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 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 7:38 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

After being a fan of the cinematic James Bond for nearly 30 years, I've finally decided to take the plunge and start reading Ian Fleming's novels. I don't expect to be disappointed, as I can accept and enjoy the literary 007 on its own terms just like I do the cinematic Bond.

I've read a few of the John Gardner novels and they're IMO a real snoozefest, though aspects of For Special Services were decent. But with the exception of FRWL, I'm a Fleming neophyte.

Let's discuss the novels! Favorites/least favorites without too many spoilers, of course!

I ordered DN, OHMSS, YOLT, GF, and LALD. And you all know what I mean...

In the little I've read, there seems to be such a weary, decidedly British Colonial view of the world with enough dark humor to keep things bearable. Sure, Bond/Fleming (I really can't separate the two) loved the "good life" but with the unpleasant knowledge that death was waiting.

I'm getting the books with the above-posted covers from "Amazon Fulfillment", which sells brand new books (with remainder marks) for nearly half the price. Free shipping, too, on $25.00 or more.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:03 AM   
 By:   shicorp   (Member)

I have to admit that I still haven't read all of the novels. Most of the ones I've read were great, though. I like them because they are so very different in comparison to their movie counterparts.

I've re-read "You Only Live Twice" this summer and Fleming's descriptions of the Japanese culture are outstanding. Of course, the movie with its John Barry score is a masterpiece at its own, but maybe Fleming's novel is even a bit better. The problem is that the actual showdown would have been too unexciting for cinema audiences, but it's still a great story...

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:27 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

The main draw for me is probably that Fleming worldview and his attention to style, which is sadly lacking today.

And then there's also his misogyny... big grin

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:39 AM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

I read them all from beginning to end in 10th grade, shortly after DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (the movie) was released. They are great reads! The attention Fleming paid to Bond's tastes in fashion, food and women were obviously his own. Sea Island cotton shirts, scrambled eggs, the cigarettes, and "women with unvarnished fingernails" I re-read them all again in the mid 80's and enjoyed them just as much. The books had the bizarre and fantastic elements that were amped to the nth degree in the movies, but with a dark, brutal overtone. Somewhat fatalistic.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:40 AM   
 By:   CH-CD   (Member)


I love Ian Fleming's novels. He had great style, and is a very descriptive writer.

Reading, and re-reading them (as I have done, many times), takes you back to a classier, simpler and more elegant age than the one we have today.

In order to get the maximum enjoyment from them,I would advise you to read them in the order that they were published...ie:

CASINO ROYALE
LIVE AND LET DIE
MOONRAKER
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
DR NO
GOLDFINGER
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
THUNDERBALL
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
OCTOPUSSY

So, mix yourself a vodka martini, settle down, and.....Enjoy!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:46 AM   
 By:   Gordon Reeves   (Member)



We’ve already gone on record as regarding Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels as far superior to Fleming’s from authorial style to character substance but there’s also no denying we were fascinated (aye, and always, um, titillated) by the original 007 opuses in greener times.

While it was always assured you’d be disappointed if your trajectory of discovery lead you to the books after you’d been visually spoiled by the films, Fleming still had enough foundational craft to maintain your interest, no matter how outlandish the situations.



Our favorite moments always occurred during the philosophical discussions between Bond and whichever villain was going on rivaling Hamlet with their monologues re what they hoped their nefarious doings would accomplish. They remain the most compelling parts e’en now.

What’s unmistakable and indisputable is, when all’s said and done, he created something that may just equal Sherlock Holmes as some of Britain’s longest lasting influences. As a writing epitaph, we dearly doubt most of us wouldn’t mind such a creative tombstone

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:47 AM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

My favorites were FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, O.H.M.S.S. and almost out of it's narrative being recalled by the female protaganist, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 1:53 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

The main draw for me is probably that Fleming worldview and his attention to style, which is sadly lacking today.

And then there's also his misogyny... big grin


..and racism, and homophobia, and sadism

god help me, i do love it so...

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 3:34 PM   
 By:   CH-CD   (Member)

While it was always assured you’d be disappointed if your trajectory of discovery lead you to the books after you’d been visually spoiled by the films, Fleming still had enough foundational craft to maintain your interest, no matter how outlandish the situations.


Au contraire......I had never heard of James Bond, or Ian Fleming until I saw "Dr.No" in 1962.
I read my first Bond book ( "Live & Let Die" ) after seeing "Dr.No", and thoroughly enjoyed it......as I did all the other books in the series.

