MI6 Community Novel Bondathon - Reborn!



  • Posts: 4,622
    One of the big differences between the book and film, is that book Vesper was not salvagable as a free woman.
    She was going to jail for life for espionage.
    Movie Vesper, though was quite salvagable. M even showed a soft spot. She was more a one-off victim of Quantum.
    For me , Bond's harsh attitude towards Vesper is very understandable in the book. It's what you'd expect. The bitch is dead line rings true.

    In the movie, I find the line rings hollow. It seems like too much. She wasn't as far gone. M might have taken her under her wing, and helped her get back a life.
    I doubt if the book hadn't existed, if the screenwriters would have even considered such a line, but the book did exist, so they tossed it in as an homage.
    In the book, Bond is truly angry at Vesper. There is nothing salvagable here.
    In the movie, the scenario IMO is quite salvagable.
    Bond is angry, but I think his anger should be more directed at her choosing to suicide, when there was still hope for redemption.
    In the book though, it was game over. She was going down for high treason. No hope for her.

    Fleming's characterization of the tragedy that was Vesper had massive impact. It was devestating on so many levels. Powerful writing.

    By comparison, I found the movie scenario, again by comparison, somewhat meh. Not awful, but not as impactful

    It would be great to get a real faithful, mini-movie, rendition of CR, with the Vesper Bond thing designed for maximum Fleming impact.

  • Posts: 969
    timmer wrote: »
    It would be great to get a real faithful, mini-movie, rendition of CR, with the Vesper Bond thing designed for maximum Fleming impact.

    Unfortunately, I don't think we'll see another motion-picture adaptation anytime soon, but the Daily Express comic strip of Casino Royale was extremely faithful to the novel, with just two major omissions--the "nature of evil" dialogue and the word "bitch" (Bond merely says "She's dead now!"). Given the medium and date, both omissions are understandable, and the strip is still highly recommended. I'd also add that the only faithful visual adaptations in existence of LALD, MR, DAF, YOLT, and TMWTGG all happen to be the Daily Express versions.
    I've heard a modern comic adaptation of CR was under consideration, but don't know anything more about the project, or whether it's still underway.

    Ben Hecht's unfilmed script for Casino Royale also preserved much of the original, though with some intriguing changes--in the end Bond walks into Vesper's hotel room to find her dying but still conscious. As her life ebbs away, she tells Bond she is a traitor, begs his forgiveness, and with her last ounce of strength hands him a letter giving the full details of her treachery. It's a great pity that Charles Feldman, the producer, chose to throw out Hecht's script and make his braindead parody version instead.
  • Fleming has a curious way of not always revealing Bond's inner thoughts on the women in his life, even when the reader might most expect them (see: Tracy being mentioned briefly, once, in You Only Live Twice, if I recall correctly). But he has other ways of suggesting what's actually going on with Bond without stating it outright—one of the reasons YOLT is one of my favorite novels. With respect to the ending of CR, I believe Bond's response over the phone—"The bitch is dead"—is intended as coldly and as brutally as it sounds. Bond has every right to be pissed, royally pissed, at Vesper, and the close third person narration leading up to this moment has Bond's mind berating himself and getting furiously worked up over SMERSH. When Bond says "the bitch," he means "the bitch."

    Great book. A brutal tragic love tale.

    Casino Royale (1953)

    Scrambled eggs count: 1

    Onward to Live and Let Die tomorrow!
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    Time to dive into LIVE AND LET DIE.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger He is SOMEWHERE!
    Posts: 29,742
    Fleming took the inspiration for his second book from "The Traveller s Tree" by his friend Patrick Leigh Fermor. That book was also partly written at Goldeneye, and is about voodoo.
  • Posts: 969
    Fleming took the inspiration for his second book from "The Traveller s Tree" by his friend Patrick Leigh Fermor. That book was also partly written at Goldeneye, and is about voodoo.

    And Fleming of course inserts a monster-size excerpt from The Traveller's Tree into LALD. I don't know of any other novel which quotes a travel book at such length. Extremely unusual. But Fermor, who was a very good friend of Ann Fleming, must have been terrifically pleased.
  • Posts: 2,395
    Ah, I wish I saw this sooner :/
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 4,935
    dragonsky wrote: »
    Ah, I wish I saw this sooner :/

    Start now, we're only on Book 2!
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    Yes, today we begin LALD.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Chapter 7- Rouge et Noir

    Rouge et Noir (translation)- Red And Black

    It’s in this chapter that the overall theme of this novel, gambling, really kicks into high gear. We once again find Bond at the tables gaining some profits to aid him in the coming baccarat game, running through some rounds of roulette with great enthusiasm. While I have never gambled a day in my life and all his talk of facts and figures, odds and tricks are well over my head, I do enjoy hearing Bond’s philosophies on luck. In between these spouts of gambling Fleming again teases the coming betrayal of Vesper as Bond contends that one day “he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck.” I don’t think he ever expected for both pitfalls to sink him one after the other, however.

    Bond’s gambling activities grow into a transitional way to introduce us to Felix Leiter, who joins in on the action at the roulette wheel and takes an interest in the man’s luck. It’s at this time that Bond addresses himself in a way that wouldn’t become famous until another nine years as Fleming plants seeds that will be sowed at another time and place.

    While Bond and the American chat we get to see a glimpse of the more snobbish side of the secret agent as he shows off while ordering a martini and even goes so far as to test and challenge the barman. I quite like the details we get of Felix during this time, including his past service with the marines and NATO. While the man has a very lax demeanor, he seems to have the history to offer some utility to Bond should the need arise. I also find it amusing that Bond chooses not to judge Felix for having tight lips about his colleagues and problems outside the CIA’s jurisdiction, as he too seems like a man who puts his own service first and everything else second.

    The chapter closes with Bond and Felix walking from the casino to their rooms at the hotel just before the night of gambling is to begin. As they make their way across they spot cleaning crews trying to wipe away the memory of the day’s bombing with immense tenacity and dedication. It’s amazing that they could work that fast, but I’m sure that the operators of the businesses and casino are powerful enough to send their best men in to erase the mess and rebuild the blocks of street to make it appear to possible gamblers that there are no dangers awaiting them. Bond knows this cover-up act well from Monte Carlo, and the lengths people will go to in order to ensure that their pockets will keep on getting filled by misguided gamblers.

    In a last bit of dialogue Bond approaches the hotel concierge, unsure of his allegiances, and plants the idea that he is still feeling the brunt of the blast from earlier in the day. The fact that the man knows that Bond was a victim of the explosion is suspicious, and the spy uses the moment to strategically make Le Chiffre feel more confident in his ability to defeat him later on. The mind games of spy craft begin as Bond starts his bluffing before ever reaching the card tables.

    Chapter 8- Pink Lights and Champagne

    This chapter does double-duty of brining Bond and Vesper into another rendezvous, while also building up Bond’s particular traditions and rituals as a man and spy. We get to experience him putting on his “armor” for battle at the tables down to his ritual with his gun, how he wears his holster, what elements of dress he prefers to wear on such nights and of course, what his now-famous face looks like with the comma of hair hanging on the right side and the scar snaking down his cheek on the same side.

    During the dinner Bond and Vesper share we are once again treated to even more of his snobby demeanor while ordering food, during which he notes to himself that he often comes off as very pretentious about it. Fleming is smart to explain this side of Bond and his pickiness with drinks and foods as being just another extension of his detail oriented style of operation, a style that has long kept him amongst the living. The spy life has bled into his personal habits and recreations, such that they are inseparable now.

    I like that Bond actually listens to the advice of the waiters at dinner when they suggest a superior wine to him, showing that he is always open to trying new things, or at the very least that he is able to recognize an authority on drinks even greater than his own. I think this is what makes Bond such a man of the world, where he is able to let the cultures and sacred practices of the places he visits wash over him instead of holding them back with a questioning gaze.

