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Casino Royale (James Bond Novels) Mass Market Paperback – August 27, 2002
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From Library Journal
The allure of James Bond was best described by Raymond Chandler, who insisted that 007 is "what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets." Who can argue with that? This month marks the 40th anniversary of the film release of Dr. No, which was the first Bond adventure to make the big screen, and two big coffee-table books are being published to honor the occasion (LJ 10/1/02, p. 96). Shockingly, Fleming's original novels have gone out of print, but Penguin here reproduces a trio of the British secret agent's early outings, released in 1952, 1958, and 1959, respectively, sporting stylish cover art. These stories were racy for the nifty Fifties but are quite tame by today's standards. Still, they can be fun.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
Written during the height of the Cold War, Fleming's Bond novels were based on actual people and operations that Fleming had first hand knowledge of because of his highly placed role in British Naval Intelligence during WW II.
Rather than judge Casino Royale, or any of Fleming's Bond novels, by what you've seen in the movies, instead first learn about the real Operation Goldeneye; the real Operation Tracer; the real Operation Ruthless; the real No. 30 Commando Unit; the real Special Operations Executive; the real 10th Light Flotilla; the real "Smyert Shpionam"; the real Dusko Popov. The tradecraft, operations, units, events, and involved individuals were the very real WW II sources that Ian Fleming used in creating Bond and the world in which he moved. In chapter four of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", John Le Carre also alludes to a small group similar to Fleming's 00s as: "...about a dozen men, they worked solo, there to handle the hit-and-run jobs that were too risky" for Secret Intelligence Service agents stationed abroad.
Fleming's romanticized works have a ring of authenticity recognizable to anyone familiar with or who may have participated in events that occurred during those times. Read Casino Royale; travel back to a time when French was the only international language; a time when Joseph Stalin and the Soviet NKVD represented a very real threat; a time when people feared that threat; and a time when the governments of the Free World had very real people on the payroll like Fleming's fictional James Bond to counter that threat. Perhaps you'll see the same things in it that caused the first three printings to sell out quickly in the U.K., and that later made it a favorite of a Harvard graduate who happened also to be President of the United States.
At the time of Casino Royale (1951), Bond is about 30 years old and has held the 00 number for about six months. He earns the U.S. equivalent of about $5,600 annually (or about $50,000 in 2016 value), and drives a supercharged 1930 Bentley coupe that can reach 100 mph on a good day.
He spends what he earns. He knows that statistically he will have at least 10, probably 20, and as many as 30 very tough assignments before the mandatory 00 retirement age of 45. Too many. He knows the odds of his surviving the coming ten years are slim to none. And that depresses him. How do I know? Ian Fleming tells us so in Chapter One of "Moonraker" (third book in the series).
That's the Bond that Ian Fleming created. Much more interesting and gritty and real and human. That's the Bond Sean Connery portrayed until the Hollywood idiots ran amok after Goldfinger. It's the Bond Daniel Craig resurrected until the new crop of Hollywood fools screwed it up again with November 2015's Spectre.
I'll stick with the books, thank you very much!
Fleming's writing style, while perhaps not rising to the expectations of modern pedantic poseur literary critics, is easy to read and follow. As would be expected from a successful journalist writing for educated U.K. citizens of the 1950s, his audience would have been quite comfortable with his style; his adding color by use of some French terms and phrases in a novel that, after all, takes place in France; and whom would not have needed sub-titles to understand their context. I didn't find that aspect disruptive at all to the flow of the narrative.
If you want entertaining glitz, stick with the movies; if want something more, read the books! I've enjoyed them all immensely in the context of the time period in which they take place.
Bond fans may want to check out flemingsbond.com, a treasure trove of factual information upon which Fleming relied in writing the Bond novels, and "Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies" by John Griswald.
With all the feel of a pulp novel you might find on the shelf of a bookseller and then tell your friends about for decades with no expectation they will have heard of the work, some secret gem you cherish nonetheless, that draws you back time and again, Ian Fleming's premiere James Bond novel sneaks up on you. Like Marlowe and Chandler, Fleming and Bond remind you that SOMEtimes the masses get it right. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON the novels and authors and characters they choose to bestow popular status upon actually deserve it.
Fleming allows you to feel without forcing. Inviting you into Bond's world, and Bond's life, Bond's mind and most secret heart.
James Bond is a flawed man. A very real man. He has one superpower - that he has never had to admit the possibility of failure.
Boy, if that doesn't sum up the man we've seen embodied by Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, and (more closely) by George Lazenby and Daniel Craig.
Fleming provides texture to the world. Rapacity. But writes with a sparsity that focuses the reader to follow the threads of plot through the characters. It's modern noir. His work can be taken together as one whole, or Casino Royale may be taken alone as one singly important work perfectly capable of standing on its own. Either way, it's easy to envision Fleming's work uncovered in some future circumstance to stand as our generation's Gilgamesh or Beowulf. The work is fulfilling. The feeling at conclusion that this was a ride worth taking.
This kickstarter to the James Bond novels is written very well. From the start, Fleming creates a bond (no pun intended) between the reader and the cold, calculating spy that is James Bond. The atmosphere of the novel is indeed tense, and the expressions on the characters' faces are easily imagined. I was particularly impressed with the Le Chiffre character, who is written in a clear and convincing way. Fleming describes his facial expressions and mannerisms in a way that you feel almost familiar with him, and it's somewhat terrifying.
There is a torture scene that is quite difficult to read, but its aftermath is what makes the novel. Despite all his coldness, James Bond's humanity is revealed in his romance with Vesper Lynd. You can feel his happiness at possibly having found a soul mate, his frustration when the relationship sours, and most of all, his bitterness and deep hurt when Vesper denies both of them happiness by committing suicide and revealing herself to him in a suicide note.
In the end this is an enjoyable novel, though it feels a tad rushed, and is not really a "spy novel" per se. Only about half the book contains the "meat"- the poker battle with Le Chiffre and the later confrontation that sees Bond brutally tortured. The rest is more of a love story, but still provides valuable insight into the Bond character.
The physical book is well put together, I might add. I prefer the modernized look and design to the rather suggestive covers normally used on Bond novels in the past.