Let the game begin…

Bond and Vesper finish their meal, at one point Vesper makes a wistful comment eluding to how much better it would be if they were not currently on a job. Bond quickly rebukes her, and there is a moment of coldness between them. Bond covers it by going into the details of the job, explaining how the game of baccarat works. Again, the marvels of Fleming’s descriptive writing come in here, as he has Bond explain the game, and later, in the casino, he goes around the table, giving us details on each of the players in the game, information that Bond has requested from the huissier (usher).

Le Chiffre arrives at last, and the game begins. “Messieurs mesdames, les jeux sont faits. Un banco de cinq cent mille” (“Gentleman, ladies, the bets are made. A bank value of five thousand.”) The Greek in position number one at the table is the first to fall to Le Chiffre, who gets a perfect 9 on his first play.
On Bond’s first chance to face his enemy, he picks up a bank of one million, and this time Bond gets the perfect nine to win the coup and collect the bank. Mr and Mrs Du Pont engage Bond in some banter after his successful play. If you haven’t read through the Bond novels, remember Mr Du Point. He makes another appearance later in the series.

The game continues, and Bond has no way of knowing the full desperation of Le Chiffre. We’re told, but Bond doesn’t know that the Russian only has 10 million francs left after an afternoon of heavy losses. Bond has 28 million francs and is feeling good about his position. Then in two hands, Bond sweating it out, loses 12 and 16 million francs respectively to Le Chiffre and is cleaned out. The writing in this chapter is outstanding. You can feel the tension in the room, and Fleming writes with the experience of someone who has been in the exact position that Bond finds himself. In a way, when you read of Bond’s thoughts, feelings and emotions in this game, you’re gaining insight into the mind of Ian Fleming.

We’ll pick up the reading in the next entry with chapter 12.

Note…in an effort to get some comments on this page…if you\’re interested in a gmail account, (Free Email account from Google with 1GB storage)leave me a comment on the blog, with your current email address and I’ll send you an invite. I have 10 to give out.

Dinner with Vesper

In chapter eight, Bond is getting ready for the night battle in the casino with Le Chiffre. He goes back to his room, and takes the “long hot bath followed by an ice cold shower” and lays down to plan further for the evening. He needs to figure out what roles Mathis, Leiter and the girl are going to play for the evening. As he gets ready we have our second reference to Hoagy Carmichael in the book. Earlier, the girl had remarked to Mathis that Bond looked like Carmichael.

The picture above is of Carmichael. Bond doesn’t see the resemblance, mainly because of the thin vertical scar he himself has on his right cheek. He finishes dressing and then goes to meet the girl for dinner.

Bond is again struck by her beauty and they go in to dinner. Bond finally learns her “Christian name”, which is Vesper. Vesper Lynd. (Note: In the original TV version of Casino Royale Vesper was played by Linda Christian, is there an irony there…”Christian name”…Linda Christian? OK, maybe it’s the Martini I just had that talking here…) In any case, Vesper explains how her parents came up with the name, and Bond decides that it is the perfect name for his signature martini, described in the previous chapter.

They have dinner and again, we get some big words that us ignorant Americans (speak for myself, I know) probably don’t use everyday. Vesper orders her meal thusly:

I’d like to start with caviar and then have a plain grilled rogan de veau with pommes souffles. And then I’d like to have fraises des bois with a lot of cream.

What she actually ordered was beef kidney with apple souffles, followed by strawberries with cream. Bond on the other hand, says

I would like a very small tournedos, underdone with sauce Bearnaise and a coeur d’artichaut. While Mademoiselle is enjoying the strawberries, I will have half of an avacado pear with a little french dressing.

Bond has ordered a small round steak which is taken from the tenderloin heart, with Bearnaise Sauce and and artichoke heart. He then haggles with the sommelier (Wine Steward) over the choice of champagne for dinner. Bond admits to Vesper that he takes “a ridiculous pleasure” in what he eats and drinks. He says that usually while on a job he eats alone and the meals make it more interesting when he takes trouble. Another insight into the inner mind of James Bond. The chapter ends with Vesper promising Bond to tell him what Mathis has learned about the bomb incident earlier in which Bond narrowly escaped with his life.

Felix Leiter and the drink

Picking up the novel in chapter seven, we find Bond preparing for his night of gambling. He almost seems like an athlete going through a pre-game ritual. He gets a massage, and then takes a nap. When he wakes up, he goes through his mental preparation, and then goes to the casino for “warmups”. He plays some roulette, and picks up attention as his technique and mental preparations appear to pay dividends.

As he finishes his run at the table, an American catches his attention with his friendliness and offer of a drink. The man turns out to be Felix Leiter…his first meeting with Bond. It is also at this meeting that Bond orders what becomes the drink forever associated with him, both in the books and in the movies. He asks for “A dry martini”, “in a deep champagne goblet”. He has further instruction.

‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’

Hmmm, Gin, rather than Vodka, and no olives. A little more complicated than the “Vodka Martini, Shaken not stirred” made famous by the celluloid version of Bond. The Kina Lillet is also interesting. It’s basically a sweet wine, which I think is used as vermouth might be. This drink is something of a ritual for Bond, as he explains that he never has more than one drink before dinner, but he wants that drink to be large, strong, cold, and well made. Fleming notes that the drink is “aerated by the bruising of the shaker”. Perhaps that’s a clue as to why Bond prefers the shaking, which some feel only waters down the drink? Bond has one further note to the waiter, advising him that grain vodka would be preferable to the potato vodka in the future. Nowadays, you really wouldn’t have to specify. Potato Vodka was more common back then as the grain had be rationed during the war.

Bond and Leiter talk more about the job they are currently on. Bond asks Leiter to look after “Miss Lynd” – assistant there, while he is playing, and also to try to mark the gunmen of Le Chiffre. Leiter agrees and tells him a little of his background. He’s from Texas.

Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.

I don’t know if that is true, but I wonder what made Fleming write that. I’ve read two biographies of him, and I’m trying to wrack my brain to remember if there were Texans involved. Fleming, if you didn’t know, based many of his characters – if only their names – on many of his friends and people he met. Bond and Leiter talk shop for a short while, and then return to the hotel, with the agreement that they will meet at 10:30 or 11:00 that night, when the real action heats up at the casino.

Fast Car, A Beautiful Woman and a Bomb…

As we move through the next few chapters of Casino Royale we get some of the history of the area and Casino, details that only Ian Fleming can provide with the his trademark aplomb. We also learn about Bond’s car for the first time, as he prepares to make a drive-by (without the shooting) of the villa that Le Chiffre has rented.

Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last of the 4 1/2-litre Bentleys with the supercharger by Amherst Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and kept it in careful storage through the war.

I often wondered what the significance of the Amherst Villiers supercharger was. Through the magic of Google, my curiosity of this was answered. This site of classic cars gives us an idea of what Bond’s car likely looked like. Here is also a look at the actual Amherst Villiers Supercharger. These small details certainly add to your overall appreciation of the world that Ian Fleming (and James Bond) lived in. Here, you see an advertisement for the Amherst Villiers line, dated from around 1929 or so.

After his little reconnaissance mission, Bond heads back to a bar where he has arranged to meet Mathis and also his number two for the mission. The girl doesn’t say much when the three of them finally get together. We’re treated once again to a Fleming word picture as he describes the actions of the girl.

The girl sat silent. She accepted one of Bond’s cigarettes, examined it and them smoked it appreciatively and without affectation, drawing the smoke deeply into her lungs and with a little sigh and then exhaling it casually through her lips and nostrils.

Bond is affected by her presence. I’m affected by her presence. As mentioned previously, I am not a smoker, but descriptions like that one certainly paint an extremely seductive and sexy picture. We get a description of her as seen through Bond’s eyes. He notes her very black hair, square cut, wide apart deep blue eyes, light suntan, no makeup, no polish on her fingernails, broad black belt and square toed shoes. These details are worth noting and remembering as we go forward through the series. We find many of these descriptions repeated for women in following Bond adventures.

Once Mathis leaves, the Bond and the girl find it easier to talk. Bond concludes that he wants “to sleep with her, but only when the job had been done.” Mathis returns and Bond leaves, with the agreement that he will meet the girl later in the evening at the Casino. After Bond leaves, an explosion is heard. Bond escapes with his life thanks to happening to be behind a large tree when the blast hits. Mathis rushes out of the bar and finds Bond, who is assisted to his hotel room. There is some mystery over the incident. Red cases, blue cases, two Bulgars. After Bond has a change of clothes, he orders some lunch. pate de foie gras and cold langouste (lobster) is his choice, and as the chapter ends, he is grateful to be alive and enjoying this meal.

Want to visit Goldeneye?

License to chill: Take it easy at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming\’s luxurious Jamaica estate.

The first three paragraphs of the article:

ORCABESSA, Jamaica – “Relax, man,” said Ramsey, giving me the first ingredient of “The Commander’s” secret recipe for a happy life. “Drink water with your rum, eat a little red meat but more fish, swim, fish and keep the drinking, the cigarettes and the women in moderation (and at a long distance from your wife).”

Ramsey Dacosta, now 66, used to be the houseboy for the British author Ian Fleming at his Jamaican home, “Goldeneye.” It was here in this seaside retreat that Fleming completed 13 of his James Bond books, beginning with “Casino Royale” in 1952.

The writer bought the northshore property in “the beautiful banana port of Orcabessa” (as he described the area in “Live and Let Die”) for $7,712 in 1946. That same year, playwright Noel Coward rented the property for two months.

I hope to go there someday. It would be a treat to visit the house where these books that I am reading once again were all written. The next Casino Royale update should be ready in the next day or so.

Details of the Mission

In the ensuing chapters of Casino Royale, we get more details about the mission that Bond is current on. It involves a Russian agent…Le Chiffre, who has gotten himself into financial trouble and is using Soviet funds to gamble and try to win back the money belonging to his employer. Chapter two is essentially M reading the proposal for the case, as well as a couple appendixes, which give us detail on Le Chiffre and SMERSH.

