Wednesday, June 19, 2024


For his eighth James Bond book, published in 1960, Ian Fleming took a different approach. This is not a novel at all, but rather a collection of five short stories that reveal things about Bond's character. To Bond movie fans, three of the stories carry familiar names: the titular For Your Eyes Only, From a View to a Kill and Quantum of Solace. But only one of the stories, Risico, will seem familiar to Bond movie fans.  

Here's a brief summary of the five stories in the order they appear in the book. 

From a View to a Kill. A NATO motorcycle courier is killed and his top secret papers are stolen. Bond is called in to investigate, almost like an international policeman rather than a spy. The story is intriguing in that for the first time, Bond must deal with the multi-national politics of NATO and the internal political maneuvering between M and NATO.

For Your Eyes Only. Bond becomes the instrument of M's personal revenge. A retired British Colonel and his wife living in Jamaica are ruthlessly murdered by a Batista thug in an effort to secure a Jamaica estate to which the Batista henchman can escape from Cuba in the face of the Castro revolution. But the couple were personal friends of M. He sends Bond to Canada to assassinate the killers. But Bond is surprised when the victim's grown daughter beats him to the scene.

Quantum of Solace. Perhaps the most unusual of all Bond stories. On a business trip to the Bahamas in the waning days of British rule, Bond spends an evening listening to the Colonial Governor telling a tale of an up-and-coming diplomatic officer whose life is ruined by a harlot wife. That's the entire story. There is no other action other than the post-dinner storytelling, yet I love the Hitchcock-like concluding twist. A quantum of solace, by the way, is a term of the story-telling governor's invention meaning the minimal amount of attachment between a couple that holds them together, and without which, they cannot stay together.

Risico. Attentive Bond movie fans will recognize this story as part of the plot in the movie "For Your Eyes Only." Bond is sent on an assignment to disrupt the opium supply from Italy into England. Bond is thrown into the conflicting world of smugglers Kristatos and Colombo, both of whom paint the other as the true drug smuggler. Who will Bond believe?  By the way, one of the best scenes of any Roger Moore Bond movie is taken directly from the conclusion of this short story.

The Hildebrand Rarity. Bond has completed an assignment on a South Pacific island, and now has several days before his return. A friend, Fiedel, talks Bond into joining him on an extravagant yacht owned by a wealthy American and his wife as they search for a tiny six-inch tropical fish termed Hildebrand Rarity, which has previously only been seen once. But what happens is far from a simple fishing trip.

This book contains some of Fleming's best writing. Don't expect the taut adventures of Dr. No or Goldfinger. Instead, you will find a more subtle Bond, and one well worth reading.

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