The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

3709863 Oh, I admit it, yes, another Bond. Anyway, one of the great theme tunes (Carly Simon) and perhaps the best stunt – pre-CGI ski-jump off vertiginous precipice, flailing fall to certain death, Union Jack parachute – to begin any film, anywhere, ever. So how does the novel The Spy Who Loved Me go about grabbing the reader’s attention? Simple: by not featuring James Bond at all until page 108 (page 108! it’s like the shark in Jaws) of 172. And if that doesn’t grab you, then how about this: it isn’t a third-person narrative at all – the whole thing is written from the point of view of Vivienne Michel, a damsel in distress. She is being menaced at a remote motel in New York state by a couple of hoodlums one night. Yes, you read that right: the whole thing is set in a sort of violent, deserted Crossroads. No M., no super-villain (an unseen mob kingpin doesn’t count), none of the usual guff about brands and food although we find out that Bond knows his soaps. It is an astonishing move for a famous author with an iconic creation – as though Fleming was tiring of the spy lark and wanted to try his hand at Mills & Boon. ‘And then I met Derek,’ runs the breathless prose. There are racy (for the time) goings-on in a cinema. Derek’s not a nice chap at all. Neither is Kurt, who follows and pays for Viv’s abortion in Zurich. And then Viv has had it with men and goes on a road-trip on a Vespa down the eastern seaboard of the States. Hence the motel, where she is set upon by Sol Horror and Sluggsy Morant (no, really), who make Derek and Kurt seem suddenly appealing. In fact, they would make Hannibal Lecter seem like a decent chap, all intelligence and table manners. The attitudes are breathtaking. ‘All women love semi-rape,’ says one character. Who? Reptilian Sol Horror? Psychopathic Sluggsy Morant? Derek, at a push? No, it’s Viv who says it, of course. And although one is usually on a sticky wicket arguing that a character’s views are actually those of the author, it is safe to say that this is really Ian talking. Odd book.

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