I still find them far superior to the movies, which, after the first five Connery movies and "OHMSS"
I can take, or leave.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 4:10 PM   
 By:   MWRuger   (Member)

I also recommend you read them in published order. While there isn't much continuity there is some and you may spoil some of the earlier books a little if you read them out of order.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 6:14 PM   
 By:   fmfan1   (Member)

I am in the midst of re-reading all of the novels for the third time in my life. I started this summer and am up to Thunderball. A couple reflections:

I would recommend reading them in order. Not essential, but there are references to prior adventures.

Some of the books are fairly close to the movies (From Russia with Love, Dr. No) and some are not (Moonraker).

Fleming definitely matures in his writing skills as the series goes on, and relatively quickly. None of the novels are bad, but the first few (Casino Royale, Live and Let Die) don't display the charm of the later novels.

I am enjoying Thunderball very much. It is here that Blofeld and SPECTRE are introduced, and the health spa visit is quite humorous.

I am a bit surprised at the regular appearance of racism and homophobia, something I never picked up when I first read them in my early teens. While I can understand that Fleming's viewpoint was a sign of the times for many people, some instances are just not forgivable. One bit of totally unnecessary anti-Jewish description in Thunderball made me wince - unfortunately, it was not just a character's perspective, but seemed to come from Fleming himself.

The Spy Who Loved Me is perhaps the most surprising novel, structure/story-telling-wise. I won't say anything besides saying - "It's not what you'd expect."

Enjoy!

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 6:54 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

While it was always assured you’d be disappointed if your trajectory of discovery lead you to the books after you’d been visually spoiled by the films, Fleming still had enough foundational craft to maintain your interest, no matter how outlandish the situations.


Au contraire......I had never heard of James Bond, or Ian Fleming until I saw "Dr.No" in 1962.
I read my first Bond book ( "Live & Let Die" ) after seeing "Dr.No", and thoroughly enjoyed it......as I did all the other books in the series.

I still find them far superior to the movies, which, after the first five Connery movies and "OHMSS"
I can take, or leave.


Me too.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:51 PM   
 By:   ZapBrannigan   (Member)

I too read all the Fleming Bonds as a teenager, having bought the old Signet paperback editions in a used book store. Recently someone gave me a new boxed set of all the books, so now I own them twice each. The first one I've re-read is CASINO ROYALE. I was pleased to find that it holds up so well. The narrative style is sleek and crisp.

Along with all the novels, another little Signet gem I found in that used bookstore was JAMES BOND: A REPORT by O.F. Snelling. It's a close examination of the first twelve novels, and now a period-piece in itself:



In the 1980's I picked up Raymond Benson's THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION, a much bigger book that analyzes the novels from a greater temporal distance, and goes over the movies as well.

Maybe I'm just an old guy who loves old paperbacks, but there's a certain extra pleasure in Bond editions that came out closer in time to the actual era in which the novels were written.





The old books are redolent of that time and that world. They have a cultural authenticity to them, in their dated cover designs that were once contemporary. Somebody read those actual copies at a time when they were not period pieces, but cutting-edge adult fiction, and now holding them gives you a feeling of connectedness.

Today's editions are products of today's publishing world, carrying Fleming's text in a new package. But of course it doesn't matter once you start reading them, because you get immersed in the novel and that becomes your portal back through time.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 8:55 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

I too read all the Fleming Bonds as a teenager, having bought the old Signet paperback editions in a used book store. Recently someone gave me a new boxed set of all the books, so now I own them twice each. The first one I've re-read is CASINO ROYALE. I was pleased to find that it holds up so well. The narrative style is sleek and crisp.

Along with all the novels, another little Signet gem I found in that used bookstore was JAMES BOND: A REPORT by O.F. Snelling. It's a close examination of the first twelve novels, and now a period-piece in itself:



In the 1980's I picked up Raymond Benson's THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION, a much bigger book that analyzes the novels from a greater temporal distance, and goes over the movies as well.

Maybe I'm just an old guy who loves old paperbacks, but there's a certain extra pleasure in Bond editions that came out closer in time to the actual era in which the novels were written.





The old books are redolent of that time and that world. They have a cultural authenticity to them, in their dated cover designs that were once contemporary. Somebody read those actual copies at a time when they were not period pieces, but cutting-edge adult fiction, and now holding them gives you a feeling of connectedness.

Today's editions are products of today's publishing world, carrying Fleming's text in a new package. But of course it doesn't matter once you start reading them, because you get immersed in the novel and that becomes your portal back through time.


Those were exactly the paperbacks I read in high school!

