SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops Group discussion

Goldfinger (James Bond, #7)
This topic is about Goldfinger
35 views
I Want a New Title! > Has anybody read Ian Fleming's James Bond novels

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jarrod (new)

Jarrod (monopolygie) Hey Guys, I'm new to the group and I was wondering whether anybody has previously read some of Ian Flemming's James Bond novels? I'm a big fan of the movies and want to know if the books are of the same quality. Thanks in advance.


message 2: by Sirius (new) - added it

Sirius Alexander (Sirius_Alexander) | 40 comments I've read them all. On the whole I'd say that the Bond of the books is much colder than the films. He's an orphan whose wife gets murdered and he earns his money as an assassin. He drinks martinis because they're a strong drink further to it being glamorous.

You'll notice that the books are also quite outdated in terms of how they deal with women and black characters. They're also interesting as at the start of the series the British empire and overseas power is definitely still a thing but by the later books bond is playing alongside or in fact below the cia and the loss of British power is quite palpable.

There are a lot less gadgets in the books too, and don't think that the books with the same name as one of the films tells the same story. Quite often they don't match at all.

Very good enjoyable reads though.


message 3: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 25, 2015 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Sirius, the remarks in your second paragraph ought not be posed in this unflattering way, to a reader just beginning this series. They don't really even need to be mentioned. I find the Bond novels refreshing, no matter when I pick them up. They were written in an unashamed, unapologetic, I-don't-give-a-damn style. What I'm disgusted by far more than Ian Fleming's bluntness, is modern revisionism for the sake of today's PC-pleasers.

I don't even agree that Fleming is really dated, for that matter. Slurs, discrimination, & misogyny are all still with us and always will be. I can find it in my city anytime I look for it just by stepping out on the stoop of my building. And certainly in any rural area in America as well. What's different between Fleming's time and ours are simply the 'sweeping it under the rug' we now engage in, the pretending-its-all-eradicated, the phony new restrictions and wrist-slapping (which convinces nobody). Chickensh*t news media, and committees and task forces and lawsuits and whining--that's what's 'new'. And the hypocrisy of it! Today's porn-embracing culture commoditizes and humiliates women far more than they did in the 1950s. And American imperialism is --as far as I can see--just as bad for the world as Britain's was.

Bottom line: whatever's in the Fleming books deserves to be there; its part of his conception. He wrote about the world he saw it and his observations make the books work. Kipling, Conrad, Fleming--it's our duty to let all their creative works alone. Let's respect the past even when it makes some folks cringe. Worse than imperialism/colonialism/racism/sexism, is this horrible, new, knee-jerk sanitizing. Like going into the Vatican or the Uffizi gallery and putting little fig leaves on the naked cherubim. It really sets me off.


message 4: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 25, 2015 09:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Jarrod, here's my appraisal of Ian Fleming--scroll down about 7/8th to the bottom of this page. I don't deny that he was a product of his time; but I don't spurn him for it.

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...-


message 5: by Jarrod (new)

Jarrod (monopolygie) Feliks wrote: "Jarrod, here's my appraisal of Ian Fleming--scroll down about 7/8th to the bottom of this page. I don't deny that he was a product of his time; but I don't spurn him for it.

https://www.goodreads...."


Thanks a lot, you gave an extremely detailed overview of the series.


message 6: by Sirius (new) - added it

Sirius Alexander (Sirius_Alexander) | 40 comments I was neither condoing or championing Flemings treatment of women and minorities, merely stating that if you are used to reading more modern novels that you'd notice a difference and that to me the terms he uses seem quite outdated.

The original poster asked for opinions on the Fleming Bond novels, so I gave mine. It is no less valid than yours.


message 7: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 26, 2015 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Yeap. Of course you know that somewhat shrill criticism of Fleming comes up all over the Goodreads site...it's getting under-my-skin, I admit it. Apologies. Naturally everyone's opinion is valid when talking over fiction.

It's just that for a new reader approaching a classic franchise, describing where the author could be perceived to 'be at fault'--and that, only due to modern trends which are themselves, suspect--is perhaps not the best way to encourage someone to begin exploration of these great books. Like, if a beautiful woman friend of yours has a mole; you wouldn't mention the mole when describing her to a friend who's never seen her. It would be a poor representation of how the woman actually appears. The Bond series is monumental in its genre, perhaps the most monumental. I would always highlight that fact first and let any talk of complaints or discrepancies come later, after the reader has delved in and experienced it for themselves. Let them make their own appraisal, with no a priori ideas. I mean...there's so many other things you can say to a new reader in a case like this.

