Tuesday, October 23, 2012

James Bond - Dr. No

The sixth 007 novel, Dr. No published in 1958.

Bond has recovered from his ordeal at the end of From Russia to Love and is sent to Jamaica to investigate a couple of missing persons connected to the secret service. Both M and Bond seem to regard it as a bit of a holiday assignment but before long 007 is sneaking onto Crab Key island and encountering both Honeychile Ryder and the infamous Dr. No.

It is fairly easy to see why they chose this one for the first film. Bond does a lot more than in Casino Royale, and, of course, there is some exotic travel, a creepy villain and the Bond girl to beat all Bond girls. 007 also receives his signature weapon in this book. Fleming, who confessed he knew nothing about guns, had received a letter from a firearms expert called Major Boothroyd who put him right about Bond's Beretta. Fleming rewarded his correspondent by having him appear as the armourer who suggests Bond switch away from this "ladies' gun" to the more powerful and reliable Walther PPK. Not that Bond gets to fire it, he does use a Smith & Wesson .38 against Dr. No's dragon vehicle but with little effect. Bond's personal friends continue to do badly and the loyal Quarrel dies horribly when their plan to disable the dragon fails.

After this setback we get a memorable encounter with the sadistic Dr. No, complete with mechanical hands and thick glass contact lenses, who explains his plans to Bond before forcing him through his torture tunnel (not a euphemism) and staking Honeychile out to be eaten by crabs. Inevitably Bond survives to turn the tables on the bad guy and dispose of him in such a suitably ironic way that I wonder why they didn't keep that in the film version. Although on reflection it would perhaps have been more appropriate for the Roger Moore Bond era.

This is a terrific Bond adventure spoiled only by the period's view of the "Yellow Peril" and the Chinese in particular. Apart from this 21st century anachronistic quibble this is Fleming in a purple patch, with From Russia to Love behind him and Goldfinger to come. Again it easy to see why the James Bond novels were generating such excitement at the time.

One villain with several medical conditions (including Dextrocardia), the most memorable Bond girl ever, no sporting encounter but one torture sequence and several gruesome deaths.

James Bond will return in ... Goldfinger

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