After Sir Roger Moore’s death, Dad asked me if I had ever read any James Bond novels. He seemed disappointed when I said the only Ian Fleming story I had ever read was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so I bought a copy of Casino Royale.
I read the whole book one Sunday afternoon, sitting outside in the sun. The story is fast-paced and an absolute page-turner. I was surprised to find James Bond’s character to be much more human than the almost superhero-like character he is in the movies.
Casino Royale is during the Cold War and is quite dated, in that all of the men are think only about woman either in terms of how sexually attractive and available they are, or as nuisances who get in the way of the actual business. I am pleased to say that one female character cleverly uses these prejudices to her own advantage.
Most of the characters chain smoke and drink heavily. If they were real people they would smell like ashtrays, with tobacco-stained fingers and tongues, and be loud and slurry and fall over from all of the alcohol they drink. Personally, I wouldn’t trust anyone who drank that much with government secrets or with guns, but since this is fiction the characters dress glamorously, say witty, clever things, gamble enormous amounts of money at the Casino, drive fabulous cars (without smashing them while driving drunk) and physically, are devastatingly attractive.
In Casino Royale James Bond drives a Bentley, but in the James Bond movies, the character drives an Aston Martin. There was so much product placement in this book that it was noticeable while reading, Ian Fleming certainly didn’t leave his readers wondering about what brand of anything James Bond uses. I actually enjoyed all of the descriptions, which gave me a mental picture of the casino at Royale-les-Eaux, which is a fictional seaside resort in France based on real places. I know what Vesper Lynd, (the Bond Girl in this book) looks like and what type of clothes she wears. Most importantly, I know exactly what ingredients go into a Vesper Martini from the instructions James Bond gave to a barman when he ordered a particular drink which was to be “shaken, not stirred.”
There are some nasty torture scenes in the story and as previously noted, Ian Fleming provides a lot of description. I skipped over the parts that made me feel squeamish. However, James Bond escaped, and while he didn’t come out completely unscathed, at least he lived to die another day. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…) The story and the torture scenes explain why James Bond went on to save the world from SMERSH baddies in all of the books that followed.
I’m glad I read Casino Royale but probably won’t rush out to read another James Bond novel. I am due for a re-read of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang though.