Ian Fleming only wrote nine short stories featuring James Bond – although one could make a convincing argument that the 007 novels themselves are made up of them – extended passages which Fleming attempts, not always flawlessly, to gel into a convincing whole. Most of the nine date from the early 1960s, and constitute a time capsule: Britain was truly a faded power by this stage, post-Suez, and that is reflected in a couple of tales of colonial ex-pats gone to seed. The Living Daylights prefigures John Le Carre’s window into the Cold War, with Bond detailed to kill a sniper who is attempting to shoot a British agent coming over the Berlin Wall. There is a lot of grit in it. Risico is perhaps the most satisfying of the lot, set in Rome and Venice – which is a good start – and featuring one of those charismatic criminals who crop up from time to time in 007’s milieu and to whom he often feels an affinity. It’s interesting to see what the Bond films took from these stories – generally it’s just a title, but The Living Daylights also nicked a beautiful cello-playing woman, For Your Eyes Only took the beautiful crossbow-wielding woman, while Octopussy….well, Octopussy the short story is at times little short of bonkers but has a proper bite. Most of it concerns a broken, dying ex-secret serviceman now living in Jamaica with a terrible secret. Bond appears in a cameo to wrap everything up, dragging a revealing bit of his own backstory behind him. While idly flicking through this collection, a few alternative titles present themselves: Bond Goes To Sotheby’s! (The Property Of A Lady); Bond Goes To The Zoo! (007 In New York); Bond Plays Hercule Poirot! (The Hildebrand Rarity). In the latter, there is a particularly nasty murder on a luxury yacht and it’s probably the wife who did it. Bond is suitably impressed and, since the murdered man was a monumental shit (beats his wife, calls Bond ‘Jim’) he isn’t going out of his way to bring anyone to justice. Plus he may get to know the wife better on a slow boat from the Seychelles to Mombassa. 007 remains nothing if not a gambler.