Monday, 15 August 2016

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

 
James Bond Book 10

published 1962



 
Spy who loved me JOwers
 


[narrator Viv Michel has fallen in love ‘with the idea of a motor scooter’]


The Vespa went like a bird and was as easy to drive as a bicycle. So I signed up for it, bought a leopard-skin cover for the seat and spare-wheel, racy-looking de luxe wheel-trims, a rear mirror, a luggage rack, white saddlebags that went beautifully with the silver finish of the body, a Perspex sports windscreen and a white crash helmet that made me feel like Pat Moss. The dealer gave me some good ideas about clothes, and I went to a store and bought white overalls with plenty of zips, some big goggles with soft fur round the edges and a rather dashing pair of lined black kid motor-cycling gloves


 
Spy Who Loved Me spy who loved me 1958




[Later, when she is being held by the villains]

I put on my white overalls. Heaven knew they were impersonal enough, and I put my money into one of the pockets – just in case. Just in case of what? There would be no more escapes…
I felt his powerful arms round me, crushing me, and his face was against mine, kissing me brutally, while his hand went up to the zip at my neck and tore it right down to my waist. And then came the sharp sound of the buzzer at the front door, and everyone froze.


commentary: This is a most unusual entry in the series – Fleming obviously tried to do something completely different, to the confusion of his disconcerted fans. The whole book is narrated by a young woman, Viv, and there is no real spying content. She starts the book in an uneasy situation in a deserted motel in the Adirondacks – then looks back to see how she got to this point. And that is a rather sad story of a girl growing up in 50s London (she’s an orphan, a recurrent theme in Fleming), apparently privileged and very middle class, but not having the best time… there is the most dreadful story of being caught with her boyfriend in a box at a cinema. They are trying to have sex, and the manager interrupts, and embarrasses and humiliates them. Her next attempt at a love affair goes very wrong too. So she takes off for the USA:
I WAS RUNNING away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.
- those are the opening lines, and very compelling I think.

She’s been working in a motel, and is left there as it closes for the winter. There is a tremendous storm and two villainous men, employed by the owner, turn up with all kinds of wickedness on their minds. Viv is terrified and reaches a low point at the end of the extract above. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the buzzer is being pressed by none other than James Bond, her first piece of luck.

The two of them spend the rest of the night trying to outwit the villains, and sharing their stories – he is on his way back from a short piece of department-related action.

And we’re going to need a second entry on this one…

Girl on a scooter is one of the beautiful James Jowers images of New York held at George Eastman House.

There is a woman demonstrating a white overall, and then another – who can it be? Why, it is the Queen! How surprising. It’s from 1958 and she was visiting a mine apparently.

Hot news - according to fashion arbiters at the Guardian, boilersuits are a hot property at the designer shows this year: Ian Fleming way ahead of the curve.



















16 comments:

  1. I do wonder why Fleming chose to write this one from Viv's point of view, Moira. It's quite different to his other work, isn't it? And a departure for him in terms of plot line, too. I'll be keen to know what you thought of that aspect of it.

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    1. You have to give him credit: he had a highly successful formula, but was willing to try something new. And I thought it was more successful than the reader might be expecting.

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  2. Moira, I didn't know, until reading your reviews of Fleming's novels, that his books could be different from the movies which are snazzy and glamourous.

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    1. I am discovering myself how different they are, though from the other direction!

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  3. Well, after the highs of DR NO and GOLDFINGER, one does get the impression that Fleming grew tired of the need to churn out a new book a year, turning to earlier TV and film stories for inspiration, gimmicks (Bond gets married) and, on the plus side, experimentation (this one) - on the downside, this is such a peculiar book ... look forward to part 2!

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    1. Yes, you've pretty much summed it up Sergio. I think credit for trying, but also it must have been disappointing if you were a solid Bond fan waiting for the new book each year...

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  4. I had heard that this one was very different, I look forward to giving it a try. I just finished From Russia With Love and loved it. Probably because it is so close to the movie, but also because it has a coherent plot and more realistic than some of the books.

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    1. From Russia... sticks in the mind I think, because of that distinctive setting, which isn't a Carribean island. I've liked all of them in their own way. Still trying to work out how they made this one into a Bond movie!

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    2. The Spy Who Loved Me is the only Roger Moore movie that we own. I think it is one of those that just uses the title of the book and the plot of the movie bears no resemblance to the book at all. It has been a while since we watched it.

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    3. That makes sense - it is a great title for a movie, but unfilmable plot really...

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  5. It is a marvel the way you track down these photos, Moira!

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    1. Thanks Chrissie - this one was tremendous fun to do!

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  6. If I remember correctly, Fleming specified that the movie could not be filmed. They were allowed to use the title and nothing else (although when they did the next movie, MOONRAKER, they only used the name of the main villain and a spacecraft called the MOONRAKER,and absolutely nothing else, so it was hardly unusual in that.

    I think that after THUNDERBALL, Fleming felt that he wanted to stretch himself a bit. You can tell why it got such a critical pasting, but it's a much better book than its reputation would suggest. Flemings big mistake was in trying to sell it as part ofthe series, rather than simply do a standalone. Anyway, how can you not love a book where the villains are called 'Slugsy' and 'Horror'?

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    1. Oh that's interesting, and makes sense, about his not wanting a film of this one. And yes, good point - if it had gone as a standalone it would be treated differently. I thought he made a good stab at it.

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  7. Been saying it for a while now, I'll have read some Fleming one day!

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    1. I'm waiting for you to get on with it! They'll seem tame by modern thriller standards, but they certainly have their moments, and their momentum.

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