Sunday, July 7, 2024

JAMES BOND BOOK #11: ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE

On Her Majesty's Secret Service, published in 1963, is the second of the Blofeld trilogy. It was published to strong reviews just weeks before release of the first Bond film, Dr. No.

This book is most well known to Bond aficionados as the book where James Bond gets married. But more importantly, it marks a return of Ian Fleming to his full stride following a nearly 4-year lean stretch after Goldfinger. In the intervening years, he wrote only Thunderball, which was adapted from a failed screenplay, a short story collection (For Your Eyes Only) of previously published stories, and the failed novel from a female perspective (The Spy Who Loved Me) which was so poorly reviewed that Fleming initially prohibited a paperback version from being published. 

But On Her Majesty's Secret Service is all Fleming, and ranks among the better books in the series. Bond meets Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo, and her crime boss father, Marc-Ange Draco. It is Draco who helps Bond locate Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is disguised and hiding in a fortress in the Alps after the failed project that was the subject of Thunderball. Now Blofeld is plotting his next attack, this one on the world's food supply with the help of 10 unwitting young women.

Bond takes the identity of a British expert in heraldry, Sir Hilary Bray (the name borrowed from one of Fleming's closest friends). Undercover, he travels to Switzerland and confronts Blofeld. Bond narrowly escapes in a tense mountain chase, one of the best chase scenes in any Bond book. He  escapes only when he is rescued by Tracy. But with the help of Draco, he mounts an attack on Blofeld's fortress. Any Bond fan knows how it ends, but for those who have spent the past decades living in a cave, I won't spoil it. 

This is Ian Fleming and James Bond at their best. A really great thriller written just on the cusp of Bond's breakout success on the big screen. It is a MUST READ for any Bond fan.