As the super patriot and war veteran who’s bankrolling Britain’s top-secret Moonraker rocket program, Sir Hugo Drax should be above reproach. But there’s more to this enigmatic millionaire than he lets on. When M suspects Drax of cheating at cards in an exclusive gentleman’s club, he sends Bond in to investigate. But exposing the deception only enrages Drax—and now 007 must outwit an angry man with the power to loose a nuclear warhead on London.
The mysterious death of the head of security at Drax’s missile base gives Bond the perfect opportunity to go undercover to find out the secret agenda of the supposed British war hero. With the help of another agent, the lustrous Gala Brand, 007 learns the truth about Drax’s battle scars, his wartime allegiances—and his murderous plans for the deployment of Moonraker.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
The oddest so far in the James Bond series. I was about two thirds of the way through when I started to wonder when something of significance would happen! The last third, however, held all the action that I’d been asking for.
A very slow start, back to Bond & his card expertise. Having just read Tim Powers’ Last Call, which heavily involves poker and other games of chance, I was maybe a bit worn out with the card games! However, what I did find fascinating in the opening pages of the book was Fleming’s description of James Bond’s schedule:
”It was the beginning of a typical routine day for Bond. It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring his particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going senior civil servant—elastic office hours from around ten to six; lunch, generally at the canteen; evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends, or at Crockford’s; or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women; weekends playing golf for high stakes at one of the clubs near London.”
This is Fleming, the now-married man, describing his life during his stint in naval intelligence! It could almost have been written by his biographer, Andrew Lycett.
The third book in the Bond series, this is first one in which Bond doesn’t get the girl. I found the last sentence to be a bit sad: “He touched her for the last time and then they turned away from each other and walked off into their different lives.” Fleming drew so much from his personal life for these books that it makes me wonder who he had in mind when he wrote such a melancholy final line.
Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.
So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg... She's gate-crashed a wedding... She's making money by secretly cleaning houses... And she's been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.
Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub... and someone is definitely trying to kill her.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
What an absolutely charming beginning to a series! Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is a poverty-stricken gentlewoman, 34th in the line of succession to the throne, trying to keep up appearances with little to no income. This author makes the most of the fascination with the Royal family and the deportment of Queen Victoria and her successors. For example:
”The sight of one female person slinking across the forecourt on foot would definitely have my esteemed relative-by-marriage, Her Royal Majesty and Empress of India, Queen Mary, raise an eyebrow. Well, probably not actually raise the eyebrow because personages of royal blood are trained not to react, even to the greatest of improprieties. Were a native in some dark corner of the colonies to strip off his loincloth and dance, waggling his you-know-what with gay abandon, not so much as an eyebrow twitch would be permitted. The only appropriate reaction would be polite clapping when the dance was over.”
A great deal of fun is had with the whole “we are not amused” stereotype, the contrast between Britons and Americans, and the differences between the classes. Don’t be looking for hard-hitting class commentary here, however. Most of the fun derives from the fact that Georgie and her brother are so clueless with regard to the actual running of a household and are so dependent on their servants that they can barely start a fire or boil water for tea.
There is a romantic aspect to the tale as well—Georgie is expected to either find suitable employment for a woman of her rank or find a husband with enough money to keep them in the style that they are accustomed to, money being more important than love in the equation. Georgie, however, has her own ideas on the suitability of husbands and she may have to dodge some of Queen Mary’s ideas on the subject.
Light & fluffy, perfect for summertime reading!
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 this criminal heavy hitter is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, after tracking him through the jazz joints of Harlem, to the everglades and on to the Caribbean, 007 has realized that Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced. And no-one, not even the mysterious Solitaire, can be sure how their battle of wills is going to end…
***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.
A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.
It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
Well, you couldn’t get much further away from the playboy-spy image than this, could you? George Smiley, the chubby everyman who’s always polishing his glasses, is the antithesis of James Bond. Rather than Miss Moneypenny, there’s a whole department of women known as “the mothers.” And instead of posh casinos, George spends a lot of time in a run-down hotel, reading swathes of paper files.
This is spy work done through the archives, searching for patterns in the paperwork, and through careful interviews with those who have been betrayed and/or let go. We have hints that Smiley had his daring days when he was younger, but he’s now a middle-aged man using his intellect instead of his muscles, carefully piecing together the story. Sometimes he learns as much from what’s not said as from what is said. Plus, he’s reinvigorating his career—sacked because he sided with the wrong person (Control), he is getting his place in the biz back by figuring out which high-level Intelligence man is their Russian mole.
Double agents, backstabbing, and betrayal. What more can you ask for in a novel?