The James Bond Novels and Stories

Part 1: Ian Fleming, 1953-1966

Overview by Raymond Benson
Rated on a 5-star system.

Novelists: Ian Fleming | Kingsley Amis | John Gardner | Raymond Benson | Sebastian Faulks | Jeffrey Deaver

[Casino Royale book cover]

Casino Royale (1953) ****½

Places: Royale-les-Eaux (resort in N.E. France)
Girl(s): Vesper Lynd
Villain(s): Le Chiffre
Villain's Employer: SMERSH (but labor relations not good)
Villain's Project: Winning at casino to recoup misappropriated SMERSH funds
Minor Villain(s): Assorted Bulgars
Bond's Friends: Rene Mathis; Felix Leiter
Highlights: Camera bomb; Bond's baccarat duel with Le Chiffre; carpet beater torture; shooting of Le Chiffre
Remarks: Most atmospheric of all the novels; most serious and violent of all the novels; Bond at his coldest and most ruthless


[Live and Let Die book cover]

Live and Let Die (1954) ****½

Places: New York; Florida; Jamaica
Girl(s): Solitaire
Villain(s): Mr. Big
Villain's Employer: SMERSH
Villain's Project: Financing SMERSH operators with pirate hoard
Minor villain(s): The Robber; Tee Hee; assorted Negro hoods
Bond's Friends: Felix Leiter; Quarrel
Highlights: Encounter in Harlem with Mr. Big; fight in fish warehouse; Bond's swim; climax in coral lagoon
Remarks: Fleming sweep at its best; one of the most exciting novels, though lacking in characterizations


[Moonraker book cover]

Moonraker (1955) ****

Places: London; Kent
Girl(s): Gala Brand
Villain(s): Hugo Drax
Villain's Employer: USSR
Villain's Project: Destroying London with nuclear rocket
Minor villain(s): Willy Krebs; assorted German scientists
Bond's Friends: None
Highlights: Bridge game at Blades; chase with newsprint roll wreck; ordeal with blowtorch and steam hose
Remarks: Lack of suspense, but stronger in character development; best glimpse of Bond's London life


[Diamonds are Forever book cover]

Diamonds Are Forever (1956) **½

Places: French Guinea; London; New York; Saratoga; Las Vegas; Spectreville; Los Angeles
Girl(s): Tiffany Case
Villain(s): Jack Spang (Rufus B. Saye); Seraffimo Spang
Villain's Employer: Syndicate (The Spangled Mob)
Villain's Project: Running diamond smuggling pipeline out of Africa into USA
Minor villain(s): Wint; Kidd; Shady Tree
Bond's Friends: Felix Leiter; Ernest Cureo
Highlights: Bond/Leiter reunion; mud bath sequence; railroad chase
Remarks: Weakest of early books because changes of locales are too fast; contains some tense moments, however


[From Russia with Love book cover]

From Russia, With Love (1957) *****

Places: USSR; London; Istanbul; Orient Express; Paris
Girl(s): Tatiana Romanova
Villain(s): Rosa Klebb; Red Grant
Villain's Employer: SMERSH
Villain's Project: Assassinating Bond
Minor villain(s): General G.; Kronsteen; Krilencu
Bond's Friends: Darko Kerim; Vavra; Rene Mathis
Highlights: Assassination planning; gypsy camp sequence; shooting of Krilencu; fight with Grant; fight with Klebb
Remarks: Best book in the series; most successful blend of action and character


[Dr. No]

Doctor No (1958) *****

Places: London; Jamaica; Crab Key Island
Girl(s): Honeychile Rider
Villain(s): Dr. Julius No
Villain's Employer: USSR (but on freelance terms)
Villain's Project: Playing hell with U.S. missiles by beaming wrong "instructions" at them
Minor villain(s): Assorted "Chigroes"
Bond's Friends: Quarrel; Pleydell-Smith
Highlights: Centipede ordeal; "dragon"; No's establishment; obstacle course; fight with squid
Remarks: Most implausible of the books, yet one of the most exciting and suspenseful; very imaginative


