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Beautiful, fortune-telling Solitaire is the prisoner (and tool) of Mr. Big - master of fear, artist in crime, and Voodoo Baron of Death. James Bond has no time for superstition - he knows that Big is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, 007 has realized that Mr. Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced . . .


First published April 5, 1954

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About the author

Ian Fleming

235 books2,845 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist, and commander in the royal Navy during the Second World War. He was a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond and chronicling his adventures in twelve novels and nine short stories. Additionally, Fleming wrote the children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two non-fiction books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,974 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
3,786 reviews69k followers
June 14, 2022
Ho-ly shit, you are terrible at your job, Mr. Bond.


I wondered if Casino Royale was some sort of Batman Year One kind of thing and James would begin to progress as an agent with each book.
No. No, he has not.
It's as though Mr. Bean were given a license to kill and set loose on the world.


Once again, Bond is caught completely unawares over and over again. He not only fails to notice fairly obvious traps, but in a spectacularly stupid move he also blatantly ignores the bad feeling his clairvoyant love interest has in being left alone.
Insisting she will be fine when he leaves her alone.
Just lock the door, babe.
He then has the gall to be shocked when she immediately gets kidnapped by the villain.


He's also off sniffing his farts as his friend, the American agent Felix Leiter, gets parts of himself literally EATEN OFF BY A SHARK.
And survives! Because he is a badass, and I'll admit that was kind of a cool twist.


Though, unlike in the 1st book, Bond plays an active role in taking out the bad guys by planting some underwater bombs.
Oh, he still gets captured. And it's still pure luck that he and Solitare survive, but at least this time around he can say he took out some of the agents.
Agents of arguably the dumbest acronym to say out loud.
SMASH, you say?


Now, if you've read this one you'll know what I'm talking about when I say it's filled to the brim with hyper-cringy backhanded compliments towards black people. And of course, he wouldn't be Bond if he didn't think women were like toilet paper - soft, necessary, and ultimately flushable. It's an awkward ride, and believe me, you feel every moment of it.


The absolute best part of the book is when they end up in the Tampa/St Pete area surrounded by a plethora of retirees. Felix and James roll their eyes at the decrepit oldsters and decide death is better than retiring to Florida to play shuffleboard, but I think they'll both change their minds someday.
Because on top of fantastic weather, Florida has the best pony rides!


While it may not sound like it, I'm actually quite enjoying these books. Yes, it's interesting to read the origins of the greatest secret agent in pop culture, but there's also the added bonus that these books are an incredible amount of fun in a so-bad-its-good sort of way.
You're a trainwreck, James. And I can't look away.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,047 reviews1,802 followers
April 29, 2015
Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen - we're in for another wild ride of racism and misogyny in the second James Bond book.

James Bond dives into the world of "Negro criminals," traveling from New York City to Florida to the grand finale in Jamaica. All this is on account of some old gold coins from a legendary pirate treasure showing up. The British and American governments have the idea that Mr. Big is in possession of the treasure - a huge, towering black man whose nickname comes not only from his size but his initials: his real name is Buonaparte Ignace Gallia.

The racism in this book is off the charts. I started off my reading by marking down each racist comment but stopped when I realized I was marking every page. Bond constantly refers to black people as "superstitious," and boasts that - unlike them - he grew out of being afraid of the dark as a child. He says this because there is a huge, huge practice of voodoo going on in this book. No matter where Bond goes - NYC, Florida, or Jamaica - every black man he meets (he never talks with a black woman) is absolutely certain and afraid of zombies, voodoo curses, and witchcraft.

The n-word is also used regularly, with one chapter even entitled "N***** Heaven."

The only black women that appear in the book are sexual, animalistic creatures. One is a stripper who entertains in a club in Harlem. She dances to voodoo drumming. She is described by Bond as having a face like a pug (dog), which he specifically refers to as a "chienne" face - that is, the face of a bitch. As in, literally he's comparing her to a female dog. Not "bitch" like "unpleasant female." So this woman does this striptease and is working the (black, male) audience into an almost uncontrollable sexual frenzy. She's (at the end) ordered to strip completely naked but at that moment the lights go out, Bond gets kidnapped and that's all we get about her.

The only other black woman in the book is on a date with her boyfriend at a bar. Bond is spying on them - not because they are of any importance but because he feels like "he's in enemy territory" in this "Negro world" and he wants to get a better idea of ... I don't know ... what motivations, dreams, and desires black people have? The conversation between the man and his date is rife with ... I don't know what it's called ... when authors write out an accent phonetically.

"Cmon, honey," wheedled the girl. "How come yuh-all's actin' so tahd tonight?"
"Guess ah jusit nacherlly gits tahd listenin' at yuch," said the man languidly. "Why'nt yuh hush yo' mouff'n let me 'joy mahself 'n peace n' quiyet."
"Is yuh wan' me tuh go 'way, honey?"
"Yuh kin suit yo sweet self."
"Aw, honey," pleaded the girl. "Don' ack mad at me, honey. Ah was fixin' to treat yuh tonight..."

This conversation goes on for a while, and it's basic premise is the "girl" cajoling her boyfriend into going to a boxing match where she gets ringside seats. The boyfriend immediately becomes jealous, accuses her of getting ringside seats because she's sleeping with the owner, and threatens to beat her if he ever catches her cheating. He also, in the course of the conversation, uses "big words" to try to impress her, but Bond is sniggering to himself because the words aren't real. Examples: "perzackly" - precisely/exactly; and "recasion" - reason/occasion. Message: Blacks are uneducated and it's funny when they try to use "big words" like whites do. Excuse me while I vomit in the corner.

Rather than listening to this conversation of a jealous black man threatening to beat his woman for cheating on him and coming to the conclusion that black people are "different," Bond immediately identifies with the man and says, Seems they're (blacks) interested in much the same things as everyone else - sex, having fun, and keeping up with the Joneses. Thank God they're not genteel about it. Yes, I should have known that this chilling conversation would create a feeling of empathy with Bond - after all, both he - a white man - and the black man at the table agree that women are property and should know their place.

This "black man as a superstitious, uneducated idiot" trope is prevalent throughout the book. The only black men who DON'T fit into this category are: Big and Quarrel.

Big escapes this category because he is half French. He speaks "like a white man," very eloquently and without slang. Bond admires his "brilliant brain" a lot and marvels that there is a black "master criminal" in existence. But even though Big is well-spoken, obviously educated, half-white, and dresses in a suit - he's still a voodoo practitioner, keeps "horrifying" voodoo paraphernalia in his office, and controls the other, "poor, ignorant, superstitious, innocent" black men with threats of mystical, voodoo punishment. Many are convinced his a "zombie in control of himself ... a witch-doctor in control of his own zombie" - something that I don't feel the book adequately explained and left me a bit confused.

Quarrel, on the other hand, is James Bond's friend. Well, I don't know if I, PERSONALLY, would use "friend" to describe this relationship because it's obvious that Bond is above Quarrel in status. They are pretty close to equal, especially considering the times - and Bond's mentality - and Bond TRIES to say that they ARE equal, but I don't buy it. 1.) Quarrel calls Bond "Cap'n" which is described as "the highest title he knew" since he's from "the most famous race of seamen in the world" (Caymen Islanders). Bond, in turn, just calls Quarrel by his name. 2.) When Bond is injured - which is often in this book, Quarrel tends to his wounds in what seems to me a very servile way. For instance, when Solitaire (the love interest) is injured, Bond (who is also VERY INJURED) strips her naked, bathes her, and tends to her wounds. Then he puts her, naked, into his bed. Then, he "allows" Quarrel to strip him, bathe him and tend to his (much more serious wounds) before driving him to a hospital. The fact that he doesn't allow Quarrel to tend to Solitaire (a white woman), but then expects Quarrel to do the sh*tload of work taking care of Bond's battered body when Bond was, apparently, not wounded enough to stop him from giving Solitaire the full treatment lets me know that Bond and Quarrel are definitely not equals like he wants me to believe.

The love interest in this novel is white, blue-eyed, black-haired Solitaire: born Simone Latrelle. She is from Haiti. It's strongly implied that she comes from a powerful slave-owning family in Haiti who fell on hard times. She is 25.

She is "psychic." The book does not explain well if she is really psychic or is just really good at reading people. At times, it seems she's psychic: she'll get visions or predict the future accurately. When Bond asks her about her "powers," she claims she just reads people well. Big finds her in Haiti and takes her, keeping her as a prisoner. He often uses her as a lie-detector test - he hauls her out, shows her some man he's interrogating who's tied to a chair, asks the man questions and then orders her to tell him whether he's lying or not. Solitaire's upfront about the fact that she tells Big that the evil men are lying and that the men who she considers "good" are telling the truth. She's aware that she's responsible for the deaths of a good number of men and she shows NO remorse for this. Not only because they're evil men, but because they're black.

Big is keeping her prisoner because she's gorgeous, useful, and he wants to marry her (by force).

She's also the character who uses the n-word most in this novel.

