|Cover from the first edition.|
On publication in 1960 the title had the sub-title of, Five Secret Occasions in the Life of James Bond. The US version was, Five Secret Exploits of James Bond. But later the sub-titles were dropped altogether. The five stories comprise of From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Quantum of Solace, Risico, and The Hildebrand Rarity.
For Your Eyes Only was used as the title for the 12th bond film, and used some of the stories characters or plot along with that of Risico. From A View to a Kill lent its name to the 14th Bond film but had no character or plot elements. Plot elements from, The Hildebrand Rarity, were used in the 16th Bond film, License to Kill. And of course Quantum of Solace was used as the title of the 22nd Bond film, and used no plot elements.
Each short story varies in length and quality, and to be honest, From a View to a Kill, was lame! It is only 30 odd pages long, and involves Bond investigating the death of a NATO dispatch rider in France. Bond tracks down the assassin, kills him, and uncovers his ingenious hide out. Interestingly this short story was going to be the back story to the Moonraker novel. Hugo Drax was to be the assassin who crashes his bike, and then taken to an American hospital, from where Moonraker picks up the story. The title was also used at the end of the, Octopussy, film and yet was shortened to From a View to a Kill instead. The only thing it had in common with the story is the fact that part of its action is in France.
Quantum of Solace really isn't a Bond story at all. He is at a party in Nassau and he is told a story about a diplomat and his failed marriage. The title is due to the storyteller saying he has a theory about marriages called Quantum of Solace. The film adaptation shared the title and none of the plot, except maybe the thematics alluded to in the theory of Quantum of Solace. I found this an unusual story as it really isn't about Bond at all.
Riscio sees Bond sent to Italy to investigate a drug smuggling ring. Of the five stories this is far the best with a good violent shoot out at the end. It also incorporates a mild twist in who is the bad guy and who not. This relationship is a key plot line in the movie, and both characters, Colombo and Kristatos are used. The shoot out scene is also an integral part of one the films action sequences.
The Hildebrandt Rarity sees Bond sent to the Seychelles. It is actually quite a dark and nasty story. Fleming explains the use of stingray tails as a form of keeping a wife in line!! In the story Bond hears a husband using it on his wife. The husband is a rich arrogant prick, and Fleming makes him so believable the reader hates him as much as Bond comes to. The guy is eventually ingeniously murdered by suffocating on the fish of the stories title. Suffice to say there are two suspects, and the story finishes with the identity of the murderer being left up to the reader to decide. The film, For Your Eyes Only, uses very oblique references to this story, and 1989's License to Kill used the stingray tail called, 'the corrector' (!!).
The whole book is a shade over 200 pages long, and to be honest if you skip it and move on to the impressive, Thunderball, then you aren't going to miss much. The only real thing is the interest value they have on the films. As described various titles and plot elements were used, but really I wasn't particularly impressed with any thing here. Bond purists may disagree, and whilst I read it because it is Bond relevant, in hindsight I may just have skipped it as there are many other books I would rather have read.