

OP’s central character is Major Dexter Smythe, an ex-OSS officer, retired to Jamaica, who is living off the proceeds of stolen Nazi gold. The story hardly features James Bond, who arrives at Smythe’s residence “with watchful, serious blue-grey eyes.” Bond is calm, considerate and authoritive, so mush so that “there was no question of shaking hands” and Dexter Smythe shivers despite the heat. The law has finally caught up with him and Bond is there to pre-empt his court martial. Dexter Smythe is accidentally poisoned by a scorpion fish and half eaten by his pet octopus, who he affectionately calls Octopussy. Fleming gives the narrative his rudimentary local colour and the flashback scenes some perfunctory animation, but OP is a very half hearted anecdote.

TPOAL features an auction room scene of some merit where there is a real sense of the cloak and dagger, shadows and fog of spies and spy masters. It’s all trench coats, dark glasses and tiny recognition signals. The story also provides another of Fleming’s imaginary, but believable, insights into the workings of MI6. A double agent has been consciously set up deep in the cipher department. The girl is plain and unattractive. Bond speculates on “the revenge of the ugly duckling of society... hitting back against the world that despised or ignored her.” He knows by setting the trap at Sotheby’s he will in all likelihood be delivering her a death sentence: “She was caught in the grimy machine of espionage... one false step, one incautious lie, an ascertainable falsehood... and the KGB would small a rat.” TPOAL reads better than OP and harks back to the Cold War paranoia of CR and FRWL, when the Soviets seemed to be one step away form taking over the world.

TLD is much the best adventure. Written shortly after Fleming visited Berlin to research the Thrilling Cities compendium, it also has a Cold War slant and involves a double agent escaping across the Berlin frontier. Bond has to kill any potential KGB assassin. Fleming is very reflective here. Bond meditates on a life of “cheap cigar smoke and stale sweat” and his “part of a hundred assignments when he had been fired off like a projectile at some distant target.” His mood mirrors that of Dexter Smythe in OP, who outwardly had remained formidable, but underneath “the varnished surface the termites of sloth, self-indulgence... and general disgust with himself had eroded his once hard core to dust.”

Once more there is something very “Casino Royale” about this, the long days doing very little but drinking coffee and brandy, then watching the battleground by night. Fleming captures the essence of oppressive gloomy Berlin, “a glum, inimical city varnished with a brittle veneer of gimcrack polish.” Bored Bond takes a shine to a beautiful girl, the cello player in an orchestra, whose hair “shone like molten gold” and, like a schoolboy, he begins to fantasise about her as he reads lurid German thrillers. At the story’s end, Bond is likely to lose his double-O status and he seems rather pleased about it.

Recent editions of OP also included a minor chapter entitled 007 In New York, which was originally published in the Herald Tribune. It was subsequently inserted next to Fleming’s (less than gallant) approbation of New York in American copies of Thrilling Cities. It is of interest to Bond fans both for introducing a girl called Solange and for a plot ruse rehashed for the recent Vesper-Yusef relationship. Otherwise it has little merit except for an unhealthy recipe for scrambled eggs.

As a collection of short stories, OP shares the same problems as FYEO, lacking the best of Fleming’s flowery language and persuasive insight. However three chapters have inventive twists at the tale’s end and there are enough descriptive passages all round to invoke memories of Bond at his very best. Overall, though, these three (or four) stories do not amount to very much. They are an affectionate post script to Ian Fleming’s more expansive novels. It would take the author’s good friend Kingsley Amis to revive the ghost of James Bond.

4 from 10



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Just to let you all know I will be reviewing Colonel Sun (hopefully this week) and then calling it a day to concentrate on other things. I hope you are all enjoying the reviews! I have certainly enjoyed the reading and reviewing.
Chris

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Cool Chrisno1. I enjoy your reviews, though there's one thing lacking... your appreciation of the sleaze factor. Books like Golden Gun and Spy may lack the big themes of OHMSS, but have that smutty soft-porn vibe so thrilling to a young lad on the verge of puberty. It sounds awful I know, but it was an element that appealed. I think a book like OHMSS lacks it entirely. But for some of us, Ms Michel's (almost) deflowering in the back of an Odeon fleapit cinema is a vivid anti-adventure that's hard to forget. BTW not surprising that the German Kurt is such a sh1t - in all Fleming's novels (and to date, all the films) Bond has never had a German ally. Fleming's anti-Prussian instincts can be discovered in Thrilling Cities. Personally I think a Boris Becker-type ally in the Brosnan years would have been cool.

