Skip to main content

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Cover image © Penguin Viking
So, having read and enjoyed Casino Royale, I couldn't really resist reading Live and Let Die (1954). Most people who have seen the films maybe haven't read the books and frankly they're missing out. What has continued to delight me about the novels is the fact that they are a lot darker and more serious than the Bond films. 

In the second novel, James Bond is called into action to take on a Harlem gangster, Mr Big, and his network of criminality that inevitably leads back to SMERSH. The nature of Mr Big's activities revolves around the selling of 17th Century gold coins in order to bankroll Soviet spies' operations in the USA. Meaning that the locus of the tensions moves from British-Soviet relations to US-Soviet relations - the biggest area of tension during the Cold War. 

From Harlem and the jazz clubs, all the way to the Everglades, it seems that Mr Big's network is endless and this claustrophobia is recreated in Fleming's writing. The story eventually leads to the tropical paradise of Jamaica where Mr Big has his island base. 

There is of course the customary damsel in distress, Solitaire, who is able to see into the future. Having been used in the past by Mr Big to build his operations, she defects to assist Bond before being kidnapped and taken to Mr Big's mysterious island off the coast of mainland Jamaica. 

The action has serious pace, yet the novel does the depth of the characters a whole lot more justice than the film ever could. You really get a sense of the threat of the violence and edginess emanating from the voodoo underworld throughout - something lost in the technicolour campness of the 1973 film. 

Fleming's writing, it is clear to see, had developed by the time of writing the second Bond novel. The plot is a lot tighter and moves fluidly from chapter to chapter, almost always having a small cliffhanger at the end of each. Of particular interest to modern readers are the terms by which Fleming refers to the black characters. Words such as 'purple' to describe very dark skin tone, 'nigger' and 'negress' are all terms that show the novel is of its time - whether the use of such words is racist, or just displaying the mild ignorance of the period, is for scholars to decide.

Review for Live and Let Die adapted from an Ayohcee review previously available on LivingSocial:Books before the closure of that site.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called