    Chapter 9- The Game is Baccarat

    While this novel bears clear signs that it is the first major work of a fiction author, it is easy to see that Fleming had the makings of a talent in him even at debut. This chapter in particular is a good example of what a skilled writer with a feeling for convention and storytelling can do with just eight pages. In it Fleming moves the plot along by brining to the forefront past events, teases dangers to come, continues to build Bond and Vesper’s dynamic, tells us more in conversation about how Bond views his job and how others view him, and sets us up for the major card game that will take up the next chapters.

    It is fitting that the title of the chapter is called “The Game is Baccarat,” because Fleming is almost playing the role of mentor in it and, through Bond’s talk with Vesper, teaches any readers unfamiliar with the game how it is played and the stakes that stand in the way of the spy and Le Chiffre. Despite not being a gambling man in the least, I am familiar with the game of blackjack that is not far removed from the odds and rules of baccarat, so I could follow Bond’s directions quite easily. That being said, it’s quite smart of Fleming to invite his readers to engage in the story by outlining the rules for them.

    Because the game of baccarat is such a giant part of the novel and really is the major aspect of Bond’s mission in it, Fleming wanted his readers to be invested in the game as it built to crescendo, which could only be possible if the rules were explained beforehand to those ignorant of them. He couldn’t be sure that everyone who picked up his book would know the game and had hit their local card tables to play a few hands of it themselves, so he smartly did the work to make sure that past chapter nine nobody would have any questions about what baccarat was or how it was played. This writing choice shows a very keen sense of audience and underscores the duty to entertain that Fleming felt for his readers. Never wanting to leave them confused or behind on the excitement being presented, he extended a hand and led them to the knowledge necessary to experience the plot to its fullest.

    My favorite sections of the chapter, like all the chapters really, are those that feed us information about Bond through his dialogues or in his subtle reactions to things. As Vesper recounts the sabotaged deaths of the bombers to Bond we see him responding with respect for the villains who were able to trick the stooges. This aspect of his personality, willing to call out a move well made like a chess master would to their partner across the board, recalls to me how Sean Connery’s Bond in particular often congratulated his own enemies on their gained advantages. Being quite the strategist himself, it’s clear that Bond can value and appreciate that sort of acumen in anyone, even his enemies.

    One of my favorite bits of dialogue from any I’ve read of the novels comes shortly after the above, when Vesper breathlessly calls Bond a hero, almost romanticizing him and his actions as a Double-O, a group that seem to be held on a pedestal at her station. I love how nastily Bond reacts to hearing this, and how he downplays the compliment by pointing out the very crude and dehumanizing acts he had to complete to earn his status. It’s here that we get our first prominent hints that he’s a man that kills but does not get any thrill from it, and that he views his enemies less as bad men and more as pawns like himself playing the same old game. You almost imagine that he internally repeats the words, “It’s nothing personal, just business,” before each kill he makes in the field, because that’s exactly what it is. I think it’s this trait of his that takes Bond from being a hard man to one worth supporting. He has a compassion and sense of principle that separates him from those he often faces, and I think it’s this crucial part of him and the humanity he emphasizes in himself through keen self-awareness that makes him so fascinating.

    As the chapter comes to a close we cut to Vesper’s perspective, who describes Bond’s mood as one approaching “abstract passion” as he runs through the rules of baccarat. I like this small little detail because of how it juxtaposes itself against the information we learn about Bond above. He really dislikes the lethal parts of his job, an always-present component, but there are other areas of the work that really get him off and engage a heightened part of himself. It’s clear to see that, behind the part of him that wants to stop Le Chiffre for the good of the deed, there lies another part of himself that really gets a kick out of meeting a challenging player on equal terms and engaging in a fair fight. He craves a certain rivalry, a chance to show what he’s got to those he views as worthy.

    We can tell that this part of Bond exists, because when Vesper seemed indifferent to him during their first meeting something inside Bond clicked and he spent all his energy charming her to gain what he felt he’d not even gotten a chance to lose yet. Freud would maybe refer to this habit of his as a sort of syndrome common in orphans. Having grown into manhood from an early age without the constant reassurance of his worth or potence by authority figures, Bond seeks to prove himself with the flair and death wish of an adrenaline junkie.

    Lastly, I find it very interesting that Fleming takes just a paragraph to drop us from the story and ongoing dialogue over dinner into Vesper’s mind where we share her perspective on what is going on with Bond. In fiction writing it’s seen as a big taboo to jump perspectives as Fleming does here, but those folks are snobs and I can’t be bothered with them. This brief glimpse into Vesper’s thoughts tell us much about how she is reacting to Bond’s challenge that he was a hero Double-O. She and Bond seem to share a challenge-prone personality, because the woman took the reports of Bond’s coldness via her boss as a chance to prove that the spy could be charmed. Somewhere along the line the fun of playing with Bond’s passion turned more serious to her and Vesper was really enjoying being around him. When his hyper-focused workaholic self came out, however, along with all his other principles about his dark job, she saw the man that she was warned about. Bond’s coldness seems to startle her, like she didn’t believe that the man she’d met with Mathis that first time could be the same one who her superiors had built ghost stories around.

    In a way this reaction in Vesper goes a long way towards proving Bond’s initial concerns about her in his hotel room, where he uttered, “bitch” in fury. She was very much treating him like a fun pursuit and the object of a game to be played, completely blocking out the very real dangers open to his life during the mission and the kind of hard man he would have to be to fill the position he does. In short, the woman was telling herself fairy tales and on this count, Bond was right to doubt the presence of a woman in his affairs.

    Chapter 10- The High Table

    The structure of this novel is one of the most interesting things about it for me. The mission is all about the big game between Bond and Le Chiffre, yet it comes and is wrapped up before page 100 of a story that is, at that point, far from over. Fleming definitely makes some unexpected moves as a storyteller, and throws things at Bond-and the reader-even after the section of the book that you’d think would be the climax peaking moment arriving just short of the big resolution. Yet he lingers and makes sure that Bond’s mission doesn’t end with a victory in a single card game, showing how complications can be created from well-intended plans.

    The little detail we get from Vesper’s perspective at the start of the chapter, of a Bond who is calm while flaring his nostrils, immediately made me think of how Sean would do the same thing in his Bond films, especially in Goldfinger. I guess it’s no secret why I’ve consciously been picturing Sean as Bond while reading, and haven’t been able to stop.

    In the brief little meeting between Felix and Bond, we again learn about the kinds of principles our spy has. He’s not the type to lean back and screw around at gambling to blow off some steam as he burns his cash by the pile. He’s got no lucky numbers, doesn’t count on superstition to give him grace, and he takes the process of squaring up opponents and gaining advantage very seriously. Felix knows he’s not there to win, it’s all riding on Bond, so he lays back and indulges himself with some light entertainment. For 007, however, the game is an earnest one and would be even if much wasn’t riding on it and he was back home playing a quiet round at Blades. When Felix says, “He’s a very serious gambler, Miss Lynd,,,And I guess he has to be,” we know exactly what he means by it.

    The rest of the chapter does a brilliant job at showing just what a match Bond and Le Chiffre are for each other, and all the due diligence the former performs to make sure he has the best chances to come out a winner. Bond maps the table and squares up the players one by one, predicting their slip-ups or gains in the coming hours by their demeanors and personal backgrounds, giving him the clarity of who to back if the banker becomes too wealthy and which are just dead weights burning money. The extra detail Fleming throws in, of Bond pushing a paper at the chief of the game to get all the names of the players memorized, further underscores how in this he is until the end. It’s easy to see why Bond was picked for this mission, and Fleming never makes you question his credibility as a player.

    As the big Greek plays the first hands with Le Chiffre, Fleming is there to assist us in following the action, like a play-by-play without all the annoying commentary. He has a brilliant way of explaining things that invites you to get absorbed in the action. Somehow cards being pushed around and flipped on a table becomes just as interesting as a sequence of action, if not more so.