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Yes, I noted the anti-German thing too. Fleming also an anti-red hair streak.

I am well aware of the "sleaze factor" Napoleon, but the problem with Vivienne's sexual encounters is that they do read like a bad porn novel. It's Fleming's vision of it, not Michel's. I think I said something like "the voice isn't hers, it's Ian Fleming's life story." I didn't want to elaborate any further.

The sleazy stuff in TMWTGG (and LALD) also read like a very poor sex-and-shopping novel and, to be honest, I didn't think it was worth a mention. I'd much rather concentrate of the eroticism of DN and FRWL thanks very much.
Glad you like the reviews tho'

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chrisno1 wrote:

I am well aware of the "sleaze factor" Napoleon, but the problem with Vivienne's sexual encounters is that they do read like a bad porn novel.

There's such a thing?  ajb007/biggrin

All I'm saying is that it's a factor, and yes I'd throw in the sex stuff in FRWL and DN too. It's somehow noticeably missing from the continuation novels. Or if they attempt it, it never seems quite right, like it's being inserted for the hell of it, and insincere smut is somehow the worst of all imo. There's really nothing racy about the continuation novels at all. They're wholly sanitised if I recall, barring Christopher Wood's novels. Ironically these were sleazier than the books that were meant to have nothing to do with the films.

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Chrisno1, your novel reviews are excellent.  And appreciated.  It has been a few years since I last read the Ian Fleming novels.  Like many, I prefer reading them in their original order.  Unfortunatly, I read a lot at work as a job requirement, and therefore have too much eye strain to read as much on my own time as I would like.  In response to Napoleon, some continuation novels do have a fair bit of sleaze factor.  Have you read "Facts of Death" by Raymond Benson?

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Glad your enjoying the reviews!

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COLONEL SUN
24/09/2009

It’s difficult to know what to make of Colonel Sun. As the first of the “continuation novels” it remains certainly the closest in atmosphere, Cold War intrigue and full blooded violence to Ian Fleming’s original body of work. But, although it has some fine detail and a strong central adversary, something is definitely lacking.

Kingsley Amis (or more accurately Robert Markham; for Amis isn’t writing as Amis, but as a pseudo- Fleming) begins his story excellently. It is one year on from TMWTGG and James Bond is once more stuttering through life as “a creature of habit... ceasing to be an individual.” It’s marked him, and M, out for kidnap by an apparently disparate group of Greeks.

Markham builds the suspense brilliantly at M’s residence, Quarterdeck, and Bond’s escape is a believable riot of roughhouse tactics and thin rumination. He’s even better in Athens where Bond meets the Russian GRU agents Gordienko and Ariadne. Things begin to unravel badly from here.

Markham has clearly studied Fleming’s work and is at pains to mix sublime terror with the mundane. But he overplays his hand and there are a lot of talky passages about communism, Greek mythology and late sixties politics. These sequences slow down the novel tremendously. Markham also forgets that the bad guys require a reasonably intelligible master plan; for all Fleming’s faults, he generally gave us a tangible story.

CS’s mix of kidnap, terrorism and Red China expansion, coupled with war crimes, international conferences, jealousy and the works of De Sade, is baffling to say the least. Worse, I didn’t even believe the plan was workable and as if to prove my point, at the novels conclusion it’s revealed the only damage to the conference delegates was sea spray.

Markham has too many characters in this novel. There are three women, two male compadres, at least three villains and a host of smaller identikit police, spies or civil servants. He builds a character for each, but this becomes tedious. For instance, the incompetent security chief Arenski is “nobody’s man, anybody’s man, safe, silent and slow... unqualified to rise to the occasion.” Markham takes two pages to tell us this, yet Arenski hardly features, being a minor player in the story. Conversely, Von Richter, who is central to the plot, gets very little description and his motives remain unclear. Markham is happiest dealing with the inner political psyche, but he lacks keenness where emotions count.

