Wednesday, October 5, 2016

From Russia With Love: Ian Fleming

This is the  introduction to this novel from the Signet paperback edition published in 1964:
The Russians wanted to liquidate James Bond -- ace British secret agent -- in a way that would embarrass England.  So they lined up their best team to pull off the job: 
         Tatiana Romanova -- an alluring brunette seductress who looks like Garbo although her heart belongs to the State. 
         Red Grant -- a renegade Irish hired assassin, who likes to kill for kicks. 
         Rosa Klebb -- head of Otydel II, department of torture and death, a hideous woman with a lust for inflicting excruciating torment. 
      The master conspirators devise a trap designed to eliminate Bond on a perilous journey from Istanbul to Paris via the lush Orient Express.  A trip on which Bond makes passionate love to one of his captors as he fights desperately to protect his life from the others, while the train speeds towards its ultimate, awful rendezvous with death!

And here is a quote from Anthony Price...

‘Mr Fleming is in a class by himself. Immense detail, elaborate settings and continually mounting tension, flavoured with sex, brutality and sudden death' 
So with that introduction and Price's thoughts, you have a pretty good idea of this book.

The other three Bond books I have read recently seem more adventure stories than spy fiction. This one is a more straightforward spy story. This one also has a different structure with Bond only entering the book after about 90 pages (out of 260 in my edition). The first ten short chapters focus on various agents of SMERSH: Red Grant, an assassin for the organization; Tatiana, who is pressed into service to lure Bond to his death, and Rosa Klebb, one of the masterminds of the nefarious plot. I loved these chapters; for me they added depth to the story.

There were many other parts of this book I enjoyed. The portion of the story set in Turkey featuring Darko Kerim is well done, although Kerim is incredibly racist and sexist. I am fond of books featuring train trips, and Bond and Tatiana leave Turkey on the Orient Express. That part of the book could have been longer.

This is definitely my favorite of the books I have read so far. I may be biased because I love the movie so much and the book is very close to the movie.

I did not become a Bond movie fan until I met my husband.He had the wonderful opportunity to view the first three James Bond films, Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger in the theater when they came out. His father performed maintenance of theatrical equipment for many years, and as a child my husband would tag along to his jobs. He often got to see movies in the theater when they first came out.

It was fun to watch the film version after having read the book. For the most part the story is very close, certainly much closer than most of the film adaptations. In the film, Kerim is much more likable; he is still pretty sexist, but it is toned down quite a bit. SPECTRE is introduced in this movie, and that organization does not figure in the book. The only enemy organization in the book is SMERSH.

I enjoyed Robert Shaw in the role of the assassin, and Daniela Bianchi was a lovely Bond Girl. Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb was superb. Of course, Sean Connery will always be my favorite Bond actor. The exotic settings are a plus also.

This post at Classic Film and TV Café notes many interesting facts about the film and the actors.

Moira at Clothes in Books has featured From Russia With Love twice: here and here.


Publisher:   Penguin Books, 2010 
(orig. pub. 1957) 
Length:       259 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       James Bond, #5
Setting:      UK, Russia, Turkey, and more
Genre:        Spy thriller
Source:      I purchased this book.


Anonymous said...

I'm very glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I always think it's interesting when the main protagonist of a story doesn't even play a role until later in the novel, but it can work, as you've shown.

dfordoom said...

Definitely one of the best Bond books.

col2910 said...

I'm sure I'll get to Fleming and at least one of his books next year!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, over the years I have been so influenced by the Bond films that I have completely overlooked Ian Fleming's novels. Of course, it's not easy to find these early paperbacks and, I think, there haven't been many reprints.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Along with CASINO ROYALE this may be my favourite Bon book but the movie does an interesting thing by adding SPECTRE and making the plot even more convoluted - great review Tracy.

TracyK said...

I like a lot of variety in the structure of novels that I read, Margot, and this was a really good one. But so far I have enjoyed Ian Fleming's James Bond books no matter what the structure.

TracyK said...

Well, I have only read 5 of them recently enough to remember them, but I do agree. So far, this one and Casino Royale would be my top picks.

TracyK said...

I will be very interested in what you think of them, Col. And I hope by then I will have made progress through more of the series.

TracyK said...

I think I like the novels better than the films, Prashant, but there is such a variety in both the films and the novels, that they are continually surprising and entertaining.

TracyK said...

Both book and movie are very good, Sergio. This is one of the novels in this series that I will be eager to reread. I am also going to reread Casino Royale, but cannot decide whether I will wait until I finish all the other books or not.

RT said...

Your fine review persuades me: I've avoid Bond long enough, and I know where to begin -- with this one. Thanks!
Best wish from the Gulf coast,

TracyK said...

Tim, you should definitely try a Bond book by Fleming. Not for everyone, I am sure, but worth a look.

Mathew Paust said...

One of my favorite Bonds, Tracy. Second only to Dr. No.

TracyK said...

Dr. No is the book I am reading next, Mathew. I hope I like it as well as From Russia with Love.

Clothes In Books said...

Thanks for the shoutout Tracy. I agree with almost everything you say except I thought the opening chapters were rather slow, I wanted them to get on with the story. But everything following had all the great features you mention - Darko Kerim, Orient Express, Red Grant..
What a lovely story about your husband.

TracyK said...

Moira, I saw that you did not like that first portion of the book so well as I did, when I reread your post recently. Red Grant is one of my favorite Bond villains in the movies, although he does not rate as a major villain (in the movies). So I was thrilled to get his background and a different view of the Tatiana / Rosa Klebb relationship. Loved the book, loved the movie, as you can tell.

I had not even heard Glen's story of seeing the three Bond movies in the theater until fairly recently myself. I have always been envious of his early exposure to a lot of great movies, far different from my experiences.