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Proof of devolution.
We have that in Northern Ireland. It really doesn't work too good here.
Thanks for this detailed review. You put so much into it... wow.
Guns of Navarone 9/10
Force ten from Navarone 8/10
Storm force from Navarone 6/10
Thunderbolt from Navarone 7,5/10
The first two by Alistair Maclean the master of adventure books and the last two late in the previous century by Sam Llewellyn, and they are actually quite good and nice continuation novels.
I always thought that was public knowledge!
I am currently reading Lee Child's Jack Reacher in The Hard Way (for about the fifth time).
I am just starting The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
THE ANCIENT WISDOM (1911) by Annie Besant.
Honestly I never got the hype for this book :( I tried reading it few times and I never fully got into it :(
First published in 2000. This book is set in the 13th century, and is very enjoyable as Eco usually is.
OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
by Ian Fleming
A second collection of short stories by Ian Fleming was published posthumously. One might easily suspect a lower quality afterthought of Fleming’s publisher to earn a few coins off the man’s far too early departure from this world. And yet, these short stories provided some titles and iconic scenes for the EON film adaptations. They rely much less on action and exotic travels than the novels and most if not all of the shorts stories in the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY collection, allowing for more introspective moments we can share with Bond. Most notably, of course, is the addition of two stories Fleming wrote for publication in Sotheby’s annual journal and the tourism section of certain newspapers. At least one of these commissioned stories barely qualifies as a story. It has furthermore been suggested that these stories take place between the events of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, in what we can safely call the darkest period of Bond’s (and possibly Fleming's) life. In any event, I keep John Barry’s scores for OCTOPUSSY and THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS alternating in my playlist and sit down for the final volume in Fleming’s book collection.
Dozens of years after killing a mountain guide in a successful pursuit of Nazi gold, Major Dexter Smythe is visited by Bond in his Jamaican house. The frozen corpse of the murdered guided has thawed out of the ice and the deceased was recognized by Bond as the personal friend who taught him to ski a long time ago. Bond confronts Smythe with his crime and after hearing the man’s story, leaves him with a binary choice: suicide or court martial. Smythe retreats to the coral reef where he enjoys the dubious pleasure of feeding his pet octopus, “Octopussy”, but a scorpion fish stings him and injects a fatal dose of poison, whereupon Octopussy pulls the body of Smythe underwater. His death is written down as suicide.
This story is fairly unique in that it wasn’t shown but told in the film OCTOPUSSY. The short version of it was used by the titular character of that film to explain her desire to meet with Bond in person, grateful that he gave her father, Major Smythe, a choice. I am quite amused by how this short story, barely featuring Bond and not at all critical to the original plot of the 1983 movie, still managed to find a convenient way into the film script. In my opinion it’s not even too far removed from a “Fleming twist” that Bond should team up with the daughter of the man he indeed gave a choice but not much of an attractive one. As such, the Octopussy character from the film fits well into the long tradition of girls with a bit of an uneven past, hers actually intersecting with Bond’s. But the short story hints at nothing of the sort. No women, no romantic prospects of any sort; the story prefers cold pessimism with a twist of irony.
To be fair, it’s also unique in Fleming’s writing, with the exception of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, that Bond serves as a mere third person. Major Smythe is the main character, a man who is one half melancholy and one half booze. I can imagine that Fleming allowed some of these traits to reflect his own state of mind (and body) when he wrote the story in early 1962. Bond’s dark intervention crowbars Smythe’s life into a sudden finality. Bond’s vindictive intentions are barely compensated by his willingness to offer Smythe the honorable way out. The sunny location stands almost perpendicular to the sinister tension built up by Bond’s mere presence.
I always read this story with some evil fondness, a belated payback on an entirely different level than your usual vendetta plot. And yet I’m not sure that it really is a tale of revenge; rather, it would seem that this is an ironical account of a man whose past atrocities don’t keep him from taking good care of the very animal that will eventually drag him down, literally in this case. How do you make amends? You can’t, is what Fleming seems to be saying. In any case, I may be reading far too much into this story, but then again I rather like it. Little happens, but a lot is said, and the ironical ending never fails to please me.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
Bond is sent to Berlin, equipped with a brand new sniper rifle with an infrared scope. ‘272’ wants to defect but an assassin named ‘Trigger’ will be ready to shoot him. Three nights in a row, Bond is on the lookout from his hotel room, waiting for an opportunity to kill ‘Trigger’ while ‘272’ is switching sides. The first two nights, ‘272’ is nowhere in sight. Rather, an all-women orchestra catches Bond’s notice, especially a beautiful blonde cellist. The third night, ‘272’ crosses the border and, as expected, ‘Trigger’ is ready for the fatal shot. Bond spots ‘Trigger’ but hesitates to shoot when the assassin turns out to be the beautiful cellist. He ultimately disarms her without fatally wounding her, allowing ‘272’ to run to safety anyway. The mission is a success, and yet it isn’t, because Bond has failed to take out ‘Trigger’. The story ends with Bond hoping that M will fire him.
Famously recreated for the 1987 film adaptation starring Timothy Dalton, this story is not unlike the short story FOR YOUR EYES ONLY in that Bond is once again used as a ruthless instrument of death. Rather than doing some witty spying, 007 must simply aim and pull a trigger. It’s all the more interesting that he will eventually disobey--to a certain extent--in order to keep a beautiful girl alive, regardless of what her immediate future will bring now that she has failed to accomplish her task. But the true shocker of the story comes with Bond’s final musings, the cynical contemplation about being fired. Though resignation has been on Bond’s agenda before, most notably at the start of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, the rationale this time seems to be his disgust with missions like these rather than his disgruntlement about a man of his skills not being used in an adequate manner. Dalton’s Bond managed to produce a somewhat fraudulent smile, but when reading this story, I sense that Fleming’s Bond is dead serious about it.
