Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Nearly every noted series, whether mystery, detective or thriller, has a seminal book -- the book that ties together what has gone before and serves as a foundation for what follows. For Ian Fleming and James Bond, that book is From Russia With Love. 

Written in 1957 and published in 1958, From Russia With Love is the fifth of the Bond books. The earlier books had been well received, but they were not mega-best sellers. None had exceeded 12,000 copies sold in the UK, and sales in the bigger U.S. market were minimal. By all accounts, Fleming was beginning to tire of the series, and considered killing off his hero, which led to the ambiguous ending of this book.

But From Russia With Love sold better than the earlier books. More importantly for Fleming, the book drew positive reviews and, most importantly, a rave comment from noted thriller writer Eric Ambler. This prompted Fleming to continue the series by writing Dr. No. 

Three years later, in March, 1961, newly-elected President Kennedy's voracious reading habit and his amazing 1,200 word per minute reading rate were the subject of an article in Life Magazine. He also listed his ten favorite books. Most were in-depth biographies and histories, but coming in at #9 was the only popular fiction book on the list -- Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love. Instantly, Fleming's James Bond books rocketed onto bestseller lists. 

The plot centers on a Russian scheme to lure Bond to Istanbul with a pretty girl and a chance for British Secret Service to get their hands on the Russians ultra-secret coding machine. The plot runs from one exciting encounter to another, including the incredible gypsy camp scene (one of the best-written scenes ever in any thriller), the billboard shooting through the mouth of Marilyn Monroe (in the movie, it's Elke Summer), to the iconic ride on the Orient Express.

For fans of the Bond films, this book will seem very familiar. Of all the Bond films, this is the one that most closely follows the book. The two major differences are the absence of the super crime organization SPECTRE, and, because of the presence of SPECTRE in the movie, the name of the Russians secret coding device is changed from Spekter to Lecter. 

This book elevated Bond to an entirely new level. It is a MUST READ for any Bond fan, and indeed for anyone who enjoys a good book.

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