It's also very interesting to notice the difference in Bond's treatment of Solitaire vs. his treatment of Vesper in the previous book. Unlike Vesper, who Bond described as "cold; arrogant; private", Solitaire makes it crystal clear from the instant she sees James Bond that she is sexually available to him and will go to bed with him at any time. She's described as obedient, trusting and Bond reacts to her very differently than Vesper. Whereas he was constantly fantasizing about raping Vesper, bringing her down a notch, forcing her to cry, forcing her to "want him," blah blah blah submit, he treats Solitaire as "poor female" who needs to be protected and directed and cared for. It's obvious why he never fantasizes about getting Solitaire to submit - she's obviously ready to submit to anything he might desire - and is therefore, in Bond's eyes: unrapeable.

BUT - and this is important to point out - he fantasizes about marrying Vesper, retiring from the Service for her, and spending the rest of his life with her. Solitaire is just a temporary fling - a sexual diversion that he deserves because he is Bond. He never says any of the romantic stuff to her that he said to Vesper. He instead, literally thinks of her as a prize to be enjoyed after he's done with his mission. He refers to her as "the prize" and "his prize" multiple times in the book - she's a sexual object to him and nothing more.

It's also interesting to note that (as in Casino Royale) he COMPLETELY IGNORES when his female tries to warn him about something. In this novel, even though Bond KNOWS that Solitaire is psychic/astute and she has proven her abilities to tell the future and read people again and again and again - he completely ignores her when she begs him not to leave her alone in the hotel. He basically tells her she's a silly female who's overreacting and then leaves with Felix. She promptly gets kidnapped. In the previous book, Casino Royale, Vesper tells Bond again and again that someone is following them, that there are still bad guys after them - and Bond says the same thing to her. Oh, silly woman, don't worry your pretty little head. In both books, the women are right and Bond's misogyny causes him to overlook something important. THIS IS NEVER ADDRESSED. Bond never admits he should have listened to the females' warnings, and he never even acknowledges the fact that they were right. NEVER.

When Solitaire kisses Bond forcefully, actually daring to run her hands through his hair - she's described as "kissing like a man...as if Bond were the woman." o.O

Also, little known fact - James Bond despises old people. He spends all his time in Florida discussing how disgusting old people's bodies are and making fun of them for playing bingo and walking slowly. It's as if he thinks he'll never age (of course, he won't, because he's a fictional character). He's very vocal and adamant about his disgust and contempt for the elderly. I found this offensive.

As in all Bond books, the best part is the villain's speech(es). When Bond is captured (usually once, but in this book it's twice) the villain always ties Bond up and then gives a long speech about how he's so great, Bond will never defeat him, there will be no rescue, blah blah blah. These are always epic, very entertaining speeches, with Bond occasionally breaking in to make a smartass comment or two. They are very cinematic and fun. Best part(s) of the book BY FAR.

Exciting parts: Bond fighting octopi, barracuda and sharks underwater with a harpoon gun. The octopus battle is extremely fun. At the end, Big decides to kill Bond and Solitaire by tying them together, face to face, butt-naked and dragging them behind the boat through a coral reef so that they get all bloody and sharks and barracuda eat them.

Sex: Sexual scenes (numerous) between Bond and Solitaire. This feels much better than with Vesper, it's clear Solitaire is a willing, consensual (and at times even aggressive) sexual partner.
The black stripper scene is a few pages long and VERY descriptive about her "animal" attractiveness and oiled body.
The finale when the black criminals use a knife to cut the clothes off of Solitaires body and bind her face-to-face with an also naked Bond.

America: James Bond is giving many funny "tips" on how to act and look American. He starts dressing in more casual clothes to blend in. Also, he's told that sleeping naked is the normal American standard and is encouraged to get rid of his pyjamas. Lastly, his advisors tell him to only use monosyllabic words. O.o

UPDATE: Okay, I saw the film version (1973) with Roger Moore. What a joke! It's almost a spoof movie. Moore is a dork, and wholly unconvincing as a charming secret agent. I like Jane Seymour in general and her beautiful eyes, but she just had no personality in this movie. The plot is only loosely based on the book and it ends up being very silly.

In the book, James Bond makes an effort to wear "normal" American clothes. In the movie, he wears a suit in EVERY scene, even though it makes him stick out like a sore thumb.

Quarrel and Felix Leiter are actual characters in the book. Quarrel and Bond spend a week together in which Quarrel teaches Bond all about the ocean and its wildlife. Bond gets into much better shape under Quarrel's care and tutelage. Quarrel has only a handful of lines in the film and no character.
Felix and Bond are friends in the book. There's even a whole cute page of them gently teasing each other and joking around. Bond always knows that Felix has his back. In the film, they just talk on the phone a few times for information and Felix has no character.

Solitaire is pretty brainless in both the movie and the book. But in the movie they create this whole "she is psychic because she's a virgin and if she ever has sex she'll lose her magic powers" - which is a popular trope but very unnecessary.

The chase and fight scenes are beyond ridiculous, especially when Bond uses crocodiles as stepping stones to get to the other side of the water. Really, at times they are obvious about making the fights a big joke. The movie is rarely serious.

If you have to pick between the two, I'd recommend the book over the movie. At least it develops it's characters and has exciting fight scenes and villain show-downs.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews762 followers
March 2, 2017
There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent. There are assignments on which he is required to act the part of a very rich man; occasions when he takes refuge in good living to efface the memory of danger and the shadow of death; and times when, as was now the case, he is a guest in the territory of an allied Secret Service. From the moment the BOAC Stratocruiser taxied up to the International Air Terminal at Idlewild, James Bond was treated like royalty.

So begins Live and Let Die, the second novel by Ian Fleming. Published in 1954, this continues the exploits of British Secret Service agent James Bond following his literary debut the previous year with Casino Royale. That novel was a terse, exciting gambling tale, with racist and sexist epithets kept in the deck for the most part. That prejudices existed at all seemed appropriate for the story of a man who kills enemies of the state for a living. Agent 007 reminds me of a salty sailor or crusty marine at a bar who can be fascinating as long as you keep him talking about skin diving, but once the conversation turns to current events, he gets flagrant in a hurry. A lot like this novel.

In the sequel, Bond is coming to the Americas. He passes through customs with a British diplomatic passport and is greeted by the Justice Department, who drive him into Manhattan, where he's been booked in to the St. Regis Hotel. Waiting for Bond is his friend Felix Leiter, the CIA-FBI liaison who 007 worked with on the Casino Royale job. Bond recalls how the head of his department, M, met with him in London to put him on his new case. Someone is spreading gold coins--believed to be the long lost Jamaican treasure of 17th century pirate Bloody Morgan--throughout the States. One of the coins was found in the possession of a FBI double agent working for Moscow.

Determining that the treasure is being used to finance a Communist spy ring in the U.S., British Secret Service believes that the diesel yacht Secatur is smuggling the booty from an island on the north coast of Jamaica to St. Petersburg, Florida. The owner of the yacht and the island is a Harlem gangster known as "Mr. Big," hailed by M as "the most powerful negro criminal in the world." Mr. Big is head of the Black Widow Voodoo cult and a member of SMERSH, the Soviet spy smashing organization who tortured 007 and blackmailed his girlfriend Vesper Lynd in the Casino Royale job. In addition to SMERSH, Bond has a rather prejudiced view of foreigners.

"I don't think I've ever heard of a great negro criminal before," said Bond. "Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There've been some big time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of negroes mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way. They don't seem to take to big business. Pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought except when they're drunk too much."

Bond bones up on his adversary, born Buonaparte Ignace Gallia (BIG) in Haiti and initiated into voodoo as a child. The Big Man was a truck driver in Port au Prince and emigrating to the U.S., worked as a stickup man for the Legs Diamond gang before moving in on the Harlem underworld. Mr. Big's fluency in French brought him to the attention of the Office of Strategic Services, which used him to combat Vichy collaborators in Marseilles. Mr. Big disappeared for five years after the war, finally popping up in Harlem in 1950 to take over three nightclubs and a chain of brothels. He's rumored to be the zombie of voodoo boogeyman Baron Samedi and feared far and wide.

Among parcels of American men's fashions and books on voodoo that arrive for 007, a time bomb is also sent to him as a warning. Bond, Leiter and an NYPD captain named Dexter go on a field trip to Harlem. Leiter confides that he likes the negroes and they seem to know it somehow, perhaps due to some pieces on Dixieland jazz he wrote for the Amsterdam News. After visits to both Sugar Ray's and the Savoy Ballroom for some local history, Bond and Leiter drop in on a nightclub called the Boneyard where Mr. Big is rumored to be appearing. Not surprisingly, Bond and Leiter are ambushed and 007 is taken to meet the Big Man.

Rather than torture Bond for information he already knows, Mr. Big summons Solitaire, a French colonial born in Haiti whose telepathic cabaret act vaulted her from Port au Prince to the employ of the Big Man. She lies to the boss, telling him that 007 is telling the truth. Bond gets let off with a snapped left pinky finger but exacts revenge by killing three of Mr. Big's men (Tee-Hee Johnson, Sam Miami and McThing) on his exit from the gangster's lair. Returning to his hotel, he's phoned by Solitaire, aka Simone Latrelle, who asks 007 to help her escape. Booking passage on the Silver Phantom, Bond and Solitaire sneak out of New York. Some friskiness ensues.

Solitaire called for him. The room smelled of Balmain's "Vent Vert". She was leaning on her elbow and looking down at him from the upper berth.