    I like the small detail we get at the end of the chapter, where Fleming explains that the banker who is borrowing the table from the casino can pay their percentage for its use in a pre-paid lump sum or during the match in amounts that are subtracted from their winnings as play develops. We learn that Le Chiffre has chosen to pay the house with parts of his bank during the game, telling us that he didn’t want to risk using any of the twenty-five million francs he had as he arrived in town. It was imperative that he conserved money and didn’t lose more than he already had, and by agreeing to pay out during the game he is giving himself room to constantly win money by playing the odds of the table and destroying opponents, as he does with the Greek in the chapter. This fact also adds a bit of drama to the proceedings as well, because for all the money Le Chiffre gains, both he and Bond know that parts of his bank will constantly have to be sectioned off by the house. Even as Le Chiffre gains, he takes losses, and it’s easy to imagine him sweating it at times with his head on the line.

    Chapter 11- Moment of Truth

    The real magic of this chapter is in how Fleming weaves the gambling stakes and a run through of each hand with the tense and protracted gazes Bond and Le Chiffre share. If ever two men were sizing each other up, it is here. I love the way he opens the chapter, doing one of my favorite things writers do with villains by comparing Le Chiffre to a beast, in this case a “black-fleeced Minotaur.” These kinds of metaphors really help to create a memorable villain while making it easy to picture them in your head. There are few images more unsettling than Le Chiffre shooting his nostrils with his inhaler’s drug as he glues his eyes on Bond and takes in a loud and obscene whiff of air like it’s his last sniff of it. I picture Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre in the novel, with those same dead eyes. Perfect casting for the original 50s production of the piece, I say.

    There are some interesting character details to be had in the chapter that show us that Bond is very much in it on his own, and has a different view of cards than most. After failing to meet a bet and losing out on a big pot, Mrs. Du Pont at his side says, “You don’t think I do this for pleasure.” While I’d say the majority of gamblers play to win money, I think for Bond the feeling of challenge and the taste of ultimate victory are just as important to him. In this way he might be viewed as a little off his rocker by those like the Du Ponts who are only in the game for the profit, and not as much for the feeling of it as Bond is.

    In between all the high stakes bets and losses of the card game, Fleming creates language that just jumps off the page. Sometimes I pause and grin widely at the way he words things, or describes characters. Like how he details the tall and fidgety guard of Le Chiffre through Bond’s eyes: “Bond guessed that he would kill without interest or concern for what he killed and that he would prefer strangling.” We follow the spy along with his belief in the man’s danger before he suddenly drops the random intimation that the man gives off the vibes of a strangler. It’s such an odd detail that leaves me curious as to how Bond perceived it, but one that gives immense flavor, imagination and edge to the text. Just a paragraph later Fleming repeats the exercise by detailing the hairy guard of Le Chiffre with the cane, who Bond thinks would be “an obscene object” if seen naked. The image says it all, and Bond’s colorful language always keeps you engaged.

    As a writer, Fleming plays with structure here, opening the chapter with a gigantic win by Bond that sets a comfortable and promising mood, only to end it with the cliffhanger of his big clean-out at the hands of Le Chiffre. While I think the film adaptation sells Bond’s loss more impactfully-helped by his confidence in his ability and the use of a tell for Le Chiffre that adds some conspiracy to it-ultimately Fleming successfully leaves both you and Bond with a feeling of, “What now?” There’s an unpredictability to the coming sequences that is exciting, and the dubious title of the next chapter, “The Deadly Tube” only keeps you guessing.

    Chapter 12- The Deadly Tube

    Fresh off his big loss, Fleming lets us know Bond’s reactions in great detail as his defeat sinks in. We learn of his embarrassment and fury, of the shame he wants to escape in the false sympathy expressed by Vesper, Mathis, Felix and later, M. The implied effect his failure will have on his reputation, knowing how big the mission was and how he’d had it riding on his shoulders alone. I love that through all his losses Vesper is at the sidelines smiling encouragingly at him, but neither we nor Bond ever seem sure if she’s doing this as a supportive partner or because she’s too ignorant about the game to tell when Bond isn’t doing well. Considering how much she blanked out during dinner as Bond explained the game to her, I’m leaning on the latter quite heavily.

    Bond’s surprise rescue via the CIA money is rousing, but the moment that makes the chapter memorable is the agent’s second brush with death, this time through the barrel of a gun. The image of Bond sat in a chair with a disguised weapon pressing into his spine is chilling, and you feel the heat of the moment. It reminds me very much of the scene in Thunderball where Bond has to escape Fiona and her men by spilling into a crowded dance club. The loud and harsh noises of the music and dancers mask Bond’s plight, where a bullet could hit him and the sound would register as just a random bit of percussion. You feel that same sense of fear in this moment of the novel, where you know that the sound of the bullet entering Bond’s spine will be quieted by the furor surrounding the big bet he has promised to take on. In this way, Bond was damned no matter what he did. If he dropped out Le Chiffre would have a path to victory, and if he chose to pursue the man the crowd’s exaltations in response to him would deliver the gunman behind him the perfect cover for an assassination.

    This deadly scenario feels like something that could actually happen in the Cold War era between spies, and this grounds Bond’s tough spot in a lot of reality. The way Fleming juxtaposes the Corsican gunman’s countdown with Bond’s hyper-active observations as the seconds tick by gives the scene a feeling of despair that is purposefully prolonged to sap all its tension out.

    When Bond finds a way to bounce out of the crosshairs we exhale with the same relief that he does, too aware at what was at stake. We get a bit of dark comedy at the end of the chapter as Bond feigns exhaustion as the cause of his spill, enticing the other gamblers at the table to admit that they’re feeling the elements of the game too. Nobody but Bond, the gunmen and Le Chiffre know how close the former came to his end, and the game plays on.

    Chapter 13- ‘A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate’

    In this chapter Fleming effectively pays off all the expectations that he set up in the first two chapters of the book, taking Bond and Le Chiffre’s game to its ultimate conclusion. I get a kick out of how he delivers Bond another pair of sucker cards just after he’d been saved via Felix’s cash, always keeping his character on the ropes and feeling the heat. It’s a great moment when the 9 of hearts is revealed and we-along with Bond-know what it spells while Le Chiffre is faced with the choice of pushing for more cards or staying and hedging his bets. In this moment Fleming plays with a nice bit of symbolism, referring to the card of nine Bond holds as a “whisper of love, a whisper of hate.” Depending on the cards a gambler has a nine could be the sweetest luck imaginable (as in Bond’s case with his two dead cards), but if the pair of cards you had amounted to the value of one to five, you would be placed in a very poor position. I think this case is what Bond means when he says that he plays by odds instead of putting a strange faith in the cards. No trust in the luck of a special number will make the decision any easier when you must choose to stay or proceed from a mysterious card that could equally spell your doom or your favor.

    It’s a unique thrill to watch Bond destroy Le Chiffre as his bank crumbles by the heap and the game races to a close. I love how Bond mentions that, if the game he was playing happened to be a friendly one, he’d have shown his two queens and ended the game quickly for his opponent. Here, however, he’s playing with a man who wanted to kill him without a second thought and you can bet your ass that the spy is going to make the man feel the defeat. He’ll embarrass him, feeding off of the tension in the room to shatter him from the inside out as his true card value is revealed to be the value that is Le Chiffre’s worst nightmare. One thing the film really adapted perfectly was this game of cat and mouse that Bond and Le Chiffre play from across the table. You can hear a pin drop as they stare into each other’s souls, looking for any hint of weakness. It’s a testament to Bond’s bluffing ability that he is able to seem as stone cold with a pair of dead cards as he is a natural nine.

    As the chapter comes to a close we find our hero in great spirits, reflecting “cheerfully” on how he had managed to survive certain death while on his mission. It’s once again clear that Bond is very challenge-minded and he gets a great pleasure from overcoming the schemes and evil designs of men who wish to silence him. Considering his line of work, it’s no wonder he toasts his survival so effusively.