Ariadne, the heroine, is a case in point. She’s a provocative sexy foil for Bond, who dreams about her as soon as they meet: “Their eyes caught... and Bond was certain she knew his mind... But what they both desired must remain a fantasy.” It doesn’t and their passion is more graphic than any Fleming supplied. Ariadne is a passionate figure, “a truly magnificent body... her movements and expression showing an absolute certainty he would find her beautiful.” Yet we learn little about this Greek goddess other than her sexual prowess and her left wing leanings.

There’s a lot of sex in CS. Two prostitutes recline in bikinis at the call of Colonel Sun’s posse, Bond has frequent sessions with Ariadne and later she is subjected to an unseen rape. There’s very little romance. The physical couplings feel contrived and the relationships awkward.

Niko Litsas, a poor man’s Colombo with his little yacht and his British Army surplus weapons, is an equally uninteresting companion, trying to be buddies with Bond and a guardian to Ariadne. Markham recognises this contradiction by having the Greek remind Bond to treat her well, yet also has him casting “an appraising and rather obviously expert eye” over Ariadne’s naked form. He says he feels like a bad uncle; he reads like a dirty old man.

The one thing Markham has got right is his major villain Colonel Sun Liang-Tan. Sun is a cool professional with irises “pewter grey like the eyes of a newborn.” He’s far from innocent. He’s “unmoved by women,” speaks in an equable tone and retains fear and obedience through the tiniest of movements: a tapping envelope or bared of teeth. He is never less than controlled and prone to long moments of impassivity and deep thought, “his half shut eyes flickering over the scene before him.” His only weakness is his pride. Satisfied Bond is close at hand “a dim slow fire seemed to be kindled” in his eyes and he positively relishes in his sadistic torture methods. The latter scenes are nearly, but not quite, the equal of CR. Sun doesn’t actually do very much, but he’s a very convincing baddie.

It’s disappointing then that his demise is a confusing affair, as is the majority of the action. Markham creates several good scenarios, but each one is a furious staccato of words. Far from telling us what is happening, this only gives the impression of action and subsequently confuses the reader. Lots of question marks, full stops and short sentences permeate Markham’s action scenes. The gritty climax itself is over in a few pages of flashing steel.

This is odd as Markham’s attention to detail is generally very thorough, without ever being particularly extravagant. It’s almost too precise and is so preoccupied with everyone’s conscious and subconscious faculties, like the reading of faces and hands and eyes, that the tale often lacks tension. He’s long winded over locations and has none of the exuberant turn of phrase that makes Fleming’s prose so rewarding.

CS is a gallant effort, not quite a success, but not a failure either. One redeeming adversary and a hefty dose of sex, sadism and stabbings is no substitute for a coherent plot, good characters and distinct dramatic situations. Sorry, Mr Amis, no cigar.

5 from 10



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Last edited by chrisno1 (29th Sep 2009 23:40)

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I had a couple of PMs asking me to summarise my reviews of Ian Fleming's Bond novels
I've given it some thought, but not sure on the format to take,
would a Q & A suffice?
e.g. Best Villain? Best Action? Best Dialogue?
Plus of course a chrisno1 "special IF appreciation review"!

P.S. has anyone got a decent pic of the famous "sunglasses" paperback Pan cover for Colonel Sun? All I can get are small images which blow up really badly!

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Summary of Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels

It’s remarkably difficult now to appreciate how alarmingly different the original 14 Fleming novels were when they first appeared in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Many of the ingredients we now take for granted in modern thrillers (outrageous plots, sex, and vicious violence) just didn’t exist. Following Fleming we had writers like Gavin Lyall, James Mayo et al, who strived to create a similar “feel” to their work.

Fleming remained the master, although as he reached the end of his career the stories took an almost apocryphal tone. The early adventures such as LALD, DN and FRWL show real imagination in the storytelling. The latter ones tend to be more straightforward, but are illuminated by the sense of a time past, of 007 living too far on the edge; so much so he falls in love and subsequently falls apart not just once but twice. The best of Fleming’s later work is very reflective; he is essentially writing about himself in his final few novels; even TMWTGG has elements of regret and recrimination.

There is a tendency for critics to dismiss Fleming on the grounds that his books lack a moral fibre, that his heroines are no more than window dressing and that the violence is over the top. These are fair criticisms, but I think it slightly misses the point about the Bond novels. Escapist entertainment shouldn’t have to bow to the critical masses. The Bond novels are generally very enjoyable. The rough stuff is exciting and the smooth is desirable.

