Friday, June 17, 2011

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

Cover from the first edition.
 If you have flicked through this blog you should have seen my review on another James Bond novel, The Authorised Biography. There I quite clearly state I'm a Bond fan, but that is based on the movies as I have before Casino Royale only read one Ian Fleming Bond novel! After reading this last night I realise how difficult it is to separate the Bond of the movies and the Bond of the novels because in all reality they are completely different.

 The Bond of the movies who most resembles the Bond of the novels is Timothy Dalton ( particularly ) and Daniel Craig. Once you read the novels you instantly see the gulf between them and the movies characterisations. Dalton's two outings as 007 were recognised for being darker in mood then the previous Bond films which is in character with the novels. Apparently during filming Dalton was seen to be reading the novels in between takes. One of the more lasting quotes I have read of the Dalton movies is that 'There was a lot of Bond going on'. Daniel Craig is more the Bond of the novels too. Dalton isn't my favorite movie Bond even though his representation is closet to the novels than any other actors.

 In the movies there is a lot of humorous lines and moments that aren't in the novels. In them Bond is a much harder, colder man and there is no humour at all. He beds women left right and centre but it isn't with the sex appeal and charm of his movie counter-part. It is more for sport than for pleasure and he is somewhat sexist in his feelings about women. But the real difference is his lack of frivolity and utter seriousness, there is no ad lib throw away lines there at all.

 As stated it is difficult for me to start reading the novels after 30 years of watching the movies as you expect the Bond of the novels to read like that of the movies. It will take me several novels before I really get the feel of the novel Bond and clear my mind of the movie Bond. It is funny too because we all know Bond and yet the novels don't really go into too much characterisation. Casino Royale was Fleming's first Bond novel but he doesn't introduce Bond as such and just rips straight into the plot. It is a unusual feeling and it shows how much of an impact the movies have on our minds concerning Bond compared to his novel alter-ego.

 Casino Royale is of course the first bond novel Ian Fleming wrote. One must wonder if he could ever have envisioned the beast he was to unleash ( much like J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter!! ). The novel was almost an instant sensation. By today's standards the action is somewhat pedestrian but in 1953 this was edge of your sit thriller material. I was personally surprised by how little the novel hadn't dated though. Sure the pace isn't as fast as we of today are used to but the writing style and use of language is still fresh, and could have been written last year. It is a tad bit simplistic but in many respect that is a good thing as it means everybody from advanced readers, to the not so advanced, can approach, read, and enjoy Bond in his novelised form.

 If you have seen the movie then I'm pleased to say it was an excellent adaptation of the novel. There are a few necessary changes just to bring it into the 21st Century but I must say I'm impressed with how a modern movie followed a 60 year old novel so well. The changes are quite minor, for instance instead of Le Chiffre being a French communist he is a terrorist, and the game in the casino is Texas Hold 'Em, and not Baccarat. The scene from the movie where Bond is poisoned is changed from the novel where he has a gun pushed into the small of his back, but it still has the same essence. The crash is the same except in the novel Le Chiffre had put spikes on the road and not Vesper.

 The scene where Bond is tortured by Le Chiffre is exactly the same but it being 1953 at no time does Fleming actually use the words where le Chiffre is hitting him. But believe me there is no doubt in the readers mind where!! It is actually well written and I think the movie adapted the scene extremely well. The movie ends slightly differently than the movie in the way Vesper Lynd kills herself, ( in the novel it is after revealing in a letter to Bond she was a double agent ). But the movie does follow the novel in that Bond fell in love and was going to leave the service after marrying her. After her revelation, and the knowledge of how she was forced into being a double agent, Bond becomes harder in his attitudes towards his job and losses the doubts he was having as to killing in cold blood for his country.

James Bond as sketched by Ian Fleming.
 In short it takes some time to re-adjust in your mind the Bond of the movies, as he is quite different from that of the novels. He is very cold, hard, calculating man with no sense of humour. He hasn't the easy sex-appeal of the movie Bond but still has no trouble with bedding women. As novels they are very easy to read, and I read Casino Royale in several hours. They still have a freshness about them that surprised me even though the pace has dated. But if you love the Bond movies then I think the novels are a must. I also think you'll recognise Dalton and Craig in the novelised Bond as they both mirror his coldness of character.

 I'm not sure what purists of the novels think of the movies. For me personally I'm a fan of both as James Bond is now such an iconic figure that has brought immense entertainment to the world in both literature and cinematic forms. Read Casino Royale and of the origins of this most famous of characters.

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