    When his thoughts carry to Vesper we get a sense of the sexual beast that Bond is as craves her intensely. He has beaten one challenge via Le Chiffre and counts on making good on the other presented to him by Vesper’s earlier indifference to him. I think this aspect of the character was best realized by Sean Connery’s Bond, who perfectly replicated the hunger for women that Fleming’s original has as a base conviction of his spirit.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    Nice work @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 , you make me want to go back and reread some of the passages. However, I am three chapters into LIVE AND LET DIE right now, so I doubt that I will.

    By the way, early on in this second adventure Bond mentions that he had not been in America since the war. The last time that I read these novels (2015) I assumed that this was a continuity error on Fleming's part, as in CASINO ROYALE he mentions one of his previous assignments involved assassinating a Japanese agent in New York City. I had always assumed that his earlier missions, the ones that required him to kill, thereby earning his 00, were for the British Secret Service post-war. But upon review I have now concluded that there is no reason to rule out that he fulfilled those missions during the war (particularly as the target noted above was Japanese).
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @Birdleson, cheers. Between this and the movie Bondathon you've been responsible for me typing up literally hundreds of pages of analysis on the books and films in just the past year alone. Thanks (?). ;)

    As for the question of Bond's 00 licence and his visits to America, I've assumed that he got his two kills during the war as a man working his way up to new work as the conflict wound itself down. If he got his licence around 44 or 45, it'd put him as being a 00 for eight or nine years. What does Pearson's biography have to say about when Bond fully became a 00?
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    I haven't read that biography since a good 20 years before your birth (I read the whole thing in the public library over two days; hardcover), but I did acquire a used copy recently. I will look that up some time in the near future, but, regardless of what information it mat contain, it's not Fleming, hence I don't count it as canon.

    I'm glad that I was at least somewhat instrumental in getting you to stretch your critiquing muscles on here.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I haven't read that biography since a good 20 years before your birth (I read the whole thing in the public library over two days; hardcover), but I did acquire a used copy recently. I will look that up some time in the near future, but, regardless of what information it mat contain, it's not Fleming, hence I don't count it as canon.

    I'm glad that I was at least somewhat instrumental in getting you to stretch your critiquing muscles on here.

    I get that stance on the Pearson book. I'll probably get a copy at some point, but like you my interest in the Bond books is strictly focused on Fleming. Everything else can wait, and I don't care if I ever read the continuation stuff. Everything else fails in comparison to the God's word.

    Many thanks for pushing me to write more, by the way. Some of my proudest work has been the Bond reviews I've done, and I've gotten a real kick out of doing such in-depth pieces on them. It led me to finally kicking off a Bond blog, and getting some of it published on top of that, so it's been a great ride so far. Between doing the films and now the books, the next year will continue to be an all-time high for me when it comes to my obsession with this character and I'll easily surpass writing at least a thousand pages of writing on the spy in some form or another before the year is out. I'm shocked I've not been burnt out yet, really, as my marathons of things don't ever last this long until I have to cleanse my palette with something else. I guess it shows how much of a hold Bond can have on me.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger He is SOMEWHERE!
    Posts: 29,742
    First Norwegian edition from the 50s.

    Second Norwegian edition from the 60s
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited June 2017 Posts: 24,335
    The one continuation novel I consider to be worth including when I run through the whole series is Kingsley Amis' COLONEL SUN. Not only is it a very good and well-written Bond story, Amis had already written on Bond, with Fleming's approval, they were friends (there are some indications that he heavily edited THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, though that has been heavily disputed), and it was CS was written and released in the '60s, continuing Fleming's annual output. I suggest we include it at the end. Optional maybe.
  • Posts: 969
    First Norwegian edition from the 50s.

    Neat! A Bond cover I haven't seen before! And a good one too, taken directly from the book.
    Birdleson wrote: »
    Amis had already written in Bond, with Fleming's approval, they were friends (there are some indications that he heavily edited THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, though that has been heavily disputed.

    I agree that Colonel Sun should be made an honorary member of the Bondathon.
    Amis's role in TMWTGG was that of a copyeditor--he assembled a list of errors and gave some stylistic advice--but there's nothing to suggest he did any rewriting, especially since pages of Fleming's manuscript have turned up that are identical to the published book and contain corrections made in Fleming's handwriting.
    Amis and Fleming certainly became friendly, though it might be stretch to call them friends. We know that Amis had dinner with the Flemings at least once (Ann reported to Evelyn Waugh, "Kingsley Amis came to dinner...I suspected he wrote of Ian to further his own sales, but it seemed a genuine admiration, he thinks Ian should write a straight novel." ) Additionally, Amis and Ian did met at least once to review the The James Bond Dossier. Fleming was pleased and contributed minor several corrections, along with a positive verdict: "Intelligent, perceptive, and of course to me highly entertaining. The whole jape is quite spiffing and heaven knows what a smart reviewer will do about the book."
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    Posts: 2,937
    Can I join you guys?
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    Of course.
  • Birdleson wrote: »
    The one continuation novel I consider to be worth including when I run through the whole series is Kingsley Amis' COLONEL SUN. Not only is it a very good and well-written Bond story, Amis had already written on Bond, with Fleming's approval, they were friends (there are some indications that he heavily edited THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, though that has been heavily disputed), and it was CS was written and released in the '60s, continuing Fleming's annual output. I suggest we include it at the end. Optional maybe.

    I'm all for continuing with Colonel Sun. I actually had the same thought myself when we started. No reason why not to if there's interest. For that matter, I wouldn't mind going on to the first—probably—eight of Gardner's. That's where I'd check out, I think. I might be the only one left here at that point, but Draggers could probably be enticed I'm sure.
    Can I join you guys?

    Please do!
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    I read the first four Gardners upon release, then dropped them. I can't even recall much about them.
  • Live and Let Die (1954)

    One of my favorites. Fleming comfortably in his element. Sadism, escapism, and a first foray for Bond into the world of high adventure (on the back of a plot involving pirate's gold no less!).

    1. The Red Carpet

    Bond in America. Beautiful opening few paragraphs, demonstrating right off Fleming's talent for making the mundane—entry through an airport—sound exciting, even exotic. Truly Fleming's prose elevates these novels.

    The opening paragraph is a capsule summary on the fun side of Bond's work. Following on from CR, things are going to get more adventurous, more escapist, and Fleming sets that up from paragraph one.

    Love Bond's reply to the Communist money he's offered: "I'll try to spend it where it does most harm. I'm glad to have some working capital. It's certainly good to know it's been provided by the opposition."

    As with CR, against all expectations, the villain of the story is introduced here in the first chapter, just a few pages in, with Mr. Big locking eyes with Bond through the rear window of his Cadillac, which is driven by—erm—"a fine-looking Negress in a black chauffeur's uniform" (easiest I guess just to accept the copious "Negro/Negress" references as part of antiquated 50s culture, though I believe the term was being frowned upon even at the time). Anyway, point is: Mr. Big shows up fast. It's a cut and dry story here. Hero, villain. Have at.

    Wonderfully humorous exchange between Bond and Felix, the camaraderie firing right up.

    Felix: "Arranging the flowers by your bed. Part of the famous CIA 'Service With A Smile.'"
    Bond: "And what the hell are you doing in my bedroom anyway?"

    It is, as Captain Dexter silently observes, "unprofessional ebullience." How very well put.

    Interestingly, Bond seems to imply that he has the right to accept or refuses cases from M.

    Martinis with Felix. Does it get any better? Damn, it's great just to see the two of them working together. Can't help but read Hedison into the part here, though Book Felix tends to be his own thing in my head.

    Bond is not a fan of melted butterscotch. Really, Bond? You're just no fun, are you? Anyway, that sounds like a beautiful meal—especially the melted butterscotch.

    2. Interview with M

    As with the opening of CR, we flashback from the start of the mission to the briefing. Here we go from ice cream with melted butterscotch, Chesterfields, and cracking jokes with Felix amidst a setting of luxury to "the dreary half-light of a London fog." An abrupt shift, but Fleming begins where he knows he'll grab his reader.