The bedclothes were pulled up around her shoulder. Bond guessed that she was naked. Her black hair fell away from her head in a dark cascade. With only the reading-lamp on behind her, her face was in shadow. Bond climbed up the little aluminum ladder and leant towards her. She reached towards him and suddenly the bedclothes fell away from her shoulders.

"Damn you," said Bond. "You ..."

She put her hand over his mouth.

"Allumeuse is the word for it," she said. "It is fun for me to be able to tease such a strong silent man. You burn with such an angry flame. It is the only game I have to play with you and I shan't be able to play it for long. How many days until your hand is well again?"

Bond bit hard into the soft hand over his mouth. She gave a little scream.

"Not many," said Bond. "And then one day when you're playing your little game you'll suddenly find yourself pinned down like a butterfly."

She put her arms round him and they kissed, long and passionately.

Finally she sank back among the pillows.

"Hurry up and get well," she said. "I'm tired of my game already."

Aware that Mr. Big has men aboard the train, Bond and Solitaire slip off in Jacksonville and meet up with Felix Leiter in St. Petersburg. Bond and Leiter put in an appearance at Ourobouros, Inc., the exotic fish operation run by Mr. Big's henchman, The Robber, as a front for the treasure smuggling operation. Despite telling him she did not want to be let alone, Solitaire is abducted from the safehouse 007 left her at. When Leiter goes to snoop around The Robber's warehouse, he ends up maimed by a shark. Bond avenges his friend, then heads to Jamaica, where he trains for a deadly SCUBA mission to Mr. Big's island in Shark Bay.

Live and Let Die is a delight as long as it stays off certain subjects, which it does about seventy-five percent of the time. Fleming provides a fantastic amount of escapism: a license for fine hotels, fancy clothes, a .25 Beretta, martinis, fast cars, dangerous women and bad guys to strangle the truth out of. The fanciful title alone is one of my favorites of any suspense yarn. The novel contains little in the way of karate fights or gun battles that power the film series and a lot of the spy action even takes place off the page, like Solitaire's escape and recapture. Instead, Fleming devotes considerable energy to the Jamaica chapters and to describing ... SCUBA diving and ocean life. And I liked that.

At least twenty-five percent of the novel is mean. Irredeemably mean. Bond doesn't think much of American fashion, cars, food or alcohol, and in a contrast to Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, has no use for Solitaire other than as a door prize, but Fleming is just getting warmed up. Bond and Leiter can't stop disparaging the elderly community in South Florida, hung up on their mortality, perhaps. But when it comes to race, the urbane gents prove themselves plain provincial. Bond doesn't hate the people of Harlem as a cop might, but regards them as feeble minded children at best, animals at worst. This is all very Don Draperesque and there's no Peggy Olson to put these caveman views in check.

Aside from some pathos on the subject of life and death, neither Bond or Leiter learn anything in Live and Let Die. Except for , these are the same characters at the end of the book that they were at the beginning. And they're lousy field agents. These guys know how to order their eggs, yet stroll into Harlem asking who knows Mr. Big. 007 won't listen to Solitaire, a psychic, when she warns him the safehouse is anything but. Without the help of a Jamaican mariner or American porter, 007 would have died very quickly. None of this seems to inform his world view. It's a thrilling tale, particularly the way Fleming moves 007 around the world, but today, frequently reads like a narrow-minded one.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
June 29, 2016
”He held the tip between finger and thumb and very deliberately started to bend it back, giggling inanely to himself.
Bond rolled and heaved, trying to upset the chair, but Tee-Hee put his other hand on the chair-back and held it there. The sweat poured off Bond’s face. His teeth started to bare in an involuntary rictus.
The finger stood upright, away from the hand. Started to bend slowly backwards towards his wrist. Suddenly it gave. There was a sharp crack.
‘That will do,’ said Mr. Big.
Tee-Hee released the mangled finger with reluctance.
Bond uttered a soft animal groan and fainted.”

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Roger Moore is BOND in the movie version of Live and Let Die

He fainted?
Me...you...nearly every other person on the planet we are screaming and pissing ourselves wishing we could faint faster, but BOND, JAMES BOND? The James Bond of the books feels more pain, is at times guided by fear, and makes more mistakes which I found frankly very interesting. There is no sex in this book. I KNOW I’m still in shock about that myself. He comes close:

”Bond cursed the broken hand that prevented him exploring her body, taking her. He freed his right hand and put it between their bodies, feeling her hard breasts, each with its pointed stigma of desire. He slipped it down her back until it came to the cleft at the base of her spine and he let it rest there, holding the centre of her body hard against him until they had kissed enough.
She took her arms away from round his neck and pushed him away.
‘I hoped I would one day kiss a man like that,’ she said. ‘And when I first saw you, I knew it would be you.’
Her arms were down by her sides and her body stood there, open to him, ready for him.
‘You’re very beautiful,’ said Bond. ‘You kiss more wonderfully than any girl I have ever known.’ He looked down at the bandages on his left hand. ‘Curse this arm.’ he said. ‘I can’t hold you properly or make love to you. It hurts too much. That’s something else that Mr. Big’s got to pay for.’”

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Jane Seymour is Solitaire in the movie.

Are you kidding me!
There is a bit of daytime soap writing in this segment which made me laugh, and left me wondering if Fleming was avoiding writing the grand Bond sex scene although with all the “pointed stigma of desire” and such he was certainly delivering on a little titillation.

Mr. Big is the whole reason that Bond has flown to America. Gold coins, Rose Noble of Edward IV, have been surfacing from the pirate Henry “Bloody” Morgan’s treasure that was never found and by rights belongs to the British government. They have traced it to Mr. Big’s operation and agents have disappeared so it is time for 007 to be sent to find the pipeline for the treasure and if need be put a kibosh on Mr. Big’s organization. Fleming takes us from London, to NY, to Florida, and for the final meeting between Mr. Big and Bond to the island of Jamaica. Mr. Big sees himself as a trailblazer and it wouldn’t be a Bond if the villain didn’t give a speech.

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Yaphet Kotto is Mr Big in the movie

”In the history of negro emancipation,’ Mr. Big continued in an easy conversational tone, ‘there have already appeared great athletes, great musicians, great writers, great doctors and scientists. In due course, as in the developing history of other races, there will appear negroes great and famous in every other walk of life.’ He paused. ‘It is unfortunate for you, Mister Bond, and for this girl, that you have encountered the first of the great negro criminals. I use a vulgar word, Mister Bond, because it is the one you, as a form of policeman, would yourself use. But I prefer to regard myself as one who had the ability and the mental and nervous equipment to make his own laws and act according to them rather than accept the laws that suit the lowest common denominator of the people.”

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The book is rampant with racism, a time capsule of the way people felt in 1954, and from a quick glance through some of the reviews this aspect has certainly shadowed the enjoyment of other readers. I guess I just sort of flew over the top of those segments, not wanting to become bogged down in outdated thinking. Voodoo plays a role in this book. In fact, Mr Big has a heart ailment that gives his black skin a gray tinge giving him the look of a Voodoo Zombie further enhanced by the fact that he participates in Voodoo practices. Bond spends hours reading and researching on Voodoo. Fleming gets points for mentioning The Travellers Tree by Patrick Leigh Fermor, a writer I happen to really like. In that book Fermor talks about the Voodoo religion/cult.

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I first came to Bond through watching The Saint episodes late at night. My Dad in an effort to get more than three channels on our TV, one of which flipped every few seconds, built this antenna the size of a small Cessna and hoisted it on a pole that soared high above the tallest trees. He connected a remote to it that would rotate the antenna allowing us to fine tune certain channels. We could now get seven channels, sort of. One of the channels put on The Saint and there was Roger Moore, young, dashing, and boy did I want to be him when I grew up. The first Bond I went to in the theater, which for the life of me I’m not sure which one, but it starred Roger Moore. So for me RM was BOND. I couldn’t say Moore was my favorite Bond or the best Bond, but like a first kiss it is hard not to be biased by that first experience.
 photo IanFleming_zps33a8ab29.jpg
Ian Fleming
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
February 15, 2020
Live and Let Die is the second novel in Ian Fleming’s spy thriller series about James Bond, 007 (he gets one of these numbers because he has killed people in the line of duty), and is not set as others later in the series in some “sophisticated” or “exotic” locale, but primarily in the US (Harlem and Florida, which he does in some ways still exoticize, seems to me) and (as he writes it, exotic) Jamaica. Published in 1954 to widespread critical and popular acclaim, it was written at Fleming’s Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. The main idea is that Bond is trying to catch the truly impressively villainous Mr. Big, a Harlem Druglord, who as it turns out is also Dr. Kananga, a corrupt Jamaican dictator. So on one level he’s a sort of a Voodoo Baron, but Bond knows he is also an operative for SMERSH who has killed three British agents. He has to put Mr. (big, black) Big out of business!

The first real action takes place in Harlem and maybe it is for me due in part to the reader of the audiobook, who doesn’t capture African-American, Floridian or Jamaican accents well, but my listening did not convince me that Fleming was an ideal person to introduce me to early fifties Harlem. The Brit Fleming is condescending at best when he praises “Negress” beauty and jazz, at its best, and at its worst, is offensive about big African American men he allows his narrator to describe as “apes.” Black women: Sultry animals. Black men: Violent animals. We know Bond from the suave Sean Connery or Roger Moore and may not have thought of him as particularly racist in the seventies (though I think based on a recent viewing of the film we were wrong), but I think Fleming's original Bond (and it comes through the narration) pretty much doesn’t fully respect black folks as human beings.