Me: I love the anecdote that JFK was a Fleming fan, and was found to keep copies of 'Goldfinger' [or one of the other titles] in his bathroom at the White House. When asked about it, he shrugged it off and replied something to the effect that 'these are books for men'. Basically flipped the bird to anyone who found it questionable. JFK's recommendation suits me, then and now. I don't care what people today say is right or wrong; who are they? What are their values? If John F. Kennedy saw nothing amiss, I sure don't.

Just sayin'. All good.


David Sirius wrote: "I've read them all. On the whole I'd say that the Bond of the books is much colder than the films. He's an orphan whose wife gets murdered and he earns his money as an assassin. He drinks martinis ..."

I find your response to the question asked to be spot on. Having never read a Bond book, I have no opinion of the series. Other than than the movie Goldfinger, I don't find the movies all that entertaining.


message 9: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 26, 2015 10:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
His comment is indeed spot-on, but I'm curious how as to how you can confirm that, if you've never read even one book in the series? Slightly odd statement, no?

Anyway, I agree the books are very cold, sober, steely-eyed, pungent, unapologetic. This makes them great.


message 10: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 26, 2015 10:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
I recall one short story of Fleming's which appears in 'For Your Eyes Only' and which has to do with an American millionaire and the horrible manner in which he dominates and terrorizes and abuses his trophy wife.

He has gotten hold of an ocean stingray and removed its tail to use as a strop or flail on his wife's hindquarters at any time she displeases him. Its a fearsome implement. Fit more for a territorial prison than a bedroom.

Okay so its a well-written story describing a certain kind of human scumbag; maybe the storyline is not all that pleasant and I'm sure our hearts go out to the poor mistreated fictional female in this tale.

Should the story not have been conceived and written due to its adult content?

Should we 'cover up' that the story ever occurred, remove it from the ranks of available books, because men certainly don't beat their wives in this day and age?

This is the line-of-thinking that I find preposterous. I'm just extrapolating outward from this thread to the kind of stuff that irks me on Goodreads...Fleming had all that any writer needs: a keen eye and guts to tell what he saw around him.

He himself was embroiled in a messy divorce and scandal. So were several of his friends, notorious scandals even.


message 11: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 195 comments There are still plenty of despicable scumbags doing despicable things all around this World, including in the USA and Canada. Those 'PC' types complaining are hypocrites who refuse to see the realities of this modern world. The only thing different from past decades is that scumbags now have more modern tools to do their dirty deeds.


message 12: by Sirius (new) - added it

Sirius Alexander (Sirius_Alexander) | 40 comments I think my point was that to a modern reader it is interesting to see how sexism, racism and the old British empire are treated in the books. They are very much a snapshot in to the early 50's and the British upper middle classes of the 50's at that. That whole subset of people that Fleming, Le Carre, Turing and most of the others involved in the foreign office or ww2 intelligence belong to just doesn't exist now. King and country and empire first would be laughed at, same as racism and sexism (hopefully). I can't remember which novel now but at one point Bond and Felix Leiter go to Harlem and the descriptions of the black community there was quite uncomfortable to read to me as it used language I was not used to seeing written down.


message 13: by Michel (last edited Aug 27, 2015 12:26AM) (new)

Michel Poulin | 195 comments Uh, Alan Turing was actually a victim of that time period's prejudices against homosexuals and was eventually forcibly castrated chemically, even though he helped save his country from the Nazi threat. Are things really that different in that aspect today? Only superficially. As for racism, while the N-word is not heard as much as before, just go visit the southern states and you will encounter plenty of people who still think the same way as before but simply watch what they say in public.


message 14: by Sirius (new) - added it

Sirius Alexander (Sirius_Alexander) | 40 comments Yes I appreciate that he was treated badly by the society of the day. My point was more regarding the class from which he came from.


message 15: by Sirius (new) - added it

Sirius Alexander (Sirius_Alexander) | 40 comments My point regarding racism also has little to nothing to do with southern state Americans. We were talking about the bond books in comparison to modern literature.


message 16: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 195 comments My point was that the old Bond books reflected the reality as it was then, while modern literature is more hypocritical, using 'PC' language to describe a world that changed not that much socially.


message 17: by David (last edited Aug 28, 2015 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

David Feliks wrote: "His comment is indeed spot-on, but I'm curious how as to how you can confirm that, if you've never read even one book in the series? Slightly odd statement, no?

