Dr. No was Ian Fleming’s sixth Bond book published in 1958 and by this stage he had perfected the now famous ingredients of exotic locations, beautiful women, danger and a super villain hell-bent on dastardly deeds.
Bond is assigned to Jamaica for a routine investigation into the disappearance of the Kingston station chief and his secretary – as well as resting up after a nasty incident with Rosa Klebb’s poisoned knitting needles (surely every spy’s nemesis?) in From Russia with Love.
It is on the beach at Crab Key whilst investigating the mysterious Dr.No that we are introduced to the (naked) Bond girl, Honeychile Rider, who interestingly has a broken nose and collects and sells shells in order pay for a nose job!
As for the villain himself, Dr. No is described as six-foot six, bald and has steel pincers for hands due to an argument with a gang over a large amount of money.
Dr. No is an exciting and well-paced quick read, making it a quintessential Bond Story and an ideal introduction to the series. Someone really should make it into a film!
After transporting readers to the exciting locations of France, America and Jamaica in his first two books Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, where I hear you ask did Fleming set his third book? Dover!
Moonraker was released in 1955 and although has nothing to do with the Moon or outer space as the title implies (it’s completely set in England), this doesn’t lessen the excitement of what is another classic Bond book.
The mission that takes Bond to Dover (yes I know but run with it) starts with M’s suspicions that a member of Blades private members club is cheating at cards. Apparently in the 1950s, this was tantamount to high treason and warrants an investigation – into the renowned industrialist and suspected card cheat, Sir Hugo Drax.
Without the distraction of exotic settings, Moonraker feels more of a realistic spy thriller, especially when we are treated to an insight into Bond’s home life and mundane working day (when he isn’t off across the world seducing the ladies that is).
The Heat is On
Released in 1953, Casino Royale is the first ever Bond book which quickly and decisively introduces the reader into the world of James Bond in an accomplished spy thriller.
For his first mission, Bond is sent to France in order to beat the Russian agent Le Chiffre at Baccarat. If you’re not familiar with the rules of this particular card game, don’t worry you’ll be an expert by the end of the book.
Bond’s character is firmly established, often captured in minute details from his choice of cigarettes to what he wears and eats. A book that guarantees to make you hungry even if you have no idea what a dish of plain grilled rognon de veau with pommes soufflées is!
The first lucky lady who gets to fall in love with Bond is Vesper Lynd, a complicated woman who is sent by MI6 to assist Bond with his mission to thrash Le Chiffre.
From Russia With Love
Those fiendish Russians are at it again and for Fleming’s fifth book From Russia with Love, SMERSH are out to murder Bond and destroy his reputation for good measure. Bit excessive.
Lured to Istanbul by the beautiful Tatiana Romanov who, not only has a crush on Bond, but also offers an opportunity to get one over her Russian paymasters, this book is a classic espionage story which is crammed with glamour, intrigue and exciting action sequences. Who can forget a fight to the death on the Orient Express involving a gun in a book and Rosa Klebb dressed as an old lady with a deadly telephone! Classic.
As with all of the Bond books, although there are plenty of exciting plot points and highlights which are perfect for turning into a screenplay, Fleming also provides a wealth of background detail relevant for each mission. In From Russia with Love, we are treated to the back story of the Soviets grand plan to kill Bond and as such 007 doesn’t appear until chapter 12.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
It’s fair to say that Bond had embarked on more than a few love affairs over the course of the ten previous novels, however On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is undoubtedly the one true love story in the series.
The object of Bond’s true affection is the beautiful, headstrong Tracy(!), short for the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, who he saves from drowning herself on a beach in France.
This book features the second of three appearances of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is head of the criminal organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
Bond’s mission is to locate and eliminate Blofeld after he stole nuclear warheads and held the world to ransom in Thunderball, as you do! 007’s journey not only leads him into the arms of Tracy, but several other young ladies in Switzerland whilst masquerading as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray in his hunt for Blofeld.
A thrilling and tragic book which explores an evolved Bond as he considers his career and finally settling down.
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