[Goldfinger]

Goldfinger (1959) ***

Places: Miami; London; Kent; N. France; New York; Ft. Knox, Kentucky
Girl(s): Pussy Galore; Tilly Masterson; Jill Masterson
Villain(s): Auric Goldfinger
Villain's Employer: SMERSH
Villain's Project: Seizing all the gold in Ft. Knox
Minor villain(s): Oddjob
Bond's Friends: Felix Leiter
Highlights: Canasta ploy; golf game; Oddjob's demonstration; Ft. Knox operation; climax in plane
Remarks: Slower moving than most; lacks suspense; rich in characterization


[For Your Eyes Only book cover]

For Your Eyes Only (1960) ***½

  1. "From a View to a Kill"
    Places: Paris and environs
    Girl(s): Mary Ann Russell
    Villain(s): Russian spy group
    Villain's Employer: USSR
    Villain's Project: Ambushing SHAPE dispatch riders
    Minor villain(s): None
    Bond's Friends: None
    Highlights: Discovery of hideout in woods; shooting of executioner
    Remarks: Compressed and well-told yarn

  2. "For Your Eyes Only"
    Places: Jamaica; London; Ottawa; N. Vermont
    Girl(s): Judy Havelock
    Villain(s): Von Hammerstein
    Villain's Employer: Self-employed
    Villain's Project: Blackmailing, murdering, etc.
    Minor villain(s): Gonzales
    Bond's Friends: None
    Highlights: Bond/M scene; gun and bow-and-arrow battle
    Remarks: Best story in collection; good characterizations

  3. "Quantum of Solace"
    Places: Nassau, with anecdote set in Bermuda
    Girl(s): None
    Villain(s): None
    Villain's Employer: None
    Villain's Project: None
    Minor villain(s): None
    Bond's Friends: The governor
    Highlights: None
    Remarks: A Maughamish anecdote recounted to Bond; full of character; never boring

  4. "Risico"
    Places: Rome; Venice and environs; Santa Maria
    Girl(s): Lisl Baum
    Villain(s): Kristatos
    Villain's Employer: USSR
    Villain's Project: Dope running aimed at demoralizing England
    Minor villain(s): Smugglers
    Bond's Friends: Colombo
    Highlights: Tape-recorder ploy; beach chase; quayside gun battle
    Remarks: Changes locale too fast for a short story; good characters

  5. "The Hildebrand Rarity"
    Places: At sea off Chagrin Island (Indian Ocean)
    Girl(s): Liz Krest
    Villain(s): Milton Krest
    Villain's Employer: Self-employed
    Villain's Project: Catching rare fish and flogging it to Smithsonian Institute; wife beating
    Minor villain(s): None
    Bond's Friends: Fidele Barbey
    Highlights: Catching of fish; death of Krest
    Remarks: Very different sort of story; Bond's human side shows strongly


[Thunderball book cover]

Thunderball (1961) ****½

Places: Sussex; Paris; London; Bahamas
Girl(s): Domino Vitali; Patricia Fearing
Villain(s): Ernst Stavro Blofeld; Emilio Largo
Villain's Employer: SPECTRE
Villain's Project: Blackmailing Western governments by threat of hijacked nuclear bombs
Minor villain(s): Count Lippe; Petacchi
Bond's Friends: Felix Leiter
Highlights: Rack ordeal; hijacking of bombs; chemin de fer game with Largo; swim under Disco; finding plane; underwater battle
Remarks: Fast moving and exciting; rich in detail


[Spy Who Loved Me book cover]

The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) **½

Places: Adirondacks; flashbacks to London and Toronto
Girl(s): Vivienne Michel
Villain(s): Horror; Sluggsy
Villain's Employer: Mr. Sanguinetti
Villain's Project: Burning down motel for insurance, and burning Vivienne too
Minor villain(s): None
Bond's Friends: None
Highlights: Cinema seduction; Bond's entrance; night battle with thugs
Remarks: Female viewpoint handled with imagination, but somewhat flawed; last third of novel thrilling