So we jump from Harlem where we have seen lots of poor black people he doesn’t much like, to Florida where we now see lots of white (trash, he pretty much makes clear) folks he doesn’t much like, from violent coastal fishermen to blue-haired retirees. So it's class issues, too. Fleming here heaps on more disdain for crass American culture: Terrible fast food, tasteless beer, insultingly stupid advertising, boringly stupid people everywhere. Some of us just might agree with some of these critiques, but Bond’s view here of The Ugly American just makes him sound like the Ugly Brit Snob. So! Fleming doesn’t like poor American black people, and he doesn’t like poor American white people. Equal opportunity hater. Not a fan of the states, generally, shall we say. Did we get that impression originally in seeing the films in the seventies? I dunno, I just thought they were fun as a teenager. Had a few things to learn from reading the books!

And women? We maybe don’t think of the Sean Connery Bond as misogynist (though maybe we’d all agree he is sexist?), but in the first two books of Fleming’s series, Bond is definitely not a big fan of women, regardless of color. Well, he appears to enjoy looking at nearly naked dancers in Harlem (call them "exotic" dancers? Strippers?), but he really doesn’t hold women in high estimation. In Florida, he says of a (white) woman, she’s “too pretty to be a nurse,” and so on. Especially n the early novels he's generally rude and disdainful of women, not the image of Bond I got from the movies, not even in my recent viewing.

There are exceptions to his hating, though. Bond is a smart and sophisticated snob, and Fleming names his whiskey and clothes choices with the contemporary flair of a film product placement strategist. But what "we"--who have helped build the Bond franchise--like about him is that he lives the High Life we want to live. He has Taste and Style. And in addition to products, there are Bond-like superior human beings he likes and respects. Exhibit one: From Harlem he manages to free the lovely (white? mixed? She’s supposed to be an obeah voodoo psychic, so she’s a descendant of slaves, right? But played by Jane Seymour in the 1973 blaxploitation Bond?) Solitaire, who retains her Tarot–card mystical expertise ONLY IF she is a virgin—though with Bond near, can she be so for long?—is rescued by Bond from the clutches of Big, who then recaptures her in Jamaica, where he plans to kill both she and Bond in a particularly cruel and sadistic way: Dragging them together across coral reefs behind a speed boat, and when their skin is properly flayed off, watching them slowly gnawed to death by murderous barracudas. (In the first Bond book, Fleming had Bond horribly tortured, so there is a pattern forming here of s/m obsessions we will need to address in therapy, Ian).

So, I really disliked half of this book for the sometimes nasty tone and the racism, but I’ll quickly shift gears and suggest that Fleming largely saves the book for me as thriller in the second half by

1) his lyrical descriptions of an island he clearly knows and loves, which is clearly Jamaica. The tone of this part of the book is slower, the descriptions beautiful, vs. the Harlem or Florida sections.
2) Mr. Big is a truly brutal bad guy, and his double life is pretty interesting. Big describes himself as the first great Black Criminal, and hey, he has a Big Library, and in an intellectual, so some of ths undermines his black animal "essence;"
3) Solitaire is a worthy Bond “girl” in that, though she doesn’t really possess many spy-worthy skills, her voodoo/psychic skills are interesting, and she's pretty strong (though later Bond "girls" get stronger;
4) . The final scenes on the boat are evidence that Fleming is a masterful writer of “thrilling” spy action, as he confronts Mr. Big. He’s as good here in action adventure writing as anyone, so you can see how people liked the book (and maybe didn’t even see the racism as problematic in 1954). He's not as good a writer as the best noir writers, but he can get us to turn the pages when he has to.

In the 1973 blaxploitation version of Live and Let Die, Mr Big is a tool of Soviet agents working through the Black Power movement. Fleming, I am told, actually believed what a small number of paranoid people believed at the time, that the civil rights movement and the NAACP were fronts for the Communist party bent on doing what the Russkies do, destroying America, though not through election-tampering, but through violent Revolution. Fleming also saw Mr. Big as an example of a corrupt American colonizing Jamaica. But these views come through in the film more than in the original book.

You got a problem with my bothering to call Bond/Fleming as racist? Okay, I know it would be difficult to find many wholly enlightened and non-racist pulp, noir, adventurer stories in 1954. You don’t look for subtle feminist or anti-racist texts in the mid-twentieth century. But there’s a difference—I think—between some of James Ellroy’s racist characters and Ellroy. Bond in the movies is suave and never crass, but Fleming's Bond (and the narrator) here seems a bit nasty in places I didn’t expect. Maybe that’s my real complaint, that Fleming’s Bond is not the suave smirking seductive Bond of Sean Connery or Roger Moore but a kind of existentialist-lite cold guy dripping in some darker disdain for everything that is not him. I like him besting Solitaire and Big, though, I'll admit.

Anyway, I had at the first half intended to give this one two stars, but in the end there’s enough good and entertaining writing to make me (almost) forget some of the first half ugliness, if not forgive. I recommend it for some of the crazy voodoo virgin barracuda fun, Solitaire and Mr. Big.
Profile Image for Brina.
873 reviews4 followers
January 27, 2021
Warm locale vacation after a year of stressful living. I will leave it at that. It is January and that means Florida and that means appropriate poolside reading. When packing for this long needed vacation, I made sure to select books that either did not require much brain power or ones where I was already familiar with the story and could come along for the protagonist’s ride through the plot. The original James Bond series by Ian Fleming does both for me. My husband and I are huge fans of the entire series; our favorite Bond is Daniel Craig whereas my father stopped after Sean Connery. That debate is sure to last the duration of our trip or until we can watch a Craig Bond film as a family. I have been impatiently waiting for the newest Bond film for nearly a year now and decide to fill in the gaps with the original books that I had not read yet. Even though I know the gist of every Bond film, I knew the books would still be the fun, mindless reading that I craved.

Ian Fleming worked at an intelligence desk for the British Secret Service during World War II. He was one of Britain’s brightest minds and the country could not afford to risk sending him to the front lines. Fleming deciphered incoming Russian codes that could have possibly put the balance of the war at risk from an allied perspective. He did not come up with the idea for James Bond as a spy cracking Russian espionage rings on a ring; during the war essentially Fleming was James Bond. After the war, Fleming married and spent most of his time at a Jamaican home he named Goldeneye. There he wrote one Bond book a year for fourteen years until his premature death in 1966. By the time the first Bond film came out in the mid 1960s, Bond was already an international sensation as millions around the world were already familiar with his persona from Fleming’s books. That Bond as a film franchise is still around in its 26th installment and counting speaks to the long lasting and universal appeal of his character: a secret agent who has a license to kill and ultimately prevails. It is little wonder that Bond movies are still popular today, and that Fleming’s books also enjoy that level of popularity, especially among the film enthusiasts.

In Live and Let Die, Bond has once again teamed up with FBI agent Felix Leiter in an attempt to foil a man known as Mr Big, a Negro from Harlem who has ties to SMERSH. Bond has detested SMERSH since the war and would like nothing more than to defeat the Russian agency once and for all. It is now 1952 and the Cold War is in full swing. MI-6 has gotten word that a negro exporting ring has smuggled old British empire gold coins out of Jamaica into St Petersburg bay. These coins are worth millions even in the 1950s and could be used to finance SMERSH’s operations. It is Bond’s job to foil these plans, no matter how dangerous Mr Big is. In America, when faced with apprehending a subject, the FBI says to live and let live. Bond says to live and let die. The conflicting thought lines between the two agencies would have to compromise in order to shut down the Russians. With the likable, comical character Leiter, Bond has the perfect foil. They have the agreement that Mr Big has to be stopped at all costs, some of them that could endanger their lives.

As in Bond movies, there is action but it is not the nonstop action that one sees on film. The first half is devoted to the thought process of how to stop Mr Big. Bond gathers intelligence by attempting to dress and think like an American. He and Leiter go on a reconnaissance mission to one of Mr Big’s operations in Harlem and discover his northernly base that helps to finance his mission. There, Bond meets Soltaire, the Bond girl in this book. She is Mr Big’s fiancée against her wishes, and she pleas with Bond to save her so that she can assist him in defeating the evil minded Mr Big. This is the 1950s, mind you, and the only assistance Solitaire provides is in the form of love, but she is a good respite from Bond’s task at hand. Unlike the films, there is only one Bond girl, and only implied intimacy, which is more fun than the movies because readers can surmise innuendos on their own. Once freed, Solitaire accompanies Bond to Florida, and then the action begins in the book’s second half. Still not the nonstop action of a film but the last hundred pages move from Florida to Jamaica quickly as Bond is determined to defeat Mr Big and hopefully SMERSH once and for all.

Fleming’s depictions of Jamaica are so inviting, especially after a year of being cooped up in my home. He tells the history of Captain Morgan and piracy, showing that in addition to fun, Fleming knew his history. Of course, in the end Bond prevails; he is James Bond after all. I have both the McCartney song and Bond theme in my head now as I would love to see the action unfold on screen. Who am I kidding: Live and Let Die is a Sean Connery film. Daniel Craig is the best Bond, and he still has the upcoming film that I am even more impatient to see now. Let the family debate as to the best Bond continue. We have the rest of our vacation to let it unfold.

