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Mr Fleming's licensed assassin is in good form ... Few men can have been able to mix business with pleasure so successfully as Bond The Times Literary Supplement
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ian Fleming (1908-1964), creator of the world's best-known secret agent, is the author of fourteen James Bond books. Born in London in 1908 and educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he became the Reuters Moscow correspondent in 1929. In the spring of 1939, Fleming went back to Moscow as a special correspondent for the London Times. In June of that same year, he joined Naval Intelligence and served throughout World War II, finally earning the rank of Commander, RNVSR (Sp.). Much of the James Bond material was drawn directly from Fleming's experiences as an intelligence officer. Later, Fleming became a consultant on foreign affairs for the London Sunday Times, by which time he had become far better known as the creator of James Bond.
Ian Fleming was born in London on May 28, 1908. He was educated at Eton College and later spent a formative period studying languages in Europe. His first job was with Reuters News Agency where a Moscow posting gave him firsthand experience with what would become his literary bete noire--the Soviet Union. During World War II he served as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence and played a key role in Allied espionage operations.
After the war he worked as foreign manager of the Sunday Times, a job that allowed him to spend two months each year in Jamaica. Here, in 1952, at his home "Goldeneye," he wrote a book called Casino Royale--and James Bond was born. The first print run sold out within a month. For the next twelve years Fleming produced a novel a year featuring Special Agent 007, the most famous spy of the century. His travels, interests, and wartime experience lent authority to everything he wrote. Raymond Chandler described him as "the most forceful and driving writer of thrillers in England." Sales soared when President Kennedy named the fifth title, From Russia With Love, one of his favorite books. The Bond novels have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide, boosted by the hugely successful film franchise that began in 1962 with the release of Dr. No.
He married Anne Rothermere in 1952. His story about a magical car, written in 1961 for their only son Caspar, went on to become the well-loved novel and film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Fleming died of heart failure on August 12, 1964, at the age of fifty-six.
The eighth book published in the 007 series is not a self-contained novel, but rather a collection of five short stories-two of which are kind of shoehorned in and aren't really typical Bond pieces. The first story, "From A View To A Kill", is a pretty decent little Cold War espionage piece. In a well-crafted set piece introduction, a dispatch rider from Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers-Europe headquarters is ambushed and his documents stolen by Soviet spies. As a result of bureaucratic infighting (highly realistic, and doubtless drawn from Fleming's own intelligence experience), M sends Bond to try and figure out the security breakdown. It's a good tale, with an ingenious set of foes, probably the best story of the lot. In "For Your Eyes Only", Bond enters highly murky waters by taking a more or less personal assignment from M to track down the killers of an old friend. It's a highly topical late '50s piece, involving a former Nazi as mastermind, and henchmen drawn from the ranks of Cuban dictator Battista. Interestingly (in hindsight), Bond expresses real sympathy with the rebel Castro's struggle! To act as M's executioner, Bond must travel to Canada and then sneak across the US border to operate in Vermont, which is kind of interesting. Things take a turn for the ridiculous when he stumbles across another revenge seeker, wielding a bow and arrow. The middle story, "Quantum of Solace" isn't a Bond story at all. Rather, it's a story of disaffected marriage told to Bond by his host after a rather boring dinner party. It's actually quite good, but has nothing to do with Bond. "Risico" takes Bond back to action, and places him in Rome, where he is assigned to disrupt the flow of heroin into England.Read more ›
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To commemorate what would have been Ian Fleming's 100th birthday, on 5/28/08, and in anticipation of the latest James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," I recently reread Fleming's 1960 offering "For Your Eyes Only" for the first time in 30+ years. Of the 14 Fleming books featuring the exploits of the world's best-known secret agent, only "For Your Eyes Only" and the author's posthumous "Octopussy" (1966) consist of short stories, and the five collected in this earlier volume are a particularly good batch indeed. Two of them had been published previously; the other three were originals for this volume. All feature what is popularly known as the "Fleming Sweep"; the ability of the author, through fast pacing and a remarkable amount of picturesque detail, to make the reader accept even the most improbable of scenarios. And although two of these stories are not exactly espionage tales per se, they all provide insights into the fascinating character that is the literary 007.
The collection starts off strongly with "From a View to a Kill," in which Bond is given the task of finding out who has been murdering governmental dispatch riders on their motorbikes and stealing top-secret documents. The tale takes place in the suburbs of Paris and features some exciting gunplay at the conclusion, as well as an intriguing female ally, Mary Ann Russell, who we unfortunately do not get to know overly well.
In the title story, "For Your Eyes Only," Bond goes on a personal mission for his boss, M, whose old friends, the Havelocks, have just been killed by an ex-Gestapo agent named von Hammerstein and his Cuban hitmen.Read more ›
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All five stories included are good, but somehow uneven, making the overall rating hard to decide between a 7 and a 10. The first one, "From a View to a Kill", is fast-paced, good writing with a thrilling episode showing 007 in a motorbike being consciuosly chased by a foreign assassin. The hidden base of the unnamed enemies is another preview of the ellaborate headquarters Bond nemesis would use in the films. M is not present this time. This title was cut to "A View to a Kill" for the film, which resembles nothing of this compact short story. The title adventure is much more insightful, making one sweat with 007 as he approaches Gonzales place in the forest ready to shoot the man. The license to kill is more than justified by this tale only. Good heroine. "Quantum of Solace" is one of the strangest Bond episodes, actually being a story told to 007 in which he hasn't anything to do with. Bond's mission is interesting but put by Fleming in a single paragraph. It's the story of a married couple that makes this episode, and it's excellent. Really! It shows Fleming no short than in Somerset Maugham's level, with a lesson not of moral but of life (and leaving 007 questioning about HIS life). A jewel distant of the Bond canon, even more than "The Spy Who Loved Me". "Risico" is excellent Bond in a more traditional way. It's an adventure set in Italy and involving drug smugglers, with a terrific and human villain named Kristatos and an equally terrific and human ally named Colombo. The beach fight, the minefield run and the table-recorder are pure inspiration. The final story, "The Hildebrandt Rarity", is another off-the-track Bond, this time with a villain out of everyday life. Millionaire Milton Krest is nasty in the real sense.Read more ›
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