Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
Richard says: “Live and Let Die is the second novel in Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond series. At the risk of spoiling Casino Royale‘s ending, the most I’ll say is that it follows directly from the events in the preceding book—a marked difference from the movies, which tend toward self-contained narratives. Agent 007, MI5’s most dependable operative, is sent to New York City to unravel the mystery of ‘Mr. Big’ (AKA, ‘Buonaparte Ignace Gallia’), a shadowy criminal mastermind with connections to the Soviet Union. In the process, Bond uncovers a disturbing connection between gold smugglers—apparently a favorite theme of Fleming’s—a voodoo cult, and the USSR’s sinister SMERSH operations. Naturally, Bond is the only man for the job.
This probably sounds familiar, and rightly so. James Bond has been fully absorbed into the collective pop culture consciousness; he has changed with the times to suit each generation’s expectations. As a result, readers who have seen the motion pictures will recognize many of the series’ well-worn tropes, albeit filtered through the lens of the 1950s: globetrotting adventures, a mysterious and beautiful woman whose primary role is to be Bond’s love interest, a ruthless megalomaniac bent on world domination, and enough racy double entendres to make even Geoffrey Chaucer blush. In other words, Bond fans will find a lot to enjoy in this book. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the novels—while subtly humorous—are nowhere near as outrageous as many of the movies.
Live and Let Die was later adapted into a notoriously campy film, notable mostly for featuring Roger Moore’s first turn as James Bond. One of the series’ more lightweight entries, Live and Let Die lacks the cool sophistication of From Russia with Love or the grandiosity of The Spy Who Loved Me. Still, the movie has a lot to recommend: Jane Seymour’s radiant Solitaire (still one the most popular and recognizable ‘Bond girls’), Moore’s wry take on 007, a killer theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings, and a suitably tongue-in-cheek tone. These items keep the film afloat, even if it lacks many elements of the best Bond flicks. While it borders on the absurd, Live and Let Die never quite falls victim to the cringeworthy cheese that bogs down Moore’s later performances in a quagmire of ludicrous plots and gadgets. The book is great and comes highly recommended; however, the film is probably a ‘fans only’ proposition.”
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