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 10:14 PM   
 By:   Scott M (Oldsmith)   (Member)

a little before the last film came out, they put out a nice boxed set of all the books in paperback. I read them in order and I'm happy I did. For example, read From Russia With Love before Dr. No. The ending of FRWL demands it. Just go in order and you will see both Fleming and Bond mature gradually.

I had to read CR twice, though. I wasn't prepared for the total differenc ein style of Fleming's work and the books I'm used to (modern, I guess). There's a great deal of exposition, like a full chapter devoted to us reading a memo. But, jeez, you can't skip it, it's important. :-)

The second time I read it, I was comfortable with Fleming's style and loved the book.

Enjoy your trip. But be prepared, the novella's are a little off the beaten path.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2007 - 10:33 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

One thing interesting in the books- early on, Bond used a Baretta as his hand pistol, evolving to the Walther PPK, explaination rather neatly handled in the film DR NO when Q branch called the Baretta " a woman's gun."

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2007 - 2:37 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

The books are what they are, products of their times, with all the relatively casual racism and homophobia that were the mores in the 50s. That isn't to say that they aren't enjoyable, but some of them make uncomfortable reading, much as in the film of Doctor No, when Bond tells Quarrel to fetch his shoes in the same way you'd say it to "below stairs staff".

And can you imagine a time where karate was an exotic and largely unknown type of fighting - as introduced in Goldfinger?

Two books worth reading for different takes on the literary side of 007 are The James Bond Dossier by Kingsley Amis, and The Man Who Saved Britain by Simon Winder. Amis of course wrote the first official non-Fleming Bond book, Colonel Sun, under the pen-name of Robert Markham, and dates from the classic era of the films and is a goldmine unsullied by the detrimental change of direction taken by Roger Moore. The latter book is a modern production, and dwells on the darker sides of Britain's relationship with the world. It's interesting from a VERY cynical point of view, but doesn't really offer much new about the world of Bond itself.

I keep meaning to pick up one of those books with the recreations of the comic strips from the newspapers - I bet they're fascinating.

 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2007 - 3:01 AM   
 By:   ZapBrannigan   (Member)

One thing interesting in the books- early on, Bond used a Baretta as his hand pistol, evolving to the Walther PPK, explaination rather neatly handled in the film DR NO when Q branch called the Baretta " a woman's gun."

The great things about the PPK were that it was both extremely plausible as a secret agent's gun at the time, due to its comfortable concealability, and also it was photogenic, even glamorous, to look at (unlike say, a fat little snub-nosed revolver).

The movies stuck with the PPK long after the real world had moved on. Modern semi-automatics are better in every way but nostalgia and eye-appeal. Brosnan finally switched to the P99, I think.

 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2007 - 10:34 AM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

As a fan of the world of JB007 for some 42 years or so (from 50), I've devoted more than a fair share of my time to reading, watching, listening to all things Bond.

In recent years (i.e. the last 30smile) I've re-read only CR and Goldfinger again from the Ian Fleming series and yes my view concurs with many others re: their descriptiveness, their images of the time, their age. And for those things we should be grateful. I've never read Dickens or Bronte or ... but I can imagine that each and all would lose a lot of style, quality and "raison d'etre" if the storylines and characters were transported to the modern day.

As someone who re-reads Saint novels from the 1930's, JB007 from the 1950's/60's is positively modern!

I've also read all of the other authors' attempts, be it Markham (Amis), Gardner and Benson (and Wood for his two movie spin-offs) and not one of them has come close to emulating IF's original style (IMHO). I've just finished reading Raymond Benson's The Man With The Red Tattoo and the best things to be said about it are (i) it was better than the one that preceded it and (ii) it was his last JB007 novel - hoorah, no more!

I shall try the new novel in the spring (celebrating 100th annniversary of IF's birth) penned by Sebastian Faulks and I'm hopeful that he may have captured some of the essence of Bond so sadly lacking since IF's death.

I've also read numerous (and I really do mean numerous) books about JB007 although as yet I've missed out on Raymond Benson's JB007 Bedside Companion. I used to own O.F. Snelling's Double O Seven James Bond: A Report but disposed of it many years ago (more's the pity) and I'm presently reading: Robert Sellers' The Battle For Bond which tells the story of the creation of the cinematic 007 and the 40 year legal battle that ensued.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2007 - 1:51 PM   
 By:   Greg Bryant   (Member)

I read all of the Fleming Bond novels many years ago. They are definitely a product of the times that they were written, the 50's post WWII - Cold War period. Bond was very much like Fleming, himself a veteran of WWII British espionage. In fact much of the early Bond films are close to that of the novels in tone, if not always in plot.

 
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