    Reference back to the previous mission: the cutting of "Spion" into Bond's hand. Bond is still raw, his hands clenched on the wheel at the thought of it. Revenge is on his mind, and in his discussion with M, the old man appears to note this is the case with his agent. Curious that he doesn't see that as something that might cloud Bond's judgment, but rather as a positive—Bond's incentive to get back at them. "This will particularly interest you, Bond..."

    Moneypenny ever so briefly on display. Described as "desirable" from Bond's loose POV.

    3. A Visiting Card

    The villain backstory chapter.

    Buonaparte Ignace Gallia. Always have loved that name.

    Only known vice: women (like Le Chiffre).

    His heart disease imparts the grayish tinge to his skin (defined by his sickliness, his imperfections, a common Fleming trait for villains).

    Bond is raring for revenge against SMERSH, whom he dubs "the whisper of death." Mr. Big is "ready for the crushing," for "a giant, a Homeric slaying." Curious how eager Bond is to deal out death here. He really is described as quite revenge-driven here. When Bond looks out the window at the beautiful day and smiles, Fleming states that "no man, not even Mr. Big, would have liked the expression on his face." Kind of chilling actually.

    "...three eggs, lightly scrambled...got it?"

    Bond receives a close-trimmed military haircut, still long enough, however, to allow the "thick comma of black hair above his right eyebrow" to hang down some. The idea here being to make him appear more 'Merican. Good ol' Leiter advises you can get by in conversation with "Yeah," "Nope," and "Sure."

    The lengthy excerpt from Fermor's voodoo writing serves twofold: 1) to lend authenticity to the voodoo aspect of the story, making the threat of Mr. Big more real, more visceral, darker, and more bizarre; and 2) to set up the ticking bomb in the parcel, transporting that threat from distant Haiti and harmless hardcover to the immediacy of Bond's hotel room. Mr. Big's threat—"THE BEATS OF YOUR OWN HEART ARE NUMBERED. I KNOW THAT NUMBER..."—plays directly into the voodoo angle.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Just posting some more chapter-by-chapter thoughts on Casino, nearing the end. I'll finished up the remaining chapters in the next day, then move on to Live & Let Die.

    Chapter 14- ‘La Vie en Rose?’

    La Vie en Rose (translation)- Life in Pink/Life Through Rose-Tinted Glasses

    After finishing off the big game between Bond and Le Chiffre, Fleming presents us with a chapter that shows us that all has not been what it seemed. The French title of this one, translating roughly to “Life Through Rose-Tinted Glasses,” is apt considering that Bond realizes during it the cost of being complacent and not suspecting some foul play to be afoot. His blindness for Vesper will soon get its payoff, and teach him a valuable lesson about the kind of work he does.

    I really enjoy the juxtaposition of details as Bond and Vesper share a meal here. The music and atmosphere of the scene are befitting to romance and passionate lovers, and Bond even comments that he wouldn’t be surprised if the band’s song didn’t make men and women touch each other from underneath the table. All of this very warm and romantic imagery is contrasted with Bond and Vesper’s own dinner, which is played very quietly, bogged down with a sense of discomfort and awkwardness.

    The observant man he is, Bond spots a lot of nervous ticks in Vesper, like her hands going white from the pressure she’s putting them in and her half-there consciousness to how she keeps kicking the ash out of a cigarette she wasn’t actively smoking. Bond tries to have a bit of banter with her and warm her up to the evening, but it’s all doomed to silence. It’s a snapshot of what would be a really bad first date, and after a night of victory it clearly saps Bond of his mojo. He was riding on cloud nine and now he’s headed for a nosedive of disappointment.

    The red alert Bond gets about Vesper’s departure and the note from Mathis kicks off the rest of the book with a load of paranoia. Like a child searching for his mother, Bond darts around the casino looking for the girl, only to find her implicated as the victim of an apparent kidnapping. When he finds the forged letter, he knows the game is far from over. Which is frankly something he shouldn’t figured all along.

    Chapter 15- Black Hare and Grey Hound

    This chapter is one that really unearths a lot of things about Bond that make him an anti-hero figure, and, at times, a real bastard. This isn’t the devil may care hero of the films who goes after the girl until she’s safe and sound. Bond is pissed, royally so, and is perfectly willing to let the “”silly bitch” that he thinks Vesper is deal with the consequences of her actions. Denoting the time he was in and that period’s view of machismo, Bond espouses the cliché of “men doing men’s work,” laying the fault of Vesper’s inability to get through it on her gender.

    It’s a passage laying Bond out most bare, where his anger at so much of his work being put to pasture or at least at risk unearths a lot of his inner thoughts, whether they are his genuine ones or those that anger is egging on and manipulating. The coldness Vesper was warned about is on full display as Bond tells himself that he’ll lie to everyone, from M to Mathis, to cover this error of hers up. If Le Chiffre contacts him with a threat on the girl’s life he’ll push it out of his mind and accept what has happened, and if the girl gets killed in the process, well, he’ll sleep just fine. It’s during these moments of the book that Fleming excels are realizing his goal with Bond, by not making him a very likable man and revealing his ugly parts. He’s a product of his job and time, and the writer never hides that fact, giving the character some of his own maxims in the process.

    It’s interesting that Fleming swaps mid-chapter from Bond to Le Chiffre, giving us the perspective of the villains as they tear down the coastal roadways outside the casino and hotel. The little detail about Le Chiffre being an expert driver is called back to here as he takes the wheel in the chase. I like this, as major villains in the films usually do very little and let their pawns deal with their problems. One thing that makes Le Chiffre a greater departure from these kinds of threats is that the novel depicts him as a man well on his own. He’s got no organization to turn to, because he’s betrayed their trust, so he has to complete much of the heavy lifting himself, alongside a few hired thugs. This makes he and Bond feel more common than different as a hero and villain mash-up, because each act by themselves for themselves at the card tables and off. Over the course of the book there is a feeling of, “It’s just you and me,” when Bond and Le Chiffre collide, as both men know who each other are and why they are on the sides they are.

    Chapter 16- The Crawling of the Skin

    Fleming once again picks a very suitable chapter title here, textually symbolizing the feeling one has when they sense fear and dread that they can’t stop, a sensation that sub-dermally eggs itself on as we feel an itch we can’t scratch. We find Bond completely spent and resigned to fate here, helpless and out of miracles to save him. Following his crash he shows no sign of a fight left in him and marches forward, doing as he’s told. As Le Chiffre orders him onward Bond observes that, “His face showed neither pleasure nor excitement.” Though he’s clearly capable of dastardly things, Le Chiffre didn’t want to have to do what he is, but his survival is on the line and so he must strike back at Bond to save himself. He’s on the clock, and time is winding down.

    When he sees Vesper in the back of the Citroën, Bond’s earlier anger at her experiences a mutation. He thinks of her and sees red, but when confronted with her tied up and stripped bare in the back seat, he reconnects to her as a victim and softens on his more hard-edged comments at the beginning of the last chapter. It’s clear that he cares, even through his rage, and finds the whole situation very disagreeable for them both. That he yet doesn’t know the truth about her is another problem for later, but one that will again put him on a rollercoaster ride of feeling over her until he doesn’t know up from down.

    In the paragraphs that follow Bond realizes what put him in his dire position: hubris and those rose-tinted glasses. The feeling of a job well done, a victory achieved, had made him complacent, presenting the perfect opportunity for Le Chiffre to act. He even thinks to blame it all on London, but common sense prevails as he puts all the blame on his shoulders in a very level-headed way. What results here is really Bond at his most daft. The man built up as a very detail-oriented character in the first chapter dilutes himself into one who misses red flags or at the very least doesn’t put in the finely-tuned work to make sure the mission concludes itself favorably. I guess we are to assume that the key distraction for Bond has been Vesper. When he should’ve been worrying about where Le Chiffre was and if he was planning a counter-strike against him, he was dreaming of making Vesper yell his name in a carnal fashion, and all the glories her body could make him achieve like a general going on a battle march.