Chapter three introduces us to a couple characters who are regulars in the series. “Bill” is M’s Chief of Staff, and “Moneypenny” is M’s secretary. Our first look at Moneypenny is thus:

Miss Moneypenny would have been desirable but for her eyes, which were cool and direct and quizzical.

That description changes a bit throughout the books, but we get the idea of the type of woman she is. Later on, we learn another tidbit about Bond. He’s no rookie with the service. They’re talking about his ability with the cards, and it’s said of him:

He must be pretty good with the cards or he wouldn’t have sat in the Casino at Monte Carlo for two months before the war watching that Roumanian team work their stuff with the invisible ink and dark glasses.

The “War” of course is WWII. It’s now 1953. Bond is given the mission from M, with the condition that someone is going to be sent there to assist him, a notion that Bond chafes internally at.In chapter four, we’re back at Royale-Les-Eaux, and learn some of Bond’s habits, here is where we see some of Fleming’s great descriptive writing at work. He just has such a way with describing food, cars, clothing, and rooms that you can’t help but be drawn into. I don’t smoke, but I might even be tempted with one of Bond’s cigarettes made of a “Balkan and Turkish mixture made for him by Morlands of Grosvenor Street”. In the rest of the chapter, Bond is visited by Mathis, from the Deuxieme Bureau (Fleming assumes we know that’s the French Military Intelligence) who, after a few dramatics, informs Bond that his cover is blown. The Muntzes, a couple in the room above his, have been performing some electronic eavesdropping, high tech stuff for the times. Bond also learns that his Number Two for the mission is to be…a woman. A beautiful woman, no less. He also learns that some American from the CIA…a guy named Felix Leiter…is on the scene. The sexism of the times and of Bond, by extension Fleming, is shown as Bond reflects on having a woman assigned to work with him:

Women were for recreation. On a job they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.

Bond is actually angry at the thought of it all as the chapter ends. From these three chapters, many of the characters we come to know so well over the course of the series emerge. We have M, Miss Moneypenny, Chief of Staff, Mathis, and Felix Leiter, all being introduced or mentioned for the first time in these pages. We will share so much with these ones as time goes by…

The saga begins

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling – a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension – becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

James Bond suddenly knew he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on this knowledge. This helped him avoid staleness and sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.

Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

And so the world was introduced to James Bond and the world in which he resides. These two short paragraphs tell us quite a bit about the character, he is someone firmly aware of and in control of, his senses and life.

He knows himself, he knows his surroundings and is not caught unaware. His environment is oftentimes one of high stress and not for the faint of heart.

The rest of the first chapter of Casino Royale gives us a little more about Bond\’s present assignment. He is at Royale-Les-Eaux. He has been gambling. He thinks about how the Casino committee would describe him and his play. “He had luck. His nerves seem good.” That interests me. None of the other players were described this way, in terms like these, but Bond seems to be projecting those qualities onto himself. Perhaps we all do this when considering what others think of us? Positive or negative?

The chapter goes onto to talk some about Bond’s contact. What his role is, how he got into the business, what his “day job” is and how he is paid. An interesting tidbit is a reference to “Clements, the head of Bond’s department”. I don’t know if we get another reference to this man in the rest of the Bond novels…

Bond goes to his room, after taking various precautions and checks out to make sure his room had not been disturbed (a black hair wedged in a drawer, talcum powder on the handle of the clothes cupboard and the water level of the water in the toilet tank.)then after smoking his 70th cigarette of the day (That’s 3 1/2 packs, kids) Bond retires for the night, gun clenched under his pillow…


Another website about James Bond?

Yeah. But I haven’t seen too many Blogs. Bond seems to be on my mind a lot, so I hope to put those thoughts here, as well as any news stories I come across, and relevant links.

What’s my background with Bond? I’ve read all the books…all of ’em. The Fleming originals…the Kingsley Amis (AKA Robert Markham) book, the Gardner books and the Benson books. I’ve even read the Christopher Wood novelizations of the movies. I’ve seen all the movies, own just about all of them on DVD, the few that I don’t, will come in time.

I’ve read all those books and seen all those movies dozens of times. I’ll read and watch them again several more times, I’m sure. For years, my copies of the Fleming novels were worn paperback Pan editions from the 1960’s. I was thrilled a couple weeks ago to find the entire Ian Fleming collection in a set at Sam’s Club for under $20. This will save the wear and tear on my older books.

I think I will try in 2005 to go through all the Ian Fleming books once again…in order. What better way to start the year. It will be a boon to this blog too, I hope as I will try to share thoughts and observations of the journey.

I’ve also enjoyed watching the older movies in HDTV widescreen, seeing them as they appeared in the theaters. Sadly, even though I’ve been watching and reading about Bond since the early 80’s, Goldeneye in 1995 was my first Bond in the theater. Seeing all the films on DVD has been a great experience. I will also try to share little things that I see on screen that I perhaps didn’t notice before.