On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) *****

[OHMSS book cover]

Places: Royale; London; Swiss Alps; "Quarterdeck"; Munich
Girl(s): Tracy di Vicenzo; Ruby Windsor
Villain(s): Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Villain's Employer: SPECTRE
Villain's Project: Infecting Britain with crop and livestock pests
Minor villain(s): Irma Bunt
Bond's Friends: Marc-Ange Draco
Highlights: Beach scene; arrival of Campbell; ski escape; battle at Piz Gloria; murder of Tracy
Remarks: One of the best of the later novels; full of detail and suspense; tragic ending


[You Only Live Twice book cover]

You Only Live Twice (1964) *****

Places: London; Tokyo; Kyoto; Fukuoka; Kuro Island
Girl(s): Kissy Suzuki
Villain(s): Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Villain's Employer: Self-employed
Villain's Project: Enticing people to commit suicide in private poisonous garden
Minor villain(s): Irma Bunt
Bond's Friends: Tiger Tanaka; Dikko Henderson
Highlights: Discovery of Shatterhand's identity; exploration of garden; fight with Blofeld
Remarks: Another one of the best books; atmospheric and haunting; more symbolic than most; travelogue interesting but unnecessary


[The Man With the Golden Gun book cover]

The Man With the Golden Gun (1965) **

Places: London; Jamaica
Girl(s): Mary Goodnight
Villain(s): Pistols Scaramanga
Villain's Employer: Castro and the USSR
Villain's Project: Damaging Western interests, especially sugar, in Caribbean
Minor villain(s): Hendriks; assorted hoods
Bond's Friends: Felix Leiter; Nick Nicholson
Highlights: Assassination attempt on M; train battle; duel in swamp
Remarks: Weakest novel in the series; lacks the rich detail from other novels; unfinished

Octopussy and the Living Daylights (1966) **

(Note: Original hardbook cover only contained the 1st 2 stories; paperback edition contained a 3rd)

[Octopussy book cover]

  1. "Octopussy"
    Places: Jamaica, with flashback to Kaiser mountains in Germany
    Girl(s): None
    Villain(s): Major Dexter Smythe
    Villain's Employer: Self-employed
    Villain's Project: Living off stolen Reichsbank gold
    Minor villain(s): None
    Bond's Friends: None
    Highlights: Flashback scene on mountain top
    Remarks: Not much here; more of a morality tale than a secret service story

  2. "The Living Daylights"
    Places: London; West Berlin
    Girl(s): None
    Villain(s): "Trigger"
    Villain's Employer: USSR
    Villain's Project: Assassinating Western agent who is attempting to escape from USSR to West Berlin
    Minor villain(s): None
    Bond's Friends: Capt. Paul Sender (though not really a friend)
    Highlights: M/Bond scene; shooting of Trigger
    Remarks: Best story in this collection; interesting twist at end

  3. "The Property of a Lady"
    Places: London
    Girl(s): None
    Villain(s): Unidentified resident director of KGB in London
    Villain's Employer: USSR
    Villain's Project: Pushing the bid at an auction as high as possible to pay off a Russian agent
    Minor villain(s): Maria Freudenstein
    Bond's Friends: Kenneth Snowman
    Highlights: None
    Remarks: Weak ending; lacks suspense; solving of mystery too easy


Next Section:

John Gardner began writing James Bond novels in 1981

[Bedside Companion]The above information is compiled from my book The James Bond Bedside Companion, first published by Dodd Mead & Co. 1984 and updated in 1988. I have also included information since that publication. The charts are based on one by Kingsley Amis appearing in The James Bond Dossier published by Jonathan Cape Ltd. I have updated it and substituted my own "Highlights" and "Remarks." Any duplication or further use is unauthorized and prohibited without permission of the author. The 5-star rating system applied to each book is my own humble opinion. -- RB
Copyright ©1984, 1988, 1995 by Raymond Benson


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