    The novel sets up a mission that could teach Bond to not take things at face-value, to never trust anything as certain (Vesper) and to always focus on the mission with a clear-head without distraction. I guess one of my hang-ups with it is that you’d think Bond would’ve already learned this stuff already on the job. Further, I never feel that the distraction posed by Vesper here really is one. I don’t find her to be a terribly exciting or mind-blowing character, nor do I see what Bond sees in her. It seems that a lot of his attraction for her is motivated by her looks, which speaks to a very base level of sexual obsession to him, and the need he feels to show her that he is not a man to be treated with indifference. One area where the film adaptation utterly blows the book out of the water is in this depiction of Vesper and why Bond is attracted to her. In live-action, there is no mystery as to why he feels so compelled.

    The long trip to the abandoned place Le Chiffre has set up for his interrogation of Bond and Vesper sells their coming despair. It’s vacant and exiled from population, leaving them truly on their own. Bond has already run through the details of how fast the French investigators will work when they find his toppled over car, and how long it will take Mathis and Felix to figure that anything is amiss. In short, not soon enough. As the pair are helplessly marched inside the home, Bond’s last desperate attempt to leverage anything in his favor via combat is met with a continued beating from his enemies. Like a private dick from a bit of noir fiction, Bond nihilistically resigns himself to what will come to him, entirely out of options.

    Chapter 17- ‘My Dear Boy’

    Man, what a chapter. If ever one had to catalogue the best passages written by Fleming, this would have to be in there somewhere. His creation of human dread on the page, of absolute torture and a sense of hopelessness, agony and defiance through Bond’s character is really quite masterful.

    Throughout the torture scene Fleming peppers in a lot of meta referencing to fiction, partaking in an amusing commentary on genre and heroic tales. Condescendingly, Le Chiffre comments about how Bond’s story isn’t that of a man who defeats the villain, lives on and gets the girl-even though that’s exactly what it is. He further mentions that those kinds of miracles just don’t happen in real life, giving value and significance to writing like Fleming’s own that pushed forth an escapist sort of excitement and glamor to escape to from our realities. It’s an entertaining part of the book to read through for me, where the character spouting these philosophies is the punch line of their own joke, unaware that in our world they are the villain of the kind of hero myths they disparage.

    I was really taken aback by Bond’s thoughts on torture as it’s happening to him throughout. The “parabola of agony” signified by its touch, and how he was thinking about what people who survived torture during World War II told him to give him some sense of comfort if he ended up in similar circumstances. The sort of “warmth and languor” that torture can provide if applied brutally over time would be a sign of grace for a torture victim, but Bond resists the temptation to fall into that space in the faint hopes that his life may not be over. To survive, he must actually take himself to the brink of ruin; if he shows pleasure, he welcomes death.

    Le Chiffre’s dissection of torture is one of my favorite villain dialogues of all time, and not just because it’s terrifyingly true. As in most cases, the simplest action can pain the most and a torturer doesn’t need to devise a complex system of tools to ravish a man through a journey of obscene and surreal pain. All you have to do is threaten to take the thing that comes most natural to him, and that signifies his manhood and sense of sexual pleasure. No more, no less.

    As the chapter gradually goes on we see Bond slip in and out of it, in a haze of half-consciousness. At times the clarity of thought slips in, my favorite moment being the one where he commits to his endurance through Le Chiffre’s trials full-stop. “Well, if he had to die anyway,” he thinks, “he might as well try it the hard way.” I respect the choice and hope that, in a similar situation, I’d be motivated to do the same. If one must go out at the hands of a bastard, one should be an equal bastard about it till the end.

    Through Bond’s commitment to this end, we see Le Chiffre rise to meet him quite crudely. While he often feels to me like a man who gets no pleasure in the acts he commits, here he has a complete turn and shows some of his true colors. He’s not happy to be spending his time doing this to Bond, as he just wants his money, but a part of him is like a scientist testing the long-term effects of painful stimuli on a lab rat. There’s an inherent curiosity he has that mixes with a bit of sadism, creating a very disconcerting villain for Bond to face. A man who can look at the pain he unleashes and justify it through his fascination with how long his “patient” will allow him to implement it before he breaks in two both psychologically and physically.

    The chapter ends very much how it began, with us wondering how Bond will get out of it. Like the fate of many villains before him in the fiction he mocks, Le Chiffre is about to be the victim of what could be described-on Bond’s part-as a miracle.

    Chapter 18- A Crag-like Face

    In the short span of a few pages, we find Bond receiving a miracle in the form of a merciless SMERSH spy, and see Le Chiffre finally pay for his recklessness. I always love it when villains who are portrayed to enjoy their power finally get what is coming to them, and in this little scene we see Le Chiffre leak the fear he wanted to cause in Bond and Vesper as he reverts from a punisher to a victim. Unlike Bond, he didn’t have the makings of a man and immediately shriveled the moment retribution came his way. And instead of accepting his fate like the spy, he was prepared to beg and plead if not stopped by the SMERSH operative’s bullet.

    One thing I really like about literary Bond is that, in this scene, he gets marked or “branded” by SMERSH before he really knows what that means. This mission in particular-and what happens to him in it-later becomes a set of memories that he finds difficult to discuss (especially Vesper), and so I think it’s only fitting that he gets a physical mark to accompany his mental one to haunt him for the coming days of his life. Whenever he looks at the scar he’ll remember the pain of the mission and what he experienced, but he’ll also remember what happens when he slips up and gets distracted on the job. In short, he may view it as a bittersweet token of the past, both an omen and a lesson in tandem.

    As the chapter closes I love how Fleming juxtaposes the horror and imagery of Bond’s torture with that of the summer day and its sounds. Tragedy with beauty, much like Vesper herself.

    Chapter 19- The White Tent

    This chapter largely serves expositional duties, but in between there are nuggets of goodness. We open up with Bond discussing dreams with a sentence that feels ripped out of Freud’s own dream diary: “You are about to awake when you dream that you are dreaming.” It’s in the first few paragraphs where we really see how traumatically affected Bond has been by his torture. Slipping in and out of it, he throws himself back into dreams, if only because his reality and the real pain he feels frightens him. In this hospital bed his arms are tied to restrict his movement, but Bond is unaware of where he is and thinks he’s still strapped to that cane chair and will soon receive more torture. It’s really the picture of a broken man, and it’s hard to read at times.

    When Bond finally breaks through his spell of traumatic shock, Fleming calls back to two adjectives he used two chapters ago as his spy feels the warm and languorous sensations in his bed that he was once told he’d feel if his torture were prolonged long enough. The implied juxtaposition of the torture and his feeling of ease in recovery is interesting.

    When Mathis comes in to speak with Bond we also find out that M made a special-and unprecedented-call to the Frenchman to check up on his agent. It’s clear that M feels a sort of guilt about what happened, as he sent Bond off without a satisfactory picture of just what Le Chiffre had gotten himself into and what resources he had open to him. An easy job on the face of it mutated into a waking and prolonged horror, surprising all of the London team I’m sure.

    As Bond is left alone again to recuperate his mind drifts off to Vesper, but it’s hard to place his feelings about her at this point. Has his anger faded? Is he willing to forgive and forget simply because he’s alive and everyone who counted is in one piece? Is the lust and attraction still there?
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 969
    Live and Let Die (1954)
    easiest I guess just to accept the copious "Negro/Negress" references as part of antiquated 50s culture, though I believe the term was being frowned upon even at the time

    I don't think the term was widely frowned upon until the mid-60s, though I could be wrong. The point is worth making in light of some of the less justifiable choices Fleming later makes in his depiction of African Americans, which we will undoubtedly be discussing later on....
    Denoting the time he was in and that period’s view of machismo, Bond espouses the cliché of “men doing men’s work,” laying the fault of Vesper’s inability to get through it on her gender.

