James Bond book 5
[James Bond has found a young Russian woman in his bed in his Istanbul hotel room]
She pulled the sheet a fraction lower to show a quarter-inch black velvet ribbon round her neck. ‘This.’ Bond looked down into the teasing blue eyes, now wide as if asking if the ribbon was inadequate. He felt his body getting out of control. ‘Damn you, Tania. Where are the rest of your things? Or did you come down in the lift like that?’
‘Oh no. That would not have been kulturny. They are under the bed.’
[A short time later] Bond reached up and took the edge of the sheet and pulled it right down and threw it off the end of the huge bed. She was wearing nothing but the black ribbon round her neck and black silk stockings rolled above her knees. Her arms groped up for him.
Above them, and unknown to both of them, behind the gold-framed false mirror on the wall over the bed, the two photographers from SMERSH sat close together in the cramped cabinet de voyeur, as, before them, so many friends of the proprietor had sat on a honeymoon night in the stateroom of the Kristal Palas. And the view-finders gazed coldly down on the passionate arabesques the two bodies formed and broke and formed again…
commentary: This book, with all its clothes opportunities, could never be confined to one entry. So many possibilities - why on earth didn’t I show the topless masseuse in the first chapter? (Fleming claims, delightfully, that she takes off her top as a secret hint that the action – so far unspecified - is in Crimea, as that is what massesuses do there.) What about the wild gypsy men and women in Istanbul? Or even the fighting gypsy girls who tear off each other’s rags until they are grappling naked? Or Rosa Klebb in her ‘semitransparent nightgown in orange crêpe de chine’?
So many possibilities. But what intrigued me most was Bond himself, who wears ‘a sleeveless dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt’, at a time in his life when ‘the blubbery arms of the soft life had Bond round the neck and were slowly strangling him.’ I can’t imagine a sleeveless shirt quite like that, and think the metaphor conjures up a very strange image.
A lot of the action is set in Istanbul, where James Bond has a new friend: Darko Kerim, head of the local office. Kingsley Amis in his indispensable James Bond Dossier is understandably conflicted about him – Kerim has fairly horrible views on women and other things, but on the other hand ‘provides a human glow and a kind of energy that Bond lacks.’ He is, as Amis points out, much more fun than Felix Leiter or Rene Mathis. But Kerim also says:
All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped.- sadly this would not have been seen as either surprising or reprehensible in 1957.
Fleming plainly had a real talent for picking his titles and all of them have entered the language. This one is perfect – intriguing, and truly descriptive of the book.
The picture is from the ever wonderful Clover Vintage Tumblr.
Friday's entry on the book is here.