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Search tags: 2018-summer-of-spies
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review 2018-09-04 17:05
Goldfinger / Ian Fleming
Goldfinger - Ian Fleming

Auric Goldfinger, the most phenomenal criminal Bond has ever faced, is an evil genius who likes his cash in gold bars and his women dressed only in gold paint. After smuggling tons of gold out of Britain into secret vaults in Switzerland, this powerful villain is planning the biggest and most daring heist in history-robbing all the gold in Fort Knox. That is, unless Secret Agent 007 can foil his plan. In one of Ian Fleming's most popular adventures, James Bond tracks this most dangerous foe across two continents and takes on two of the most memorable villains ever created-a human weapon named Oddjob and a luscious female crime boss named Pussy Galore.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

I spent part of the Labour Day weekend finishing up my Summer of Spies and finishing up Goldfinger. I’ve had fun with earlier installments of Bond, but found this book a bit of a grind. It started, Goddess aid me, with card games yet again and then continued on with one of the only subjects that I consider more boring than cards, golf! There was much eye rolling and boredom on my part, but I realize that these subjects excite other people, and certainly were passions of Mr. Fleming.

Add to that statements like Koreans being “the cruelest, most ruthless people in the world” and a criminal organization consisting of lesbians under the direction of Pussy Galore, and well, this one went way off the charts of the stereotype-meter. I’ll take the TV show “Kim’s Convenience” over Oddjob any day for an example of Koreans in our society. Next time I’m feeling down about the role of women and minorities in our society and feeling like change is taking for-bloody-ever, I’ll pick up the next Bond book for a reminder of exactly how far we have come.

I will reiterate what I said in my review of Casino Royale, that I am surprised and pleased at the caliber of Fleming’s writing. I shouldn’t be so surprised, I guess, as he read a lot and spent a fair amount of time with literary people, including one of my favourites, Raymond Chandler. I guess that I’ve unfairly absorbed the literary judgements of his wife’s literary circle, who looked down their noses at Fleming’s work. I’m glad to have read several of the books that have created their own enduring niche in popular culture.

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text 2018-09-01 20:44
Reading progress update: I've read 178 out of 347 pages.
Goldfinger - Ian Fleming

 

According to Auric Goldfinger, Koreans "are the cruellest, most ruthless people in the world."

 

I can hardly wait to tell my Korean cousins about this. Ha!

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review 2018-08-28 17:33
The Spy of Venice / Benet Brandreth
The Spy of Venice: A William Shakespeare Novel - Benet Brandreth

When he's caught out by one ill-advised seduction too many, young William Shakespeare flees Stratford to seek his fortune. Cast adrift in London, Will falls in with a band of players - but greater men have their eye on this talented young wordsmith.

England's very survival hangs in the balance, and Will finds himself dispatched to Venice on a crucial embassy. Dazzled by the city's masques - and its beauties - Will little realises the peril in which he finds himself. Catholic assassins would stop at nothing to end his mission on the point of their sharpened knives, and lurking in the shadows is a killer as clever as he is cruel.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

William Shakespeare as a character was the hook that persuaded me to pick up this historical espionage novel, but really virtually any well-known man from the period could have substituted successfully in the role. I kind of turned off the “Shakespeare detector” in my brain in order to enjoy the novel as much as I did.

Picture Shakespeare as kind of an Elizabethan James Bond, learning his way around Venice and Venetians and trying to fulfill the mission that he inherits from the assassinated nobleman who recruited him to travel to Italy. The plot was decent—twisty enough to be interesting, but with a few thin spots. For example, I think two actors from a ragged company would be hard pressed to impersonate the English ambassador and his aide. But once you’ve allowed yourself to accept those unlikely situations, the novel is simply fun.

Brandreth seeded a lot of phrases throughout the novel that would presage some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and sonnets. Most of the time, I found them amusing, but occasionally they grated on me a bit. The author is an actor and a specialist in Shakespearean language and history, so his choice of Shakespeare as character makes sense. I also found the language used in the writing to be appropriate—not too obviously 21st century, for example.

I certainly liked this tale well enough to read Brandreth’s sequel, The Assassin of Verona.

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review 2018-08-24 20:14
Dr. No / Ian Fleming
Dr. No - Ian Fleming

James Bond travels to the Caribbean to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a secret service team. As he uncovers the astonishing truth about strange energy waves that are interfering with U.S. missile launches, he must battle deadly assassins, sexy femmes fatales, and even a poisonous tarantula. The search takes him to an exotic tropical island, where he meets a beautiful nature girl and discovers the hideout of Doctor No, a six-foot-six madman with a mania for torture, a lust to kill, and a fantastic secret to hide.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Probably the silliest Bond that I have read so far, with Dr. No being a caricature of a villain, very over-the-top! Fleming must have read some of Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu, another super-villain of the early 20th century (and a character who drew protests from the Chinese embassy and Japanese-Americans for the overt racism).

However, I’ve awarded half a star more than I did for the other Bond novels that I’ve read so far, both for the depiction of Jamaica (a place that Fleming obviously loved) and for the accurate ornithological information. When Fleming describes Jamaica, he does so lovingly—his time spent at his home there, Goldeneye, must have been some of the most peaceful and productive time in his life. Quarrel, Bond’s partner in both this novel and Live and Let Die was based on a Jamaican fisherman who took Fleming shark-fishing.

From reading Andrew Lycett’s biography of Fleming, I know that Fleming was taken on a field trip to a flamingo colony in the Bahamas. This must have started his creative process, beginning with the fictional island of Crab Key, which is also a haven for birds until the advent of the fiendish Dr. No, whose guano-harvesting business is a front for espionage activity. Fleming certainly gets the mangrove habitat and the guano business details right, probably as a result of his travel with two experts on this expedition. Small islands are indeed a haven for colonies of sea birds and their guano has been exploited for fertilizer since the 1800s at least.

I have to also acknowledge Fleming for being willing to change things up on the advice of experts—Bond gets new guns in this story, on the advice of a Bond enthusiast who was also a firearms expert (Geoffrey Boothroyd). As a result, the Armourer in this novel acquires the name Major Boothroyd. Fleming, however, can’t resist one last snark on the matter at the end when Bond cables M: “REGRET MUST AGAIN REQUEST SICK LEAVE STOP SURGEONS REPORT FOLLOWS STOP KINDLY INFORM ARMOURER SMITH AND WESSON INEFFECTIVE AGAINST FLAME-THROWER ENDIT.”

I have ranted about other books where the author has included inaccurate bird information (Dragonfly in Amber, for example), so I will even forgive M for dismissing one of my favourite birds, the Whooping Crane, because of the birdy accuracy of this novel.

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text 2018-08-23 16:26
Reading progress update: I've read 220 out of 302 pages.
Dr. No - Ian Fleming

 

Does anyone remember how much I complained about the bird information in Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber?  Well, I commend Fleming for getting his bird info right!  Mind, you, I know he went on a field trip with ornithologists who were studying Roseate Spoonbills, which is no doubt where he got the idea for the bird island of Dr. No.

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