In only a few pages, Fleming captures the essence of his more nuanced take on Bond, a Bond who improvises in spite of his mission. I’m very fond of the build-up of this story even though it’s a dead giveaway that the third night is when the action will take place and the cellist is somehow going to prove crucial to the mission. I also love how this short story was very well served in the film of the same title, effectively planting the seeds for an unusually romantic relationship between Bond and the girl. Both of my copies of the book omitted the illustrations from the final print, but I’m happy with the prose alone. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS is a very decent story, never dull or pointlessly instructive but rather exciting and with a simple but very serviceable climax.
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Maria Freudenstein is a double agent hired by MI6 to transmit intel to Washington, but she copies the messages and sends them to Moscow. She doesn’t know, however, that the messages are fakes. An important KGB figure attends an auction at Sotheby’s to help “adjust” the price so that it equals what the Russians intend to pay the girl. Bond is there too, namely to spot the man and have him forced out of the country.
It’s clear that Fleming wrote this story to shape a thrilling context in which he could educate us about auctioneering and Sotheby’s. And yet, the fate of Freudenstein was revealed in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN as a brutal one, presenting a rare case of tying up loose but fairly short ends from one story in another. All things considered, it’s pretty amazing that the filmmakers of OCTOPUSSY managed to more or less write this short story into the final script without slipping into boredom. It’s not Fleming’s most exciting bit of writing but I can easily imagine it juicing up a journal for Sotheby’s.
007 IN NEW YORK
Right. Because I’m reading the books in order of publication, this is technically the last “story” of Fleming’s that I get to enjoy. Now, let me be perfectly clear about this one: I know what it is and even better what it isn’t. This is not a “story” by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, this is a short travelogue piece disguised as a spy tale premise, for it does little more than give Bond a reason to visit NY. In reality, this is Fleming doing a bit on the city he had previously spoken much less favorably of. The result serves as an amusing account of some New York sightseeing from Bond’s perspective.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a diligent tourist and I couldn’t care less about reading up on places until I have actually visited them myself. I will always respect Fleming’s detailed descriptions of locations in his Bond books, but there’s a reason I won’t include THRILLING CITIES in my Fleming retrospective (nor THE DIAMOND SMUGGLERS for that matter). Since 007 IN NEW YORK is little more than travel literature, it’s hard work for me sit through this short story, more like homework than leisure. Yes, you have read it correctly; I’m calling this extremely short story hard work.
But wait! The best, I must confess, I have kept for last. No matter how often I have thus far read the short story, I’m never not flabbergasted by Fleming’s surprising inclusion of … a recipe for scrambled eggs. Okay, a healthy lifestyle and Ian Fleming never went hand in hand but it sounds to me like Fleming’s butter consumption alone was enough to ruinously block those arteries after a single meal. My way of scrambling eggs involves a little less fat and a lot more protein. But I digress.
Look, I have taken comfort in the notion that Fleming must have been typing out this story with a perpetual smile on his face…
… and that’s how I’m turning the final page in this final book in my Fleming collection--with a smile on my face. Of course I’m saddened that this is it; no more Fleming Bond! Yes, Fleming passed away at far too young an age and yes, his untimely death could probably have been avoided. But as I’m taking this book back to my collection, I’m also fondly reminiscing about when I decided, a few weeks ago, to pick up CASINO ROYALE for the umpteenth time and work my way through Fleming’s books once again. And once again, I had a blast doing it. These books keep giving, and in fact, the more you read them, the more you can find the brilliance in Fleming’s writings that many contemporary critics failed to spot. CASINO ROYALE remains my favorite book of his. It is such a well-paced, energetic and interesting book, multi-layered and cleverly structured. But I would be wrong in saying that it’s all downhill after this one. Books like ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE still supply the goods.
OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS remains of a very high quality too, but only if one approaches this collection with seriously adjusted expectations. A little understanding of what Fleming was trying to do here is crucial in not getting utterly confused by for example 007 IN NEW YORK and its recipe for scrambled eggs. This isn’t the best book of the bunch by a long shot, but the final book in a published series can easily be a lot worse than this. Give it a try, see whether you like it or not, but don’t worry: it’s short enough to get through in one sitting.
I’m not done. I have made it my business to finally read COLONEL SUN by Kingsley Amis, a book which is so often included in publications as the spiritual sequel to Fleming’s novels. After THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, it’s back to a slightly lengthier book, so I won’t be unwrapping it tonight. But I will get there…
DD's 2018 book ranking
1) Casino Royale - 10/10
2) On Her Majesty's Secret Service - 9.5/10
3) Moonraker - 9.5/10
4) From Russia With Love - 9/10
5) Dr No - 8.5/10
6) You Only Live Twice - 8/10
7) The Spy Who Loved Me - 8/10
8) Live And Let Die - 8/10
9) Diamonds Are Forever - 7.5/10
10) The Man With The Golden Gun - 7.5/10
11) Goldfinger - 7/10
12) Octopussy And The Living Daylights - 7/10
13) For Your Eyes Only - 7/10
14) Thunderball - 6.5/10
The eagle has landed
Touch the devil
The Eagle has flown (the sequel to The eagle has landed)
The Bat is probably the least involving Harry Hole books. The author wanders too much away from the actual plot, and at times it becomes too much the travelogue and commentary on modern Australian culture.
I've read Cockroaches, Nemesis, The Snowman and The Redbreast since and these are all fantastic thrillers, with convoluted but totally satisfying plots. Love Jo Nesbo.