Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Book review: Whenever I told people I was reading this book they would immediately, without fail, sing the “Live and let die” part of the Wings song of the movie. Interestingly the book is quite different to the movie. There is no crocodile farm or speedboat chase for example. There is Harlem though, and the scene with the bar table going through the floor, and other scenes that were subsequently used in the films “For Your Eyes Only” and “Licence to Kill”.

Inside of this version of the book is a neat intro written in 2012 by Andrew Taylor (who?). He talks eloquently about this book, how “Fleming had the gift of narrative” and how Fleming applied his classic formula for the first time: "Bond is sent to an exotic location to deal with an amoral and physically unusual villain with limitless wealth and a superhuman lust for power.” In this case it is Mr. Big, “the head of the Black Widow Voodoo cult…. a soviet agent… a known member of SMERSH” who is the villain. Mr. Big is also said to be “the Zombie or living corpse of Baron Samedi himself, the dreaded Prince of Darkness” giving him “the best protection of all… Fear.” That’ll explain the shadow of an oversized hat on the front cover above the “D”, and not because there is an appearance by Jamiroquai within.

The plot hinges around a famous pirate’s treasure trove of huge quantities of gold being smuggled out of the Caribbean and distributed around Harlem with the proceeds suspected of “being used to finance the Soviet espionage system, or an important part of it in America”. Bond of course is the man sent along to make things good, meeting up with old friend Felix Leiter, and of course getting the girl, in this case Solitaire.

Being the second Bond book this is certainly a more ambitious affair than the prior “Casino Royale” with more exotic locations, food and wildlife featuring. It is a thriller that thrills, is probably grittier than the film, with Bond suffering more injuries, not to mention Mr. Leiter, and enjoyable in its own right.

James Bond will return in Moonraker.

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