🕵️‍♂️ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 4 stars 🇯🇲
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
October 2, 2018
Voodoo, buried treasure, sharks and alligators and poison fish – and Mr. Big.

007 returns to the Caribbean in Ian Fleming’s second Bond novel, first published in 1954. The author was still learning to deal with his success from the first book, Casino Royale, and so some time is spent developing the character and the world building and introducing readers to his secret agent spy network and to Bond in particular.

Fleming’s casual racism will turn some modern readers off, but he does a better than average time in describing Harlem in the 1950s. As Bond and his Bond girl Solitaire travel south to Florida we also get a glimpse at America during this time and from a visiting British perspective.

Bond’s villain this time around is Mr. Big, an African American crime boss with ties to the Soviet Union. During this Cold War setting, all things nefarious must have been tied to the communist menace.

Good fun.

Profile Image for Gary M..
Author 4 books19 followers
June 21, 2010
To charge this book with racism, as many reviews have done so, is absurd. The book and attitudes were of the time and obviously these views are expressed within the pages. The same charges could be aimed at Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Bulldog Drummond and any classic character.Or what about Shakespeare - could we call the bard homophobic for not representing gay characters in his plays? Do we start judging classic works by modern standards? The book uses the word Negro a lot but at the time this was not considered a racial slur. It also uses the word gay in its true meaning - damn Ian Fleming for living during the period and writing what is probably the best series of thrillers in history. Didn't he realise that in the future the PC brigade, those same people who airbrushed the cigar from a famous poster of Winston Churchill, would be judging him by standards of the next century? How small minded of him!
Profile Image for Rob.
511 reviews103 followers
January 5, 2021

Book 2 in the James Bond series published 1954

A 4 star, if lacking any pc, read.

I first read this book when I was in my mid teens some sixty years ago and decides on a re-read as homage to the late Sean Connery, whom to me, will always be the real James Bond.

Let me start by saying this is still a high octane thriller but the James Bond here is not the James Bond of my mind’s eye.
In it’s year of publication (1954) James Bond was the epitome of masculine cool.
He was the man that other men wished they were and he was the man that women fantasised about.
But oh how moral standards have change in sixty years.

The James Bond found here is a male chauvinist who treats women like objects, witness the book cover. The amount of strong liquor he consumes is out of control and he get through 3 pack of cigarettes a day.
Would you want to be this cool?

The master villain is Mr. Big a negro genius who has a large team of negro underlings.
Did I mention that our James is also a closet racist?

The book is a product of its day but if you can get past all of the above this is still a seat of your pants thriller with lots of thrills and spills.

Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,198 followers
February 6, 2017
It might have been For Your Eyes Only...


...or more likely Octopussy...


...but I want to say Live and Let Die...


...may have been the first James Bond movie I ever saw. Regardless, it stands as one of my first recollections of the thrilling spy and his over-the-top escapades.

I LOVED these movies as a kid. As an adult my fervor wore away, but remnants of that love never left me and eventually I became intrigued enough to check out the novels out of a curiosity to see how true the movies were to the books. Also, it just so happened that as a kid I spent some time down in Florida, where part of this novel takes place, thus upping the intrigue slightly.

In this, the second installment in the series, British spy James Bond is sent to America. After taking a beating from operatives of SMERSH, a Soviet counterintelligence agency of Fleming's making, Bond is set on a bit of revenge. Does that make him, a white Brit, the ideal spy to infiltrate the black organized crime scene? Perhaps not, but woohoo, let's go along for the ride anyhow!

There's plenty of action in Live and Let Die, but there's also a little social commentary and local color. Fleming did some research on this and that and he wants to show you what he learned. That's how this book reads at times. I like detail and setting a scene, just don't go Moby Dick on me. This is far too short to come near that, but it edges towards it at times.

The movie differs from the book in a few ways. It's been a while, but if I recall correctly the focus is on drugs over pirate treasure, and it's set at times in New Orleans, not Florida. The blaxploitation is still there though!

Ah, racism. It's hard to talk about this book without mentioning it. The constant use of the word negro alone is cringe-worthy. There are very few portrayals of positive, black community role models. Many are depicted as still being under the spell of Caribbean voodoo.


However, this is a spy thriller, not a political commentary. The "bad guy" and his henchmen are black, so they're going to be portrayed negatively. It seems some have mistaken the racial overtones within this book to be blatant racism. For instance, the chapter title "Nigger Heaven" is a reference to a pro-black and pro-Harlem renaissance novel of the same name. If you didn't know that, you would indeed form a low opinion of Fleming...unless you're a white supremacist. But I don't see hatred here by Fleming. Some of his characters may reflect prejudiced attitudes, but others do not. M, the pinnacle of intelligence herein, sees blacks as coming into their own and rediscovering their own attributes after throwing off the yoke of oppression. Anyhow, that's enough of that. I'm a middle aged white guy and so I'm apparently predisposed to turn a blind eye to racism against minorities. However, that's not me. I stand for equality right down the line. Anyway, back to the book...

When comparing the movies to the books, it's tough on the books (at least what I've read so far). The movies are designed to squeeze every bit of excitement they can out of the story. Here, the books are a little more leisurely when it comes to the action. Perhaps Fleming was remembering his own experiences working for and with intelligence agencies during the war. It was no doubt not half as exciting as it's portrayed in the movies.

In summary, this is not essential reading unless you're a diehard for spy books. If anything approaching un-sanitized racial discussion triggers you, I'd steer clear too. But hey, those who prefer their hero not rape anyone, take heart! Live and Let Die is much less rapey than Casino Royale!
Profile Image for James.
147 reviews2 followers
October 5, 2012
If read through the wrong prism, much like the notorious Tintin In The Congo, Live and Let Die will appear very racist. It is interesting that, despite being the second Bond book, it took so long to become a movie. Consider this: the book was released in 1955, five years before The Beatles formed. The song for the 1973 film was performed by a Wings-era Paul McCartney.

But more telling is Fleming's choice to make Bond's first true nemesis an African American, blending Voodoo and the mystery of black people to white people (which was Fleming's likely main audience) to great effect. If you read between the lines and ignore that Fleming keeps using the word 'Negro', which is not done with any sense of malice, there is a lot of respect here.

After surviving near-assassination by S.M.E.R.S.H. (the Russian assassination buro) in Casino Royale, the first book, Bond is hungry for revenge and M has an assignment that might get him just that. Old gold coins, possibly from a pirate's treasure, are appearing in America and suspicion is that Soviet agents are using gold from Bloody Morgan's treasure in Jamaica to further their cause. At the helm is a mysterious character called Mr. Big, who uses voodoo superstition as part of his repertoire to control an elaborate criminal cartel. He might also work for S.M.E.R.S.H., which has Bond's attention.

It sounds a tad outlandish, especially with pirates in the mix, but this yarn allows for a lot of insight into what drives 007. It also builds the spy's relationship with C.I.A. fixer Felix Leiter and gives more aspects to Bond's vulnerability, as Mr. Big turns out to be a very formidable foe. There is a lot of nuance here, especially because this is Bond's first proper 'action' outing. In Casino Royale he largely gambles and survives a few close scrapes. Here 007 never comes close to a felt-covered table, but he does show his chops in eluding the enemy, thinking on his toes and surviving even narrower scrapes. It also deals with some of the tedium Bond has to deal with - passing mentions of waiting in a roadhouse or typing up a report. You get a very good idea about his sense of responsibility. But the pacing is fast and at 120 pages it is easy to cut through.

There is a reason why Bond as a franchise has been such a mega-hit. Fleming deserves more credit for how well he wrote these books. He certainly knew a thing or two about nuance and finer touches.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews471 followers
March 6, 2018
I have always been a big fan of the James Bond movies and I read a couple of the books years ago. I actually got in trouble in high school for bringing one of the books to school with me. I can't even remember which one. The principal said it was a "dirty'' book. Some of my other classmates had Steven King novels that had much more graphic things in them, but I had no choice but to leave James at home from then on. I never read the entire series. In 2018 I have made a personal promise to read more books that I've always wanted to read, but never seemed to make the time. And James Bond has been on that list for a very long time.

The Fleming family has re-issued the Bond series with the text restored to how it was originally published. I am not sure what changes this required, but after listening to the audiobook version of this particular book, I think I can guess. Holy cow -- this book uses a lot of antiquated racist and sexist terminology! I'm guessing it was toned down in later editions. Live and Let Die was originally printed in 1954, but I have a hard time believing that in the 1950s they still used horrible terms like "negress.'' At one point, James Bond is thinking to himself that he is surprised to see a "negress'' driving a car, let alone the limousine she is driving. What?? Wow. There are multiple references to white teeth, popping eye balls and just other really disturbing descriptions of black people as well. While I could see a few references to past stereotypes given the era the book was written, the repeated nonsense really made it hard for me to get through the first half of this book. After that, the racist crapola tamed down and it got into the spy adventure portion of the story.

