Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming is the second novel featuring Secret Service agent James Bond 007. The book was first published in 1954 and takes place during the cold war.
After almost being assassinated by S.M.E.R.S.H Bond wants revenge and M has the assignment for him. Gold coins are appearing in America, maybe from the pirate Bloody Morgan’s treasure; the government thinks Soviet agents are using them to further their nefarious cause.
Mr. Big, a notorious crime lord, uses voodoo as part of an elaborate plan to control his crime cartel. Mr. Big also works for S.M.E.R.S.H which gets Bond’s attention.
One has to read Ian Fleming’s novel through the prism in which it was written. It seems that during the 1950s, people of African origin were a mystery to Mr. Fleming, and probably to most Europeans as well. Keeping in mind that a book such as this is only as good as its villain, it is no surprise that the author chose to make James Bond’s first serious villain an African-American blending American culture, voodoo and the mysteries of the race to achieve, creating a wonderful antagonist in a wonderful story.
The book might seem racist in today’s world. Mr. Fleming uses the word “Negro” frequently; however, it seemed that me that he does not mean it in the negative but more as a descriptive way to tell his story to his target audience (white European males). Quite the opposite, I found that it seemed as if the author had great respect for African-Americans.
The plot is outlandish, especially for the books which are much tamer than the movies; it involves pirates, a treasure, voodoo and more elaborate elements. However, the book does give the reader an insight into what drives Mr. Bond as he builds a long lasting relationship with his CIA counterpart Felix Leiter and exposes his vulnerabilities.
One thing is for certain, though. Mr. Fleming knew nothing about America when he wrote this book, and the effect is actually quite funny. I never heard an American refer to anyone as a “chap” or use the word “keen” in any way, shape, or form which Mr. Fleming imagined it to be. The dialog in the book is somewhat hysterical as well, especially Solitaire’s: her “Oh, James…” speech on the train is something a comedy writer would dream up, especially after Bond refuses to have sex with her because of a… get this … broken finger. I know of no man who would give up carnal knowledge because of a broken finger.
This short book, is fast paced, enjoyable, easy to read and showcases Fleming’s famous dark humor despite the dialogue. The narrative is entertaining and action packed but more or less pointless – however, Mr. Big’s character is fantastic, a strong African-American crime lord who steals the book.Powered by Sidelines