Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Goldfinger: Ian Fleming

This was a fun read because I have watched the movie many times, but I had some  major quibbles with this novel.

The book starts with James Bond in the Miami airport, waiting for a delayed flight. Coincidentally, another passenger recognizes him from a previous encounter, and enlists his help in figuring out how Auric Goldfinger is cheating him at cards, canasta in this case. Only later does Bond find out that Goldfinger is causing consternation in the UK, because the Bank of England suspects him of smuggling large amounts of gold out of the country. His boss, M, assigns Bond the case of finding out exactly what Goldfinger is up to.

There are a lot of things to like about the James Bond thrillers by Ian Fleming. They combine adventure and spy fiction, with interesting characters, and each one is a bit different. There does not seem to be a formula. Sometimes the stories are a bit fantastic, but still a lot of fun.

In this case, Fleming did seem to borrow from an earlier book, with the initial encounter with a villain being connected to card playing, and Bond meeting the villain before there is an official case to investigate (similar to Moonraker). On the other hand, Bond's character is more developed in this book. He is introspective -- about his job where he kills people for a living, about his inability to be all things to all people.

Usually I find the James Bond books to be well written and entertaining, but this time the book had flaws that took me out of the story. There was a section of the story devoted to a round of golf, which went on entirely too long. It was important to the depiction of characteristics of both Goldfinger and Bond, and their future relationship, but could have been cut back by half, at least.

The story was also marred by offensive racial and homophobic comments.  Sometimes such remarks can be attributed to the time of publication or as a character trait, but there was so much time spent on these remarks in this story, it was impossible to just ignore them.

Moving on to the movie. This was the third of the James Bond films, starring Sean Connery as James Bond, Gert Fröbe as Goldfinger, and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore.

We watched the movie again after I read the book. The plot of the movie is fairly close to that of the book, but there were some changes, enough to make it entertaining.

Sometimes I cannot believe that the outrageous names that are used in the movies are actually from the books, but they are. Pussy Galore is the best example, I just could not believe that name would be used in a novel. But it was. In the movie she leads a band of female pilots that perform for airshows; in the book she is a female crime boss.

One big difference I noted was that Felix Leiter, a CIA agent and long-time friend of Bond, has a much larger role in the movie than in the book. In the movie he is in Miami to meet Bond and pass on M's instructions to keep tabs on Goldfinger. In the book he shows up much later, although he plays a crucial role.

In this case I would recommend the movie over the book, although certainly it is always nice to read the source material.

This is the 6th James Bond book I have read since I started blogging. I started with Live and Let Die, Book 2 in the series, because I had read Casino Royale in 2007 after the Daniel Craig movie came out. Now that I have read Goldfinger, I really want to go back and reread Casino Royale, but I am also in a hurry to get to On His Majesty's Secret Service. Decisions, decisions.

Also see these reviews: Clothes in Books, At the Scene of the Crime, Simon McDonald, and Vintage Pop Fictions.


Publisher:   MJF Books, 1997 (orig. pub. 1959) 
Length:       318 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       James Bond, #7
Setting:      US, UK, France, Switzerland
Genre:       Spy thriller
Source:      I purchased this book.


Kay said...

I'm honestly not tempted to read the books by Fleming. I loved James Bond movies as a kid and later and I actually liked all the Bonds (all the actors), but I don't think I would be as pleased with the books. And, yes, I can see that the names of the women would be pretty much amazing - certainly these days.

col2910 said...

Note to self - read some Ian Fleming and Len Deighton either late 2018 or next year!

TracyK said...

I like all the Bond actors, Kay, but I haven't seen many of Roger Moore movies. I like the more serious portrayals (Connery, Dalton, Craig) but they are all good. Some of the books are really good in my opinion (Casino Royale, From Russia with Love), the others are more adventurous and fantastical than I expected.

TracyK said...

Definitely, Col, two authors you should read. But I know all about pushing books into the next year.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean, Tracy, about flaws that take one right out of a book. A real focus on homophobic/racist/'ism' comments does that to me, too. I've been thinking about putting an Ian Fleming novel in the spotlight at some point. They have been influential. But it probably won't be this one.

Rick Robinson said...

I've read them all, and enjoyed them all for what they are: spy, adventure fiction. I don't expect them to seem realistic the way Le Carre is, just fun. I figure if characters in a book make racial comments, and that's what they would have made at the time, then I just read past it. If the book is set in 2018, I have a problem with that. As for the films, I have iced all but the Moore.

TracyK said...

I have my favorites among the Bond books by Ian Fleming, Margot. But plenty of reviewers love this book.

TracyK said...

Usually I respond to racial and homophobic slurs in books of that time as you noted, Rick, but in this book they went overboard for my personal tastes. But I would say the majority of readers were not bothered.

Mathew Paust said...

I read the book before the movie came out, Tracy, and I don't remember it--the book--as well as the movie, which might be due to the differences your review explains. When I was in the Army and my mom came to Germany with her sister to visit me, we flew to Switzerland on the same plane as the actor who played Oddjob, who was wearing the same bowler hat he wore in the movie, complete with the steel insert. He was friendly, but it seemed everyone who recognized him, including me, was a tad cautious about approaching him.

TracyK said...

What a wonderful story about the actor who played Oddjob, Mathew. I thought I remembered the movie pretty well, but still some parts of it surprised me this time time.

Clothes In Books said...

I enjoyed this book in its way, but I so agree with you about that boring golf match! and the way the plot worked out was quite strange, the pace of the book was odd. I don't believe I have ever seen the film, I should do so some time.

TracyK said...

You are right, Moira, the pacing was off. Usually one of Fleming's Bond books grabs my attention and won't let go, but that did not happen this time. You should definitely see the film.

Anonymous said...

I must put these books on my reading list.

Re comment issue: it seems that Safari doesn't get along with Blogger. I didn't have this problem till the past month when it wouldn't allow me to comment at all. Looks like a bug with no report on it that I can find. I have to use Google Chrome to access Blogger comments. What does that say about the two companies? That they can't get along or what? Anyway, glad to have this issue resolved for now. --Keishon

TracyK said...

The Bond books vary widely, Keishon, but I do think that they are worth a look. Very different from what I remembered and expected.

I had another blogger tell me that they could not comment using Internet Explorer but could with Firefox. It is a pain, I agree. And things seem to change frequently.