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The novel is obviously way better than the film despite it being by far the weakest of the first Fleming era (CR-FRWL) and arguably the weakest overall (although TSWLM and probably TMWTGG are worse).
The main problem is the villains. The Spangs are pretty pathetic and Wint and Kidd are just a pair of run of the mill hoods and nowhere near as much fun as the film versions.
I think TSWLM and TMWTGG are better actually. The first was a more successful attempt of Fleming as American harboiled crime drama. DAF has some interesting scenes, but does not feel as genuine. I think Fleming was uncomfortable with crime fiction.
And I would say the novel is also underrated. Certainly not Fleming's best, but there is still much to love between the covers.
Oh, there is a lot to love in the novel DAF. But the film? Blofeld a caricature? For this only I don't know if I can even start not disliking it as much as I do. It was more of a spoof than a Bond movie.
That does not excuse the caricature of DAF. I am not sure what you mean by technically sound, you would need to explain. DAF has maybe the worst action scenes in the series, until DAD came out.
And we are utterly off topic. So to come back to it: the novel I think was a good attempt of Fleming to go Chandler, but he never totally convinced me.
And, yes, the prose is excellent, Dragonpol. Particularly in the Saratoga and Nevada settings.
This is what I think elevates it far above TSWLM and TMWTGG which have the feeling of being fairly rushed and unpolished efforts (TMWTGG for obvious reasons).
My mistake. And I was really wondering what you meant by it.
Am I the only who thinks TSWLM is a better ''crime fiction'' Bond? It is atypical, but I love the simplicity of it. That said, yes, the prose of DAF is probably better.
Fraid so. TSWLM is horribly cliched from Viv's early life to the caricatures of 'hoods' in Sluggsy and Horror.
This was debated somewhere else quite recently (cant remember the thread) but often Flemings portrayal of American crime is rather poor almost to the point of being embarrassing. It is clear he is making a lot of it up compared to the stuff about espionage, fine living and women which he had experience of first hand.
But Chandler was refering to DAF.
I agree with most of it. I do think Fleming was not comfortable with American crime fiction, and the Spangs while not weak are somewhat blander villains.
As to Spy, I like it. It contains some of Fleming's most lyrical prose (viz the storm sequence at Dreamy Pines), and Sluggsy and Horror are terrific villains. If you want poor depictions of American gangsters from Fleming, read Goldfinger.
It may be off topic, but I think Sluggsy is more traditional than cliche.
The Spangled Mob are certainly Fleming's dullest villains, maybe that's partly because they're clichéd Italian-American mobsters but it's mainly because they're so thinly sketched. Jack and Seraffimo probably speak no more than 200 words between them in the entire novel and there's nothing exceptional or even particularly interesting about them. It's notable that Fleming has almost every character Bond comes into contact with (Tanner, M, Tiffany Case, Leiter, Ernie Cureo) stress to Bond how the Spangs are so much more frightening than they seem; it seems he doth protest too much.
The plot is also pretty thin and quite mundane. Bond poses as Peter Franks and smuggles some diamonds into the States completely successfully and with no real hitches. He then spends the rest of the novel waiting around to be paid, travelling to Saratoga (getting involved in a pretty jarring subplot) and Vegas. Spang discovers that he's not the real Peter Franks and has him beaten up. He escapes. The end. Fleming's prose is fantastic throughout but it feels like he's often having more fun than the reader and I think @myworldisenough's comment that it drags is spot on. The epilogue set on the Queen Elizabeth is definitely the best and most exciting section (even though it requires us to believe Bond has the memory of a elderly and particularly forgetful goldfish to not recognise the two men who kicked the *!&@ out of him only two days earlier.)
Good stuff: The prose, particularly Fleming's wonderful travelogue of mid-50s Vegas; Tiffany Case is great with the banter and one of Fleming's sparkiest Bond Girls; Wint and Kidd are pretty interesting (although not as good as the film version); Shady Tree is awesome and it's a real shame he doesn't come back.
Observations: It's the first mention we get of Bond's licence to kill (although it's not named as such); and Felix Leiter has recovered from his horrific injuries, resigned from the CIA, been hired by Pinkertons, become an expert on horse racing and race fixing, and figured out that Shy Smile's a ringer all in the space of five months!
P.S. I have a bit of a soft spot for TSWLM which I think is pretty good if you view it as a bit of an experiment like QoS, THR or OP rather than a "proper" Bond novel.
It's not as bad as TB, which I class as Fleming's worst. As for TMWTGG, its actually one of my favourite novels, but I know I'm probably on my own with that opinion.
But I agree DAF is down there too. TB, TSWLM and TB are all in the lower ranks for me. I know TMWTGG is usually thought of in the same token, but I put that novel up there with OHMSS as one of Fleming's best.