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007 #1
by Asa Butcher
2008-05-28 07:53:14
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Casino Royale
Ian Fleming
Jonathan Cape, 1953

May 28th 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth, so I decided to commemorate the day by reviewing the first literary appearance of everybody's favourite English spy. James Bond, secret agent and dedicated gambler, made his debut in the 1953 novel Casino Royale and established Ian Fleming as one of the 'most forceful writer of thrillers in England', at least according to Raymond Chandler, foremost author of detective novels, such as The Big Sleep.

For those who have only watched the twenty-one movies in the official franchise, it comes as a shock to encounter the book Bond, who is cold, calculated and callous. On occasion, the movies have tapped this harder characterisation, such as Timothy Dalton and even Pierce Brosnan. They both displayed the steel that is infamous with the fans of the 11 book Fleming series.

Casino Royale was not the first Bond book that I read, so my familiarity with the character had already been established and the initial shock with the differences overcome, but it was interesting to learn about Bond's roots and how he earns his 'double-0' rating - an area that will also feature in the forthcoming movie. Most of you will now be familiar with the story thanks to the 21st Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, yet there are distinct differences between book and film, as always. However, I shall let you read the book and determine them for yourself.

The novel's plot involves Bond being sent to France to engage Monsieur Le Chiffre, an agent for the Soviet assassination bureau SMERSH, in a high stakes game of baccarat. Intelligence has been received that Le Chiffre desperately needs to raise funds that he lost in a failed attempt to establish a chain of brothels. Bond is aided by the CIA's Felix Leiter and provided with a beautiful assistant called Vesper Lynd.

A twist to Casino Royale that I was not expecting was learning how to comprehensively play baccarat. In fact, you may feel that you could take on the mighty Le Chiffre yourself, although you wouldn't have the Bank of England bankrolling your stake. Understanding baccarat was helpful once the big match was under way, since it allowed you to submerse yourself in the tension rather than scratch your head grumbling, "What the hell is neuf á la banque?"

Don't expect the whole book to be set in a casino among the roulette wheels and croupiers because the story rolls on and takes a startling direction. Casino Royale teases the edges of romance and then dives into the heart of sadism, but the story is addictive; I finished the book in a day. I am now wondering whether the next Bond film will borrow anything more than the "Quantum of Solace" title from Fleming's For Your Eyes Only short story collection.

Happy birthday, Fleming, Ian Fleming.

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Clint2008-05-28 13:03:20
Good news is the release of Sebastian Faulks first Bond book following the coveted commission from Fleming's family.

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