Also, Fleming seems to go out of his way to over explain things at times. The narrator even points out in a short interview at the end of the book that Fleming seems to like to flaunt his knowledge of obscure things, often including descriptions or tangents in the book that aren't really necessary. I felt better about thinking that way myself after hearing the narrator agree with me. I'm not sure what Fleming was like as a person, but I have the sneaking suspicion he might have been a bit of a difficult snob. I might be wrong....but it's the impression that I get.

The basics: James Bond comes over to the United States to work a case with Felix Leiter. They are after Mr. Big, a big time criminal who has ties to voodoo and a Russian spy ring. Turns out Mr. Big is involved in smuggling valuable gold coins out of the Caribbean to fund Russian spy activities. Bond ends up in Jamaica, has run ins with sharks, poisonous fish and lots of bad guys. Plus there is a beautiful girl (of course). Typical James Bond fare. The action is great. The blatant racism is not.

The audiobook is under 7 hours long and narrated by Rory Kinnear. He reads at a nice even pace and has a nice voice. I have hearing loss but was able to easily understand and enjoy this audiobook.

The spy action portions of this novel would get 4 or 5 star rating from me. But with my total shock at some of the horrible garbage in this novel, I would give it a 2. So I'm going to average it at a 3.

James Bond fans will love this book....it has some great underwater action scenes, a really baddd bad guy and some great daring-do. But I do caution readers to be aware that there is some questionable content. It really put a damper on my enjoyment of this book.

I'm moving on to book 3 in the series -- Moonraker. There are 14 books in total.
Profile Image for Louie the Mustache Matos.
881 reviews59 followers
October 12, 2022
Live and Let Die is the second James Bond novel; to my mind a classic despite the modern contrary opinion. It checks all of my criteria boxes for a classic. It has over 50 years of exceptionalism, paradigm creating, and longevity. It was written by Ian Fleming in 1954 and amazingly it has a 1970s blaxploitation feel probably because of the predominance of black characters (not all African American). The novel moves from Harlem, to Florida, then Jamaica. The movie that uses this book as its source material transpires in the 1970s with a similar backdrop but instead of Florida it substitutes New Orleans. The villainous Mr. Big is worthy of being called a Bond villain. The lovely Solitaire is worthy of being a Bond “girl.” It is heavy on the misogyny and the “n-word.” So trigger warning for all that would find it offensive. Just recognize that the book was written in a different era. Much of what was acceptable back then is not acceptable now. I rate the book as a relic to be enjoyed. Quarrel is a very likeable black protagonist supporting character that is supposed to serve as an offset to the other stereotypical ethnic characters. He teaches 007 some important things about marine biology. I made my caveats, so if you read this novel, you have been warned. Still and all, a very entertaining read.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 8 books417 followers
January 25, 2014
James Bond on the page certainly comes across a lot different than James Bond on the big screen and LIVE AND LET DIE only serves to further hammer this point home. Ian Fleming has created a debonair masterpiece, with more than a hint of chauvinism. Sure, he uses terms then that he probably couldn’t get away with today, but this book was first published in 1954, so you have to roll with it a bit. If you’re a woman, or you’re easily offended, you might want to hesitate before picking it up.

The action moves slower than it does in the movies (that’s understandable), but it’s nice to get a fuller and complete picture of a true icon. At times this novel reads like a military intelligence briefing, but it’s still well-written prose, and given Ian Fleming’s, along with James Bond’s backgrounds, it’s not all that surprising.

If you’re looking for a quick read and a strong male lead, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,331 reviews106 followers
October 4, 2022
Book two in the James Bond series and there's no denying that these books are a product of their time.

In this book Bond is sent over to the States to tackle some secret business in New York and then in Jamaica.  The language around Black people in this book is horrendous so you need to be aware at that.

I found myself laughing my head off at a comment about a receptionist being too pretty, a reception area needs someone with less looks and more brains! Ugh these books are something.

I can't help but like the plot lines though, they are very action packed, far fetched but fun.

Three stars,  there's a lot to overlook in these books in terms of race and gender.
5,259 reviews83 followers
December 11, 2021
4 Stars. The tension fades a bit here and there, but it's a good one. Bond is over his head and luck plays an important role. His friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, almost succumbs to a horrible shark attack and James barely survives a midnight swim off the north shore of Jamaica, let alone a harrowing train ride from New York to St. Petersburg, Florida. He and Solitaire, the terrified plaything of Mr. Big, were attacked twice in their sleeper, the second time by an artillery barrage just after they quietly slipped off the train in Jacksonville. Who is this Mr. Big? An oversized bundle of gang leader, gold smuggler, Soviet SMERSH agent, and voodoo wizard in Harlem. He's got tentacles across the US, and in Jamaica, Haiti, and pre-Castro Cuba. It's the 1950s. The book deals with the fear of some blacks, to avoid the difficult terminology used in the book, of voodoo witchcraft from Africa via the Caribbean. Get set to learn more than you need to about zombies and Baron Samedi, the lord of the underworld. Get set to meet a most interesting new character, Quarrel, a fisherman in Jamaica. And through Ian Fleming's eyes, get set for the astonishing beauty of that alluring island. (September 2021)
Profile Image for Baba.
3,503 reviews732 followers
February 12, 2021
Originally published in 1954, the second book in the James Bond series… a book title made famous by the Roger Moore led film adaption. A quite dark book, with Mr Big, a Black master criminal and bullion smuggler using Voodoo to keep control of his numerous minions. An adventure that moves from Harlem, on to St Petersburg (USA), and finishes off in Fleming's favourite haunts in the West Indies, including his beloved Jamaica. 6 out of 12.
Profile Image for Gary Sundell.
327 reviews51 followers
July 31, 2020
The book is a product of its time. Partially set in Harlem, the plot bears little resemblence to the movie. The audio version is nicely done by Rory Kinnear.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,810 reviews348 followers
July 23, 2018
2.5 stars

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Wow, this book has not aged gracefully. The casual racism really overwhelmed everything else for me. The dust jacket stated that Fleming had spent some time with the NY police as research. He seems to have absorbed their attitudes towards African-Americans without any reservations. All the black characters seem to be superstitious, criminal, or both. At least he allows Mr. Big to be a really talented criminal, not a push-over.

Fleming’s own attitudes towards women shine through his Bond character with regard to Solitare, the white woman who he rescues from Mr. Big. Fleming seems to have regarded women as conquests and told many people that women were more like pets to him than people [per Andrew Lycett’s biography of IF]. Fleming was well known as a womanizer and was accused by several people of being ‘a cad and a bounder,’ something which he did not dispute. Solitare is mostly a prize for Bond, something to be enjoyed once the action is over with.

Despite that, there are some bright spots—Fleming was very familiar with Jamaica, owning a house there and spending a great deal of his time swimming, diving, and fishing while he was in residence at Goldeneye, his Jamaican home. The scenery and details of this setting are extremely well realized in Live and Let Die. The descriptions of fish during Bond’s dives are fabulous, too. Unsurprisingly, the Jamaican portions of the book are far superior to those set in the United States. [I also thought that the fishy method of smuggling was an ingenious invention and I loved the shark tank!]

One can’t have a Summer of Spies without James Bond, so I’ll be proceeding on to Moonraker in short order. And, incidentally, I still love Paul McCartney's song Live and Let Die which was written for the movie version.
Profile Image for Bill.
876 reviews157 followers
January 17, 2021
James Bond's second adventure (in the book world at least) takes him to New York & beyond as he battles the villainous Mr Big & gets a little help from CIA agent Felix Leiter.
Although Bond is tortured by the villain in most of Fleming's novels I find the moment when Tee Hee breaks Bond's little finger to be the worst. No matter how many times I've read Live & Let Die I always put the book down for a few moments after this scene.
This 1954 novel was not only the basis for Roger Moore's first outing as 007 in 1973, but it also supplied ideas that were used in future Bond films For Your Eyes Only & Licence To Kill.
Reading it again was a real nostalgia trip. Not only because it was written over 60 years ago, but this film tie-in paperback has my name stuck on the title page. The last time I did that to a book was when I was at school in the 1970s, so I've had this copy for a very long time!
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,885 followers
June 28, 2014
Rating: 3.5* of five

It's the 1973 first outing by Simon Templar...I mean Roger Moore!...that I review here.

Holy pimpmobile! I'd forgotten this was the blaxploitation Bond flick. Appallingly racist. Horrifyingly insultingly so. And may I just say, "INTRODUCING JANE SEYMOUR" is the most chilling phrase I've ever in all my life seen on a movie screen?

Introducing. Jane. Seymour. As in, "not seen on the big screen before?" She was in some other stuff...but nothing as big as Bond. And the horrible thing is that Jane Seymour's character is only able to tell the future as a tarot reader while she's a virgin. Does that clue you in on what Bond's gonna do?

But all that comes after Bond's first African-American love interest. He sleeps with her while in a pale-blue loser suit. With a white belt. Wearing a wife-beater under it. Oh gawd, the seventies.

Then Bond condescends to pop Jane's cherry and takes away he rpowers, which the sexist sociopath clearly doesn't believe in; things go further and further downhill as Geoffrey Holder does a horrifying turn as a voodoo priest in the most ridiculous half-white makeup...well.