Anyway, I agree the books are very..."


Wasn't clear enough, it appears, in my response. I meant spot-on in the sense that he answered the question. Of course, if I haven't read the books, could I reply as to the authenticity of his response?


message 18: by Feliks, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
You see my confusion then. No worries.

Back to my point, from what I can detect around the GR site it is 'Live and Let Die' which gets the most flak. Rather predictable. The same folks hate the Travis McGee series; the same folks even criticize Dashiell Hammet's books.

But, they never talk about Bond's salubrious and respectful relationship with Quarrel in 'Doctor No'.

Ah nevermind, I need to stop looking at the reviews from random jackdaws on this site when they don't know a damn thing anyway.


message 19: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Poalillo | 8 comments I read all the books and loved each. Fleming created the template for the suave spy. Certainly ahead of his time. Fleming himself was in British Intelligence as per the book jackets and apparently knew the machine and how it worked. Read them, you won't be disappointed!


message 20: by Michael (new)

Michael Connick I read all the James Bond novels with I was in high school and enjoyed them very much when I was of that age. As I got older, and actually started working with the intelligence community, my enthusiasm for them cooled greatly.

As for Ian Fleming's role in intelligence: the fact is that he was just the personal assistant to the head of Britain's Naval Intelligence during WWII. He was a staff officer, not an actual clandestine intelligence officer. Most of the work he did was in organizing units that specialized in capturing and securing secret documents from locations that Allied troops had just captured. Valuable and interesting work, but not anything like the work his novels' character performs.

In fact, I often use the James Bond books and stories as examples of wildly inaccurate spy fiction. They are fun yarns, but have little in common with the real world of espionage.

Michael
http://michaelconnick.com


message 21: by Feliks, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Agreed; that's a fair summation. But I don't think Fleming ever wanted anyone to take them seriously; he was deliberately being fantastical. Still, I think that we can take Bond's personality and psychology as being valid; no matter the lurid adventures he was placed in. Fleming based Bond on real-world individuals.

Anyway. To me, he himself (Fleming) doesn't need to have ever personally participated in a clandestine operation in order to earn my respect. It's enough that he worked in Intelligence during the war, and performed a role similar to 'M' rather than 'Bond'. His hand is found in a variety of projects in conjunction with his brother that extended back to the 30s. That's more street cred than a lot of authors can boast.


message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael Connick Feliks wrote: "Agreed; that's a fair summation. But I don't think Fleming ever wanted anyone to take them seriously; he was deliberately being fantastical. Still, I think that we can take Bond's personality and p..."

Feliks,

Having just mercilessly bashed James Bond stories, I have to admit to a guilty pleasure - watching James Bond movies!

Michael
http://michaelconnick.com


message 23: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 05, 2016 10:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Aye. There's plenty of Bond film threads right here in this very group. The films you love --and love to hate! cough cough Moonraker cough




Doubledf99.99 | 93 comments Have read a good majority of the Fleming, Bond novels, and love them, from Bond himself, the exotic locations, the villains, the fights, the cars, the women, can't forget the booze, just plain old goooood reading.


Samuel  | 647 comments Fleming once said that from some unnamed source, he learned what the boys at the SIS thought of Bond. He said that their opinion of 007 was one of benign laughter, amusement and affection (paraphrasing I don't remember the exact quote but I do know that Fleming said they didn't hate the James Bond books)


Doubledf99.99 | 93 comments Thats fine, that's why it's fiction, the books and movies are pure escapism for me, and parts even make me laugh, but I still love them.


message 27: by Feliks, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1077 comments Mod
Remember that JFK was a fan of Bond--and used to keep copies in the lavatory during his tenure at the White House. When reporters tried to embarrass him about it, he replied something to the effect of 'Well..that Bond is a real man'. JFK!

I always say... that's good enough recommendation for me.


back to top