    Yes, and I would also point out that Fleming is ultimately having fun at Bond's expense, since Vesper is not guilty of incompetence at all, and is really playing Bond for a fool. So his angry machismo is finally just a form of impotence, a prelude to the impotence Bond feels at the very end of the novel.
    I don’t find [Vesper] to be a terribly exciting or mind-blowing character, nor do I see what Bond sees in her. It seems that a lot of his attraction for her is motivated by her looks, which speaks to a very base level of sexual obsession to him, and the need he feels to show her that he is not a man to be treated with indifference. One area where the film adaptation utterly blows the book out of the water is in this depiction of Vesper and why Bond is attracted to her. In live-action, there is no mystery as to why he feels so compelled.

    I agree. Movie Vesper is a much richer and more human character than the original. Even Fleming's defenders weren't been able to warm to her--Amis called her "rather insipid," and several positive reviewers in 1953 felt the same. Vesper doesn't begin to come alive until near the end, when she grows desperate and depressed. Her lack of character is the novel's most glaring flaw.
    He’s not happy to be spending his time doing this to Bond, as he just wants his money, but a part of him is like a scientist testing the long-term effects of painful stimuli on a lab rat.

    Yes, and this is why people are wrong to detect a supposed homosexual subtext. Le Chiffre's sadism isn't sexually motivated, it's just pure sadism. He sets the template for Bond villains in being (a) genuinely interested in inflicting pain and (b) a warped sort of father/authority figure. The latter is what makes his words toward Bond truly creepy. He even views M as Bond's nanny!
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    @Revelator, nice comments. I agree about Bond being played the fool by Vesper. Part of the amusement at reading that section is just as you say: the whole novel Fleming has Bond write Vesper off as a pest or problem, when she's really playing all of them quite effectively throughout. She kept all her trauma inside until it eventually ate her out, but even around the time of the baccarat game and after when Bond is victorious the spy simply thinks she's disinterested in him sexually and that's what bugs him, suspecting nothing of her being a traitor. It literally takes a kidnapping for Bond to think, "Oh drat, I've been duped," and even then he thinks Vesper was just too stupid to recognize a forgery, not that she was implicated with SMERSH.

    I think the movie presents Bond with more signs as to why he should be wary of Vesper, as the book character isn't as developed as how Eva plays her, but I still feel that novel Bond should've seen something coming at some point. He just walks off thinking Le Chiffre will flee out of there and while heading to dinner with Vesper he just tells Felix to get some sleep, not wanting to prepare for any counter-attack that could be coming. In some ways he pays the appropriate price for being a dolt about the whole thing and ending up tortured. I think the suspicion about Vesper should've come to him sooner too, as the man had gotten strange vibes from the girl the moment he met her. And she often dresses in black, and that's never a good thing, symbolism wise. The dangerous dames always wear black!

    I wasn't aware that Vesper got a lot of bad reviews at the time, but I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking she's a poorly written character. It's strange that my favorite Bond girl movie-wise is one that loses me entirely in the books, and the first time I read the novel I felt the same lack of care for her or sign of interest that I do now. I guess that's because we never really get those vital moments with her and Bond where they actually get to know one another and share some moments of despair that bind them together. All the drama between them is back-loaded in the book, whereas the film constantly keeps developing them with great banter and the frequent moments where the pair save each other and survive death itself. The tragedy of Vesper is also more played up, because you can see in Eva's acting from some of her first scenes that she is torn up about something. In a book that stuff is a lot harder to relate, especially without an actress of the calibre of Eva Green to get the material right.

    It's just that all Bond and Vesper's relationship really waters down to being (for me) is a man wanting to absolutely sex the brains out of a woman, and the woman making a game out of playing with the man and enjoying puncturing his ego by acting like she's not into him. There's no genuine love or connection for them at any point up to Bond's torture, just raw and indiscriminate lust, and whether there's anything after that is debatable. The book Vesper just doesn't seem worthy of being Bond's first major heartbreak, because she doesn't feel that important or head-over-heels amazing. To me she's actually really unlikable, from how she wanted to get a rise out of Bond for kicks to prove her boss wrong about him being cold, or how she just ignored what he was saying when talking over the mission before the card game started. Then she gets all upset at Bond when he tells her the real truth of the job he does and rebukes her for saying he's a hero when all he does is kill people for a living. I'm on Bond's side 100% in the book, beyond using a few too many "bitches" to describe her. Vesper certainly complicated things for him and was a big problem, just not in any way that he'd imagined.

    As for Le Chiffre, I've never heard someone make a homosexual connection to that scene at all, so I agree that I don't see it. I think it's pretty obvious if one pays attention to the text and character that Le Chiffre doesn't want to do what he's doing-he even points out to Bond that if he had been able to find the check at the hotel from the start he never would've had to get him and Vesper at all and everyone would've been saved a lot of pain and energy. He's all about the money, and if the money was in his hands he'd let Bond and Vesper go without a second thought, because it doesn't matter to him that he gets to torture a couple of people for sadomasochistic kicks. Even when he smiles during the torture it's not an "I'm getting so off on this right now" smile, but more a "I'm making the strong Englishman break." He has seen what a daring opponent Bond is from the card game and, like when some alpha male types meet, he feels a need to challenge the spy to prove he's the best. He wants to see how far Bond can go before he breaks, all part of a sick game of ego and will, but certainly with no sexual overtones.

    We also learn from the file on Le Chiffre during the opening of the book that he partly chose to invest in brothels because he liked the free sex open to him via the women employed at them, implying that he's straight as an arrow and very horny in sexual terms. If he was gay I'd at least expect him to say something suggestive about Bond being stark naked in front of him, but we get nothing of the sort. In the end the villain doesn't want to covet Bond's penis, he wants to chop it off to speed the torture along.
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    Posts: 2,937
    I find it interesting how Bond is wary of ice cream with butterscotch topping. In the opening of LALD, that is.
  • edited June 2017 Posts: 4,935
    Revelator wrote: »
    He’s not happy to be spending his time doing this to Bond, as he just wants his money, but a part of him is like a scientist testing the long-term effects of painful stimuli on a lab rat.

    Yes, and this is why people are wrong to detect a supposed homosexual subtext. Le Chiffre's sadism isn't sexually motivated, it's just pure sadism. He sets the template for Bond villains in being (a) genuinely interested in inflicting pain and (b) a warped sort of father/authority figure. The latter is what makes his words toward Bond truly creepy. He even views M as Bond's nanny!

    Le Chiffre himself is certainly not a homosexual character (Fleming very explicitly spells out Le Chiffre's lust for women early on); however, homosexuality is very much a part of the language of CR's torture scene, as is the creepy father-child dynamic. Bond's nakedness of course is intended to expose him and psychologically to humiliate, demean, and disempower him. But you have to turn a very forceful blind eye to ignore the picture of a bound and naked man being whipped by another man here, especially as Fleming describes the look in Le Chiffre's eye as "almost caressingly." Key word: "almost." The undertone of homosexuality in the scene is one more way for Fleming to paint Le Chiffre as a grotesque creature—homosexuality being a grotesque and deplorable thing for Fleming, and to be honest, for much of Western culture at the time. Le Chiffre's motivations, on the other hand, likely aren't even tied to sadism (possibly, I'd have to go back to be sure), but rather survival.
    Revelator wrote: »
    Live and Let Die (1954)
    easiest I guess just to accept the copious "Negro/Negress" references as part of antiquated 50s culture, though I believe the term was being frowned upon even at the time

    I don't think the term was widely frowned upon until the mid-60s, though I could be wrong. The point is worth making in light of some of the less justifiable choices Fleming later makes in his depiction of African Americans, which we will undoubtedly be discussing later on....

    Yes, already I've encountered a couple of somewhat uncomfortable generalizations I've just dismissed without much thought, but which perhaps weren't the most wisely phrased inclusions.

    EDIT: a quick look-up online and you're correct, it appears the term "negro" was widely deemed appropriate until the mid-60s and should not be counted as a mark against Fleming.
    I find it interesting how Bond is wary of ice cream with butterscotch topping. In the opening of LALD, that is.