So of course Bond solves the identity puzzle, rescues now-slutty Jane from her life of luxury, and brings down the (black, of course) drug dealer. Then Geoffrey Holder laughs his unique laugh as we head for the credits.

Wow. Forty years really makes a lot of difference in how things look. I never liked Simon Templar...I mean Roger Moore!...as Bond. From the get-go, I found him too TV for the role of the big screen's biggest baddest spy. What was charming and roguish in other performances was slippery and oleaginous in Moore's performances. But I had no memory of how revoltingly racist this film was. I shudder to say it, but I was probably blind to it because it was...ulp...the way I saw the lily-white privileged Republican world I lived in.


Well, that's enough of that. The dumbest car chase ever put on film takes place in an alternate New York where there are only Chevrolet Caprices, Chevrolet Impalas, and Cadillac Eldorados on the roads. Except one elderly Ford truck, which the lone Chevrolet Biscayne in New York, carrying Bond, hits head-on and somehow Bond isn't even scratched despite not wearing a seat belt. Yeah! Now that's the Bond we all love!

And the title tune. Oh my goodness, the title tune. It's one of the indelible memories of 1973, along with the Rayburn Committee hearings and the Energy Crisis. Pretty good tune. But earwormy as all hell! Once in your mind, it ain't a-comin' out easy.

49 reviews13 followers
February 8, 2020
Score: 3.75 out of 5
Grade: 75% (B) | Good

James Bond goes international with yet another beautiful woman and a villain who completely steals the show! Here is my review of Live and Let Die (James Bond #2):


The Good:

What lacked in “Casino Royale” is made up for in “Live and Let Die”. I finally got that spy/thriller vibe I was looking for and was happy to see Bond in some more unfamiliar territory. The story moves forward at a brisk pace with various locations and more unique characters. I’m also happy to report that we get some pretty cool action sequences – with a karate chop here and a kick to the head there!


The standout is without a doubt Mr. Big! I think what I loved most was the duality between this smart, calculating man and someone who can rip your head off if he wanted to. I also like how Mr. Big had the upper hand throughout this entire book. I got some heavy Kingpin-from-the-Ben-Affleck-Daredevil-movie vibes, which was a great thing! I just wanted as much Mr. Big as I could get!


I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed Bond’s relationships with Solitaire and Leiter. Yes, Bond may be a horny bastard who, even with a f***ed up hand, still wants to get it on with Solitaire. But he is also a good friend to Leiter, who has slowly become a favourite of mine. The stakes are higher than ever, and you feel invested in the outcome of these characters.


I also appreciate the absolutely ridiculous parts of this book like when Bond straight up fights an octopus. Now that is something I wish was in the “Live and Let Die” movie (1973) with my main dude Roger Moore! If you saw the movie, then you know that Bond finding an octopus isn’t that crazy.


The Bad:

The book was littered with filler that did little to progress the story. We get this rundown of voodoo, which just went on for too long and lost my interest. We get this rundown of Bond’s flight to Jamaica, which was f***ing boring as hell. Then we get this rundown of Jamaica and its history, which was bland and purely used as a transitionary chapter. It felt as if chapters were added to lengthen the book, which ended up adding next to nothing to the main story.


After our first run in with Mr. Big, which was fairly early on, we don’t get another Bond and Big interaction until the very end. He was an awesome villain and I would have loved to have seen more of him. When it comes to the finale, Bond versus Big, it wasn’t the showdown I was anticipating. All Bond really does is attach a bomb to a boat and lives long enough for it to explode. I was really hoping for a boss fight between Mr. Big and Bond, which I think would’ve been great!


As many have pointed out, this book is racist. But I was taken aback as to how racist it really was. I knew it would be bad, but not this bad. Let me share with you some excerpts from Mr. Flemings’ “Live and Let Die”:

The smell of Mr. Big’s bar in Harlem was described as “the feral smell of 200 negro bodies.”

Then there’s Bond’s way of referring to black men as “clumsy black apes.”

By far the worst is the dialogue written for this black couple in Mr. Big’s bar, “'dat ef Ah ketches yuh makin' up tuh dat dope Ah'll jist nachrally whup da hide off'n yo sweet ass.”

I’m not even sure that was English… My point is, this book was extremely racist and if something like this makes you feel uncomfortable, steer WAY clear of this book. The “black” dialogue written by Fleming is just absurd, offensive and honestly, hard to read.


Bond immediately trusts Solitaire because…well, she’s hot, I guess. He tells her exactly where he is and what he plans to do, and for a secret spy that seems like a dumb thing to do. He’s a sucker for a pretty lady, but aren’t we all? Speaking of a secret spy acting like an idiot, there’s a moment where Bond and Leiter leave Solitaire just long enough for Mr. Big’s men to kidnap her. Then, moments later, Bond leaves Leiter just long enough for Mr. Big’s men to come and f*** him up. I’m no genius but learn from your mistakes Mr. Bond - tsk tsk!



Once you get past all the racist jabs, you’re left with a pretty good book. Some unnecessary filler slows down the story, but Mr. Big as the villain, fun action sequences and Bond actually Bond-ing about makes up for it.

Recommended for: Fans of Bond or white supremacists…


Thanks for reading! :)
Profile Image for Angela.
Author 6 books68 followers
December 22, 2008
Okay, I'd known that Ian Fleming is on record as having been a racist and sexist bastard, but somehow I had managed to not really notice that much the first time I'd taken a spin through the Bond novels. And there were a couple of bits I took issue with in my recent re-read of Casino Royale, sure, though they were few and far between.

But Live and Let Die? Wow, chock full of extremely blatant racism. Enough that it actively interfered with my ability to enjoy the story at all, and made it difficult for me to even want to finish it. About the only good thing I can say about the racial attitudes expressed in this novel is that Bond, out of all the white characters in the book, was surprisingly the least racist of all of them. M has some particularly annoying ever-so-superior commentary that made me grit my teeth when I read it, and extremely glad that we've got the divine Dame Judi Dench playing an infinitely cooler M.

There were one or two good bits--the part towards the end where Bond's sneaking underwater up on the bad guy's boat has some suitably suspenseful bits. The few good bits, though, weren't enough to make up for the blatant racism. One star.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,844 reviews419 followers
December 19, 2018
Edit: December 19, 2018 This novel is really two and a half stars, not three, but Goodreads doesn't let me give half stars.

‘Live and Let Die’, the second book in the James Bond series, is both fun and awful at the same time. It is definitely a book written to satisfy the entertainment values of most male readers, particularly war veterans of the 1950’s. Political correctness was not yet invented when the novel was written, and education and general knowledge of other cultures was sparse then, gentle reader. Women characters in many books written by men up to and through more than half of the 20th century are often mentally thick as bricks and helpless, even if sometimes rather cute and brave in their brain-dead functionality and beauty; and non-white cultures are thought of as exotic and fascinating even if such cultures were considered primitive or peculiar. White liberal Westerners were definitely aware, though, Westerners had corrupted many non-white cultures with their own badness. Fleming clearly wrote spy thrillers to suit himself, his contemporary English readers, and his publishers.

In this novel, Bond’s nemesis is a criminal called Mr. Big, described in this conversation between M and Bond:

“Mr. Big,” said M., weighing his words, “is probably the most powerful negro criminal in the world. He is,” and he enumerated carefully, “the head of the Black Widow Voodoo cult and believed by that cult to be the Baron Samedi himself. (You’ll find out all about that here,” he tapped the folder, “and it’ll frighten the daylights out of you.) He is also a Soviet agent. And finally he is, and this will particularly interest you, Bond, a known member off Smersh.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a great negro criminal before,”said Bond, “Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There’ve been some big-time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of negroes mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way. They don’t seem to take to big business. Pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought except when they’ve drunk too much.”

“Our man’s a bit of an exception,” said M. “He’s not pure negro. Born in Haiti. Good dose of French blood. Trained in Moscow, too, as you see from the file. And the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions - scientists, doctors, writers. It’s about time they turned out a great criminal. After all, there are 250,000,000 of them in the world. They’ve got plenty of brains and guts. And now Moscow’s taught one of them the technique.”

“I’d like to meet him,” said Bond. Then he added, mildly, “I’d like to meet any member of SMERSH.”

In three short paragraphs, Bond and M manage to sort of or flat out disparage three different races and five countries and one entire continent. I think I should point out a couple of things to younger folks: this book was published in 1954; many of the racial terms and erroneous or egregious stereotyping and police information revealed in the above conversation was not considered at all racist on any level in this era, and some of the crime information was true. The racial terms were part of the common terminology used by liberal and racist white English and American people to describe other races, as well as being reflective of what general information even educated Western outsiders knew about other foreign cultures and nationalities. Besides, if you read the above paragraphs carefully, you may notice as I did that the French, who are mostly white, seem to be assumed to be the main contributors to the worst characteristics of criminals of the world to Bond and M. The insinuation appears to be Mr. Big is so bad because of his French ancestry?

I know the gut reaction of many modern readers is probably, like,

: O

and some of you are

>: @

Anyway, these books really still are high-octane action thrillers, with tons of thrills and chills, and intensely graphic scenes, though brief, of torture and abuse. We Americans luv ‘em!