Much is made of Fleming’s descriptive abilities, his similes and adjectives and flowery prose, but this is little more than should be expected of a good author. He does however have a turn of phrase that is constantly surprising and makes you sit up and take notice of what is happening. His failures tend to be the stories where his language lets him down. The solid prose of TMWTGG and OP is a million miles from CR and DN.

So, how best to appreciate Fleming? Firstly, ignore the films. The two are not related; or rather the films owe much to the novels, but it is pointless expecting the books to resemble the films. Although some of them do bear close witness, most do not, and many of the most interesting passages of the books cannot be translated onto the screen as they revolve around characters emotions.

Secondly, do not expect them to be modern. Like all novels of a certain era, the Bond books carry a flavour of the 1940 & 50s, when Britain was losing her Empire and had just struggled through 7 years of war. Fleming’s distrust of the Soviets and the Germans shines through. Equally his rather scant treatment of black people (cheerfully obedient) and a distinctly misogynistic attitude to women (they are either whores or angels or ugly bitches) would be fairly commonplace at the time.
It is pointless trying to take issue with the facets which represent the age; it would be like asking someone to read Dicken’s without accepting convicts and beggars as a part of everyday Victorian life.

Thirdly, read them quickly. They are all relatively short novels, certainly by modern standards. Some can be read in a few hours or a few evenings. By reading at pace, you will get a better sense of urgency and atmosphere. Most of the adventures take place over the course of only two or three days and Fleming has written a piece which can be digested in the same time.

Lastly, do not skip bits! I know it sounds silly, but the duller passages are often have quite an important part to play in the psyche of the characters; think of the chapter in CR about the nature of evil, or in YOLT when Bond discusses the dignity of suicide, or Doctor No’s deranged justification for his power-lust.

The novels always bear re-reading and while some are clearly better than others, they all have a certain class and style which still sets them high on the mantle of thrillers.

Good luck reading!
Here are a few pointers for the uninitiated:

If you only read one novel:     FRWL

For excitement and danger:    DN or LALD

For a great villain:     GF, DN or FRWL

For insight into 007:    CR or YOLT

For a great heroine:   DN or FRWL

For an easy read:    CR or FYEO

For ebullient prose:    CR, GF or OHMSS

For sheer sexiness:    FRWL or DN 

Ones to avoid:   TSWLM & TMWTGG

Approach with caution:  MR & DAF

For a flavour of the films:    TB or OHMSS

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Nobody cares what you think

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mrbond wrote:

Nobody cares what you think

Well !

What a pleasant young man you are.

Either change your tone or change your Bondsite.

YNWA: Justice For The 96

The Joy Of 6

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chrisno1 wrote:

Approach with caution:  MR & DAF

Yeah, I agree on DAF, it's one of my least favorite IF novels. But I couldn't see it more differently with the superbly written MR. The ultimate definition of the "page turner!" ajb007/martini

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I have read all your reviews chrisno1 and I think they are very thorough and thoughtful. I look forward to reading your reviews for the next novels upcoming.

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I didn't get why people said MR was one of the best. Thought it was enjoyable but I liked LALD a lot more

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How come you aren't reviewing the John Gardner novels? I'd be very interested to hear your take on them.

My Top 10 Bonds: Octopussy, Goldeneye, From Russia With Love, Tomorrow Never Dies, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights, Moonraker, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me.

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DavidJones wrote:

How come you aren't reviewing the John Gardner novels? I'd be very interested to hear your take on them.

It takes a lot out of me all that reading!
I am currently reading The Charles Hood novels and am doing preliminary work on a novel (not a FanFiction, my actual first original novel) as well as a new story for 007 Fan Fiction. Also have to job hunt! No fun being unemployed.
I hope to get the Gardner novels underway in the New Year.

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Interesting, well written reviews! I disagree with some things, especially Moonraker, which is actually one of my favorites. Maybe being from the States I appreciate the setting more...the same reason why Diamonds Are Forever is not one of my favorites. But I enjoyed almost everything about Moonraker... the scenes at Blades, the Dover setting, the villain Drax, who, in my opinion is one of the most effective Bond villains because he is a traitor, the fact that Bond is stiffed by Gala which breaks the expected formula of Bond getting the girl at the end, etc.

