By Hugo Munday • November 06, 2015
President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia with Love among his top 10 favorite novels, and after a private screening of Dr. No at the White House he was reputed to have said "I wish I had James Bond on my staff." Bond was the creation of Ian Fleming, former pupil at England's most prestigious private school, member of British Intelligence during World War II, and off-spring of the Fleming family who owned a private bank. After World War II Fleming tried his hand at writing, and sixty years ago the first Bond book, Casino Royale, was born. ...the element of suspense is completely absent His own publisher’s view of the book was negative: “So far as I can see the element of suspense is completely absent.” It was only through the intervention of his brother (who was already successfully published) that the book was released at all. It was an instant bestseller, and the rest is history. First edition hardbacks have become very collectible and with the movie franchise showing no sign of slowing down, our interest in this arcane operative, seems to be keeping pace. Here are our picks of the top five Bond books - let us know what yours are.
Casino Royale: Casino Royale is where it all begins, the first of 11 Bond novels penned by Ian Fleming. Everything from M to Felix Leiter to SMERSH and the trademark Martini are here. The casino setting and all the accoutrements of the jet-set are a stark contrast to Britain in the post-war era, which made Bond an even more attractive slice of escapism at the time.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service: On Her Majesty's Secret Service reveals an emotional side of Bond not previously seen, and even sees him getting married. Bond also meets Ernst Stavro Blofeld for the first time, atop a mountain where he is plotting to use biological warfare to destroy Britain. Written while Dr. No was being filmed, this novel has one of the most satisfying plots in the series, and was turned into one of the best Bond films – sans gadgets and gimmicks.
From Russia with Love: This is the Bond novel that made JFK’s top 10 list. SMERSH wants to destroy Bond and the British Secret Service in this tale that encompasses Turkey, The Orient Express, and Venice. Cryptographic machines, sex scandals, assassins, and poison-tipped spiked shoes spice up a tightly plotted and very exciting book.
Moonraker: Hugo Drax is the arch villain who collaborates with the Soviets while pursuing his plot to destroy London. More cards (this time bridge), gentleman’s clubs, nuclear missiles, car chases, amnesia and former Nazis populate this excellent story of betrayal and revenge.
Goldfinger: Perhaps the most entertaining and fantastical tale on our list. The story revolves around a plan to steal the of the United States gold reserves from Fort Knox, and features a great villain in the gold-obsessed Auric Goldfinger, the menacing henchman Odd Job, and the archly named Pussy Galore, who leads a gang of lesbian burglars. It was made into the definitive Bond movie starring Sean Connery and is still one of the key films which defines the genre. A true classic.