Tuesday, May 7, 2024


 Live and Let Die is the second book in Ian Fleming's iconic James Bond series. For those who know Bond only through the movies, there is some similarity in the movie to this book, but it is mostly limited to a few characters and settings (Mr. Big, Solitaire, Harlem and the Caribbean.)

Live and Let Die features Bond up against Russian spy service SMERSH  and its "negro" agent Mr. Big. Bond's love interest is the mystical Solitaire. Bond, with the help of CIA agent Felix Leiter, is tracking down Mr. Big's use of Captain Henry Morgan's buried treasure to help communist efforts in the United States. 

It sounds a bit far-fetched, but the plot really works. And the danger of Mr. Big is brought home when one of the major characters suffers catastrophic injuries.

Reading Live and Let Die is like stepping into a time capsule, transporting the reader to the early 1950s, when most travel was by train and places like Harlem, St. Petersburg, FL and Jamaica were exotic places most readers would never visit.

If you're reading the original book, the references to black characters are dated and will cause modern day readers to cringe a bit, (mostly "negros," but I don't think the N-word is ever used).  However the book reflects the reality of perceptions of the time, and is a good history reminder. NOTE; if you're reading the 2023 70th Anniversary release of the Bond novels, they have been re-edited to change some references and language that is now considered offensive. This particularly applies to Live and Let Die.

This is the book where Fleming really begins to his Bond formula. It's a quality thriller that hurtles along at break-neck speed until its dramatic conclusion. Unlike Casino Royale, Bond does not spend time in self-introspection. Nor does the climactic scene come two-thirds of the way through the book. 

The book is noteworthy for being the first of several Bond books and short stories set in the Caribbean, which Fleming loved. He wrote each of the Bond books at his Goldeneye home on the north shore of Jamaica where he vacationed for two months each winter. 

If you keep in mind the time in which this book was written, it is well-worth reading.

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