Re: RARA-AVIS: Reading Series in Order?

From: Patrick King (
Date: 21 Jun 2008

--- On Sat, 6/21/08, Mark D. Nevins <> wrote:

The Bond series is of particular interest in this regard, and I'm glad to see that the newest edition puts numbers on the spines. While I have not yet gotten there in my re-read of the series, having just re-read THUNDERBALL, I am aware that there is a tight connection between THUNDERBALL, MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, and MAN WITH GOLDEN GUN. (Next up for me is the "palate cleanser" of SPY WHO LOVED ME, which is an example in one of my favorite themes, "unconventional genre novels," but that's a topic for another post.)
******************************************************************* This series by Ian Fleming was a great inspiration to me long before they were made movies. I read them each as they were published in the late 1950s & early 60s and have re-read the Avon omnibus editions recently(which are not in chronological order btw). I must say I don't see the "tight connection" you mention. CIA operative, Felix Leiter, who barely survived a shark attack in LIVE AND LET DIE, is a fixture in most of these novels. I'd call him a loose connection, not a tight connection. There is a significant relationship between FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and DR. NO primarily due to the change in Bond's choice of weapons. In RUSSIA, Bond's at that time famous .25 Beretta got stuck in it's equally famous chamois pouch and he was nearly poisoned by and evil (and ugly!) female SMERSH assassin. So, in DR. NO, British armorer Major Boothroyd explains to M. that its time for Bond to upgrade his weapon to the (now famous) Walther PPK and the Martin spring
 powered triple draw holster. This is the best reason I can think of to read those two books back-to-back but I wouldn't say it's important to do so. Bond is a typical ageless super hero. All these book might take place in exactly the same year if that were possible. Bond does not change. His landlady notices the puncture wounds in his skin. He always drives a supercharged Bentley and I suppose if you owned a supercharged Bentley there would be no need to ever replace such a car.

Boothroyd, by the way, was a real person who wrote to Fleming to say he loved his stories but that he must be crazy sending Bond into situations like that with a .25 automatic pistol with a silencer. He said one can hardly hear a .25 go off anyway and what the silencer did primarily was weaken an already weak load. He also pointed out that due to the length of the Beretta's barrel, it's very unlikely you can add a silencer to it. Fleming took him seriously and changed Bond's weapon of choice in the next book.

Academically it may be interesting to read this series in order to see how Fleming evolved as a thriller writer. From a story point of view I can't think of any reason to do so however.

Patrick King


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