I also disagree with parts of your reviews on Goldfinger, Thunderball, TMWTGG...maybe I'm a bit too biased toward Fleming but I would have a hard time rating any of his noverls (with the exception of TSWLM) less than a 7 out of 10. I actually enjoy the parts of his novels that may appear mundane to some. His descriptions and ability to turn a phrase I have always found very entertaining or amusing even when the high drama or action is missing.

Your review of Colonel Sun is 100% right on target and incisive, I couldn't have made the points any better myself.

By the way, Dr. No was the first Bond book I ever read as well...also borrowed from the library and at about the same age as you were.

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Thanks for your comments D'Arturo, welcome to AJB and glad you enjoyed the reviews. For more on my take of MR, see the link below

http://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/33749/wha … nd-novels/

You'll have a hard job persuading me its better than I've already stated, I'm afraid. I would like to point out that Drax isn't a traitor, he weedles himself into the UK establishment during WW2 after being blown up by a land mine; he was a German sniper. Drax never loved Britain and his plan was always to do exert some revenge, which was why he got in contact with the GRU / SMERSH.

I perhaps need to explain my rating system. I have rated them purely as 007 novels. There is no relation to other novels. On that basis, if I see certain novels as a 10, they are clearly (IMO) the best examples of the Bond Canon. It stands to reason I can't have every novel scoring as highly. I had to separate how I genuinely feel about a novel compared to how I considered its literary impact within 007 parametres. That's why TMWTGG & TB scored so low. The latter clearly has a different edge to it, especially the dialogue, sections of which are lifted from the original screen treatment. I think I pointed this out quite well in my review. TMWTGG is a very shallow affair, quite lazy and very short; 007's world had moved on (even Fleming had introduced the fantastical to DN, YOLT) but this novel is stuck in a bizarre time warp. Sorry.

Additionally, 6 out of 10 isn't a bad score. It's above average. If the depth of insightful description that so enlivens FRWL was brought into TB or GF, those novels would score dramatically higher. But it just isn't there.

I'd be interested to read your take on the GF, TB & TMWTGG and the others some time.

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Re: Bond Novel Reviews

I've been forced to add a "2" to my username because I can't log in with my old name, despite a couple of emails to AJB HQ. I've gone to that trouble because I wanted to thank you for your excellent reviews of Fleming's novels. They are stylish, perceptive and entertaining - though I disagree with your evaluation of Octopussy, which I think is a top-flight short story. ajb007/smile It would be doing a great service to hardened literary Bond fans, and those who know 007 from the films, if AJB were to compile these reviews and issue them as an adjunct to the literary section.

Kind regards,

Hitch (I can't bring myself to add the pestilential numeral!)

Responsible for  To Whom It May Condemn, a clod-hopping Bond fanfic novella. Mea culpa.

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Re: Bond Novel Reviews

Hitch2 wrote:

It would be doing a great service to hardened literary Bond fans, and those who know 007 from the films, if AJB were to compile these reviews and issue them as an adjunct to the literary section.

Thanks Hitch (1 or 2 - whatever!)
I'm not sure all the reviews are complimentary enough to pass muster for that sort of treatment. Generally when 007 fan sites put compilations of reviews together, they are always, but always positive. A few of mine are fairly scathing, in a nice way!
Glad you enjoyed the series; it's nice to know my efforst are appreciated.

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Re: Bond Novel Reviews

chrisno1 wrote:
Hitch2 wrote:

It would be doing a great service to hardened literary Bond fans, and those who know 007 from the films, if AJB were to compile these reviews and issue them as an adjunct to the literary section.

Thanks Hitch (1 or 2 - whatever!)
I'm not sure all the reviews are complimentary enough to pass muster for that sort of treatment. Generally when 007 fan sites put compilations of reviews together, they are always, but always positive. A few of mine are fairly scathing, in a nice way!
Glad you enjoyed the series; it's nice to know my efforst are appreciated.

That's why your reviews are so refreshing; they are objective and don't assume that everything Fleming wrote is sprinkled with pixie dust. I've no wish to read slavishly complimentary reviews about an uneven series of novels. Fleming himself was a fine reviewer, so I'm sure he would have appreciated your honesty.

Responsible for  To Whom It May Condemn, a clod-hopping Bond fanfic novella. Mea culpa.