April 08, 2004

Deep in the Heart

Having read Goldfinger and From Russia With Love (pace, Burgess, but, as is often the case, I'm with JFK on this one -- I much preferred the latter novel, despite its disappointing ending: Hint, remember the shoes Lotte Lenya--Rosa Kleb in the film--wore? They were involved...), I decided to take a tour through the rest of the Fleming oeuvre. I've noted this tendency in myself before -- in the past, I've gone on Raymond Chandler, Michael Dibdin, Ross MacDonald and Dashiell Hammett kicks -- usually when I've reached a mental nadir and want to fill every conscience moment not filled with work or family or what not with pleasurable fiction. I want a story and I want it told well. I'm happy to say Fleming, in very economical prose, has delivered.

So now I'm reading Casino Royale, the very first of the Bond novels, where we meet Felix Leiter (who is described as looking nothing like Jack Lord, but that's to be expected), hear of some M fellow, and of course are introduced to Bond. The opening paragraph of the novel make one want to read the next:

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling -- a compost of greed and tension -- becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

There follows high stakes gambling with a Soviet agent, assassination attempts, a car chase, torture, a near escape -- all quite thrilling. I particularly liked the passage when Felix Leiter is introduced:

It turned out that Leiter was from Texas. While he talked on about his job with the Joint Intelligence Staff of NATO and the difficulty of maintaining security in an organization where so many nationalities were represented, Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.

Leiter, we learn, is also an ex-Marine.

Posted by Ideofact at April 8, 2004 11:44 PM