    Pure snobbery, haha. Whenever I encounter something like that, something as widely beloved as butterscotch topping, I can be sure for certain Fleming simply imparted his own peculiar tastes to his character.
  • 4. The Big Switchboard

    Breakfast at "The Glorified Ham-N-Eggs." One could probably very accurately surmise Bond has the scrambled eggs, but as Fleming makes no specific mention, can't count it.

    Lots of little references to the niceties of life mentioned in this chapter—Fleming really kicking into high Fleming-mode—from the description of Bond's clothes to the details in this second round of martinis shared with Felix to Bond's remembrance of the pub menu he sees on his last day in London. It's a very nicely structured and detailed chapter. I particularly like the bird's eye description of the late afternoon New York seen from Bond's hotel room window. Fleming can make any city sound like the most interesting place on Earth (and indeed will do so with far less glamorous locations in future novels).

    I also love the background behind the "Ouroboros Worm and Bait Shippers" (great name!): how they deal also in "rare poisonous species for the research departments of medical and chemical foundations"—just the suggestion there of something darker, more sinister going on under the "interior decorating" surface.

    Whisper appears. Love the detail about having only part of one lung left. From the major villains to the minor, Fleming works in these sickly and grotesque details wherever he can. To be of poor health is to be a villain. An ironic note considering the sheer volume of alcohol and cigarettes Bond (and Fleming!) ingests.

    The switchboard and the tailing of Bond and Leiter, one of those details worked into the film. For all its departures, especially in tone, film L&LD captures a fair amount from the book, if only in bits and pieces and gestures. FYEO and LTK would go on to pick up the slack.

    5. Seventh Avenue

    Tee-Hee gets a mention. Also love the name McThing. There needs to be a henchman, even a minor one, at some point named McThing.

    Mention of "'Hawkins,' the bone-chilling wind from the north, which the Negroes greet with a reverent, 'Hawkins is here.'" Perhaps due in part to his strong background in journalism, Fleming was adept at taking observed details and researched facts from life and weaving them seamlessly into his fiction. It really sets the stories of James Bond, as fantastical as they sometimes are, right here in the real world.

    6. Table Z

    Just Fleming's word and detail choices tend to do as much as anything to set the mood and transport the reader to Bond's world: evocatively referring to the lighting decorations as "witchballs."

    There are those certain things Fleming positively delights in lavishing his descriptive prose upon: scenes of exquisite violence, portrayals of cityscapes, occasionally descriptions of food; and chief among them, the female form. Fleming's writing appeals to the senses, and whenever the opportunity appears in his storytelling, he indulges to the hilt. Her body "small, hard, bronzed, beautiful...slightly oiled," "swathed completely in black ostrich feathers, a black domino across her eyes," lips "bared slightly from her teeth," face "a sexy pug-like face" (chienne being the French word for "bitch," literally a female dog!; perhaps a very vulgar way of describing an attractively flat face with a button nose), G-G Sumatra for all her brevity and non-importance is one of Fleming's most elaborately detailed characters yet from a purely physical vantage! Of course it's all about setting the scene and stimulating the reader, and in this Fleming excels.

    Again, details: the gun trained on Bond has a mother-of-pearl stock and an octagonal barrel. Much more interesting than saying a revolver, no?

    Leiter gets his face brutally slammed into the wall, nearly breaking his nose. The sadism begins, and the sadism is strong in this one: page for page, far exceeding what came before in CR.

    7. Mr. Big

    Mr. Big is quite possibly Bond's most physically intimidating opponent of all (with perhaps the exception of Red Grant): "six and a half foot tall and weighed 280 pounds, and that little of it was fat...the total impression was awe-inspiring, even terrifying..."

    Of course, the grotesqueries per usual: the monstrous football head, the eyes set far apart, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair apart from tufts over the ears, "shining like the face of a week-old corpse in the river" (!), just lovely. His eyes are described as "animal eyes, not human." Okay, he's the villain, but this last one certainly falls firmly under the category of vaguely uncomfortable given how blacks have been historically characterized. Perhaps calling the black villain physically animal-like and not human was an unnecessary embellishment. You already sold me on his dastardliness with "corpse-like," Fleming.

    Similarly, Bond worries about Felix "in the hands of those clumsy apes." Sure, "apes" can be used to describe any old thug but in a novel centered entirely around black culture, the wording could have been handled with a little more tact.

    I really do like Mr. Big's opening here, revealing to Bond what he knows about his number, his license, and his service, capping it off with the cool and sly: "Whom have you been sent over to kill here, Mr. Bond? Not me by any chance?" Yaphett Koto's smooth tone delivers these lines beautifully in my head.

    Big's dialogue only continues to impress, noting that Leiter's position is "at this moment...extremely precarious."

    Mr. Big is convinced of Solitaire's telepathic abilities. I forget how fully Fleming allows the book to veer into the supernatural, but I'm excited to find out. Solitaire is, nonetheless, a refreshing and original alternative to imposing upon Bond a torture sequence.

    A connection forms immediately between Bond and Solitaire as she sends him lascivious messages, first with her eyes, then in revealing "the valley between her breasts." Conversely, Big is painted a greater villain still, first in asserting he will take Solitaire in marriage despite her wanting nothing to do with men, and then in whipping her across the shoulders. There are few blurred lines when it comes to Fleming's villains.

    Lovely and clever message from Solitaire here: facing the two bottoms of the deck halves to Bond (the knave of hearts, the queen of spades) and making them kiss each other.

    "He speaks the truth." A very interesting dynamic emerges immediately between these three characters—Bond, Solitaire, and Big—and Solitaire has only just been introduced. Clever staging by Fleming here, indeed.

    8. No Sensayuma

    Blabbermouth, another great name for a henchthug. Somebody work these into future Bond films please.

    Big is a great villain. The coldness, the suddenness, and the complete conviction with which he orders Leiter's maiming and disposal near a hospital. And Bond's response is perfectly hot-blooded: "God damn your bloody eyes."

    Same with the order on Bond's finger. The sadism continues. Fleming's descriptions here are perfectly cringe-inducing, Bond grappling at the arm chairs, sweating profusely, trying to imagine the pain so he can control it, Tee-Hee slowly, deliberately bending the finger back. The giggling is a wonderful, grotesque touch. The sharp crack and the fainting does it for me. Hoo, that's a bad one.

    Big reveals his mania, calling himself an artist in search of perfection, comparing himself to Cellini.

    A true viciousness emerges in Bond's reprisal against Tee-Hee, bringing the gun down on the back of the man's skull and kicking him down the stairs with all the force he could put into his steel-capped shoe. Reminds me actually of a similar scene of brutality in Moonraker where there appears to be real emotion, real viciousness, behind Bond's dealt violence. Similarly, Bond shooting a bullet "straight into the screaming mouth" of one of the men in the car in the garage feels like a bit of vengeful narrative violence (the author devising the scenario, even if Bond's intention wasn't to specifically shoot the man in the mouth).

    It's a thrilling scene though, Bond's escape despite having one mangled hand, and a contrast to the similar scene in CR where his arms are bound and he unsuccessfully attempts an escape. Shots firing after him as he drives out. Real action movie stuff here.

    A briefly humorous moment and a surprising touch of reality as Bond realizes he's driving on the wrong side of the road and corrects. Beautiful image of the hood of the car mowing down "the little ghosts of steam that wavered up out of the manhole covers..." and Bond seeing them each rise again in his rearview mirror, "mildly gesticulating white wraiths." The imagery perhaps reminding that sure Bond's just killed a few of Big's men, but his voodoo reaches the length of the eastern coast and there are many more threats to replace them.

    After such an ordeal, Fleming ends the chapter by letting Bond and reader alike know that Leiter has survived. So he isn't a complete sadist. ;)
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 24,335
    You're getting ahead of me but I couldn't help but read on through your full analysis.
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