Remember September: Reading Sanctum 15B Ian Fleming’s James Bond

One of the things I most love about being a bibliophile/book lover is that Amazon sends me daily emails to entice me to buy more digital versions of books for my Kindle. Of course, a digital book will cost less and also has the added convenience of being easy to carry (Kindle on my phone) and easy to store (which is not something I can do without several bookcases).

Some time early this year, I saw an opportunity to purchase all of the Ian Fleming books at 98 cents each. (They are currently listed at $7.99 digital list price at Amazon Kindle.) Earlier this month, I wrote Reading Sanctum 15A where I discussed the first four novels. Here, I will write about the next four books.

Remember September is our nostalgia month. This month, we wanted to focus on works that are older than 21 years. In other words, things from the previous century: movies, TV shows, comic books, games, and books. James Bond fits this theme.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these books were written 60 to 70 years ago. The James Bond from the books is considerably different from the one most people know in the movies. James Bond from the books is anachronistic. Consider, if you will, that Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published in 1953. Obviously, a lot has changed in the intervening years.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming is the 5th James Bond novel, considered to be former president JFK’s favorite and I can see why. The first third of the book is all about setting up this elaborate Russian plot designed to disgrace the British Secret Service by assassinating James Bond while smearing him with illicit scandal.

The details, Fleming used to create the characters both good and bad that are so significant in this novel are perfect infusing them with realism. The Turkish head of station Karem Bey, Tatiana the lowly Russian corporal that gets an opportunity to advance her career, Colonel Klebb the vile masochistic leader, Grant the sadistic henchman, and even the chess playing Kronsteen are all memorable characters.

Again, I am not trying to be an apologist for this series, but written in the 1950s, the novels are blatantly misogynistic and even racist. If these are triggers for you then stay away. The prose is smoothly lyrical and extremely insightful (as if it was written by a former intelligence officer.) This is definitely a top tier novel.

Dr. No happens to be one of my favorite James Bond movies, because it was the first and the Bond villain (Dr. Julius No) is Killer-Great. I did not realize that the movies were not in the same order as the books, but here as I read the sixth book, I was startled at some of the similarities and more importantly the differences in the book.

I generally favor the book and here, too, I find myself impressed with Fleming’s writing of this iconic character. There are of course triggers here. This story transpires in the cultural milieu of the 1950s where certain cultural sensitivities had not yet matured, especially regarding gender and race.

If you believe that you might not be capable of reading something of this caliber, do not. There are many other things you might enjoy. Quarrel is a beloved character, but he is not always treated as such. Honey Chile Rider is a great name for a Bond “girl,” and Bond clearly has a soft spot for her, but she too is not held up as a paragon of intellect. I still really like this book.

I have been thoroughly enjoying the Ian Fleming James Bond books. I make specific the caveats that I would with any book written in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The time period was very different so things that were unremarkable back then will cause discomfort and even anger to an audience situated in the present.

I would give a trigger warning for misogyny and racism, as I have with all of the other books. If either of these things are completely unacceptable to you even when reading within the cultural milieu of the past, then you should not read these early Bond books. Goldfinger is book seven with Auric Goldfinger as a memorable villain, Oddjob as a memorable henchman, and Pussy Galore as a memorable Bond “girl.”

There are some memorable images in the movie, as well as memorable lines. Project Grandslam is the epitome of a heist novel with its attempted incursion and theft from Fort Knox. This book is without a doubt in my mind one of the better books in the series. I really enjoyed this one.

For Your Eyes Only is the 8th book of the James Bond series written by Ian Fleming. Whereas all the previous books were novels, this one is a compilation of five novella-length stories. The collection as a whole is pretty good because it demonstrates distinct aspects of Bond’s character.

The first story is From a View to a Kill which involves a plot that occurs in the forest to replace a courier carrying an alternate plan to headquarters, but Bond figures out the plot and shows mercy. He tries not to kill the villains. In For Your Eyes Only, M asks Bond to investigate the assassination of personal friends and take revenge on the killer. In Quantum of Solace there is more of an ambassadorial feel to Bond’s responsibilities, and he listens to a story about love.

In Risico, Bond is really involved in a drug smuggling operation where he is supposed to assassinate one of the ringleaders. The Hildebrand Rarity is just that because, Bond is not on assignment. He is asked to help find a rare fish off the Seychelles coast. This is more of an adventure type story, but not really good. Overall, story compilations are always difficult to rate because the stories are uneven, but where this anthology works is giving us more nuance to James Bond as a character and a person. (He fantasizes about meeting a woman and marrying her.)

What should be glaringly evident is that despite the trigger warnings I have given for all of Fleming’s James Bond stories, I am quite enjoying these books. I recognize them to be the pure escapist fiction they are, despite Fleming’s actual real-life background in British Intelligence. If anything, his history adds an air of authority and authenticity to the books.

I am going to end this on that note. I am enthused that our Anniversary is just a few short days away. Thank you as always for reading our posts. We love you. Take care. See ya! Peace!

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