James Bond is sent to America to assist the FBI, the CIA and his best American friend, Felix Leiter, to investigate the possible discovery of the pirate ‘Bloody’ Morgan’s gold treasure. The treasure is rumored to be hidden in Jamaica, British territory. Gold coins from the supposed pirate’s treasure are turning up in New York City, specifically in Harlem, being sold and passed around by black people. Further investigation has revealed Mr. Big’s employees and businesses seem to be the original source of the gold coins. It is also learned Mr. Big recently bought Jamaican property, a little island reputed to have been Morgan’s hideout.

While Bond travels around America’s eastern seaboard leaving many bodies and tortured friends in his wake, we readers learn he doesn’t like our American food, our clothes, our cities, our trains, our insolent manners or our low-brow culture. These opinions happen to be author Ian Fleming’s opinions, too, gentle reader, per Wikipedia.


Ian Fleming hated almost everything about America’s culture! To him, Americans were retarded mouth-breathers in the majority. In reading through various sources, I believe he actually resented our lack of British styling and cool. In 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States by voters. Point taken.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
730 reviews168 followers
January 2, 2020
James Bond's second adventure has the MI6 agent investigating a criminal gold-smuggling enterprise based in New York, Florida and Jamaica that is headed by the mysterious African-American character Mr. Big, who also happens to be a SMERSH (Soviet) agent. The story moves quickly and wraps up in just over 200 pages with plenty of action to keep the reader entertained, although there are some parts that drag as Fleming indulges himself in what feels like a personal travelogue. The book's attitudes towards women and African-Americans will almost certainly be offensive to the modern reader.
Profile Image for Ojo.
261 reviews104 followers
May 17, 2020
One of the most spectacularly written thrillers ever.

Live and Let die follows Bond and his newfound fixation with the Russian organization SMERSH. This time his mission takes him to the USA, where he is soon entangled in a mesh of 17th century gold, horrific murders and a black gangster-ship.

I genuinely find it odd that Ian Flemming's works have been accused of being racist. Or even misogynistic. He writes with the knowledge of the times, in the true soul of the times. He writes from a point in history that's very different from the present. Any perceived prejudices in his writing would stem from his use of certain phrases and terms that would be termed by some- not all- as derogatory.

The main “nigger” in this book is one of the most intelligent persons Bond has ever met, admitted by himself! That's not racist to me. Words are one thing, intent another. You can address a black man by his real name and still treat him like shit. Blacks call each other that name all the time. The history we share is bleak, true. A lot of bad blood. But change has to start from somewhere. Mere words don't bring about change. Actions do.

It's all well done to me, however. That's what makes the Bond character truly unique. Even with its prejudiced origins, the word “nigger” as used by the author in this book, I have found non-discriminatory. Bringing out the words solely for what they represent, out of the context in which it is used, is wrong, in my opinion. Other words such as “Limey” are used as well, and I have a feeling this isn't the last I'll see of such terms being used in the series.

Accusations of the writing being misogynistic are poorly founded, in my opinion. I think that people who see it this way have simply chosen to. Bond treats his girls well. Patriarchal, some might say. I say it's a unique character. One taking life as it comes, braving danger and enjoying two of most enjoyable things in life, the things that make a Bond kind of life worth it, even for a short while: good food, and women.

Bond obviously doesn't joke with his food. He's a womaniser, to be certain. A womaniser in his line of work will naturally see women in the light of the company they offer. Catching feelings totally goes against the character that Bond is. If people have issues with how the author writes his protagonist, then maybe they should write their own, simple.

Somehow, I don't see the Bond character the same when you remove the perceived flaws the author has in his writing. It's one of the reasons why the movie series have been such a huge success. The true character of Bond has never changed, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. He's a ruthless, mostly emotionless assassin who loves beautiful women apologetically and seduces them as they come: a typical 21st century “patriarch”.

In the movies, we all saw what happened when Bond allowed his emotions to get in the way of his mission. He becomes someone else. Not quite Bond as we know it.

So y'all can argue about sexism, feminism, objectifying women, misogyny, etc. I'm pretty sure many girls today would jump at a chance to be a Bond girl even for a day. He does treat his women well. Even Bond haters cannot deny that. I'd never mix the attribute of “womanising” with “misogyny”. I mean, Bond is anything BUT misogynistic. A true gentleman, a gallant knight to the ladies. Even if his flaw is that he likes all of them.

A solid five-star book!
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,877 followers
September 23, 2011
JAMES BOND: "Oh, Solitaire, I really want to make love to you right now in this hot, cramped compartment on a moving train with someone right outside the door trying to kill me, but---I have this broken finger, you see, which makes sex absolutely out of the question, so I'll have to exploit you at a later date."

SOLITAIRE: "Oh, James, I don't mind, because I always dreamed of being kissed exactly the way you just kissed me. And I only met you a couple of days ago, but I wanted to tear my clothes off for you the moment I saw you because I knew you were James Bond 007, even though I've been a prisoner of the Haitians for several years, with no access to information about British spies who are supposed to be top secret."

So tell me again, James, which finger is broken? Because unless it's that 11th finger, the one you keep in your trousers, a broken finger is a pretty lame excuse for withholding stud service.
These books are trash, but they're entertaining trash---the best kind. This one is especially funny because Ian Fleming chose a U.S. setting. The poor guy didn't know that Americans don't say things like, "I'm really keen to do that." And we don't call our men "chaps." Chaps are what rodeo riders wear. Fleming was about 35 years too early, else he could have learned from Garth Brooks that "It's boots and chaps, it's cowboy hats, it's spurs and latigo/It's the ropes and the reins and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo."

If you really want a good laugh, listen to the audio version of this book, in which the otherwise excellent British narrator has to produce a variety of American accents. His attempts to sound like black people in Harlem are hilarious. Not to disparage him, because I couldn't do any better. But imagine John Wayne in London trying to sound like Sir Laurence Olivier. Similarly awkward.

So by now it sounds like I hated this book, but I didn't. I'm just spouting off because it's fun, and no one's gonna read this far into the review anyway.
I saw this movie when I was about 10 years old, which I assure you was a very long time ago. Back when penny candy was a nickel. My memory of the film was vague---a lot of cool gadgets, a big scary bad guy, a lot of noise, piranhas, and a kick-ass theme song. I didn't remember the story being about Haitian voodoo, which is a big part of the novel. Having read Wade Davis's The Serpent and the Rainbow, I had to take most of the voodoo stuff here with a grain of salt. Most of what people think they know about voodoo is wrong.

I give this 2.5 stars. It was entertaining and action packed, but when it was over I wasn't sure exactly what it was supposed to have accomplished in terms of plot.
Profile Image for BrokenTune.
747 reviews200 followers
April 4, 2014
This review was first posted on BookLikes:

When a few years ago I was told that my work was sending me to New Orleans, my immediate need was to find a copy of Live and Let Die, because, well, a part of the film is set there and the surrounding swamps of Louisiana - and I like a Bond story.

So, I got comfortable in my seat on the cross-Atlantic flight and opened my book. A few chapters into the story it suddenly dawned on me...
The book is totally different from the film and there was not going to be a connection with New Orleans. Instead, we follow Bond on an adventure that leads from New York, to Florida, to Jamaica.

Live and Let Die is a weird story. By weird I do mean on one hand the plot of the story - if you are familiar with the films - cuts short many of the plots reused by Cubby Broccoli in the screen adventures.
I won't go into details and add spoilers, but having read this one and loved it - plotwise - I now fully understand why I loved Licence to Kill as a film. It is dark.

The other weird - and somewhat expected yet still disappointing - aspect of this installment on the series is that this is the most chauvinist one of the Bond novels that I have read so far. Casino Royale, the predecessor to Live and Let Die was not half as offensive and the novels that followed after it (as far as I have read them) also are less extreme. But this one? Hmmmm. I seriously cannot recommend it to anyone who is easily offended.

I read one review, which proclaimed that Live and Let Die was themed on the emancipation of African Americans. Oh, really? I'm not sure that the reviewer gets sarcasm, but it sure is not what you'd think of as emancipation if the aspiration of Bond's nemesis is to be "absolutely pre-eminent" in his chosen profession.

Besides the cringe-worthy quantities of racial slur, this is the book where Bond expresses his views of the female lead character - Solitaire - as his "prize" and that this is the only way that he is able to see her. Hmmm.

Ok, so why did I still love the book? Because the chauvinist parts are written so badly that it is just ridiculous. It made me laugh.
Also, there are quite few parts of the book that are absolutely beautiful and those are the descriptions of marine life. There are quite a few scenes that take part under water and I would not have missed reading these sections for anything. Fleming had just as much of a gift for writing about nature as he did for making his hero look a preposterous twit:

" 'Undertaker's Wind' though Bond and smiled wryly. So it would have to be tonight. The only chance, and the conditions were nearly perfect. Except that the shark repellent stuff would not arrive in time. And that was only a refinement. There was no excuse. This was what he had travelled two thousand miles and five deaths to do. And yet he shivered at the prospect of the dark adventure under the sea that he had already put off in his mind until tomorrow. Suddenly he loathed and feared the sea and everything in it. The millions of tiny antennae that would stir and point as he went by that night, the eyes that would wake and watch him, the pulses that would miss for the hundredth of a second and the go beating quietly on, the jelly tendrils that would grope and reach for him, as blind in the light as in the dark."
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