Friday, June 7, 2024


Dr. No is the sixth of Ian Fleming's Bond books, and in my opinion, the best. Oddly, it almost wasn't written. After From Russia With Love, Fleming thought he was likely done with Bond. But the reception of From Russia With Love, both critically and sales, was such that he decided to continue.

Unlike previous years, when Fleming headed to his 2-month vacation in January 1957 at his Goldeneye hideaway in Jamaica, he did not have a Bond book planned. But by happenstance, in March of 1956 he had been invited to visit Great Inagua Cay, a desolate marshland island in the Bahamas that hosted birds, mountains of guano (bird shit) and two naturalists.  

The island was both hideous and attractive to Fleming. So when he decided to continue writing, it was a natural fit for the next Bond book. 

Dr. No slides into the middle of the great late-50s trio of the best Bond books -- From Russia with Love, Dr. No and Goldfinger. More than 60 years after it was first written, Dr. No still maintains its fast-pace edge. It is Fleming's writing at its best. In fact, a few years ago I read a book on writing that used Dr. No as one of three books that exemplify great thriller writing.

All the elements of Bond books come together here - the mysterious villain who isn't seen until the last part of the book; the exotic setting in Jamaica; the tense action, and of course Honey Rider, whose appearance in the book is sans swimsuit.

Because of legal entanglements, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to scrap the original plans to use Thunderball as the movie-world's introduction to James Bond, and instead opted for Dr. No. And the world hasn't been the same since.

Fans of the movies will notice many of the scenes are drawn directly from the book -- more so than any of the other movies. This book is about as good as Bond gets.

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