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Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.

casino_royale_fleming_novel_cover_01

Title: Casino Royale.
Author: Ian Fleming.
Genre: Fiction, literature, spy fiction, crime, adventure, romance.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: April 13, 1953.
Summary: In the novel that introduced James Bond to the world, agent 007 is dispatched to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission? Bankrupt a ruthless Russian agent who’s been on a bad luck streak at the baccarat table. One of SMERSH’s most deadly operatives, the man known only as “Le Chiffre,” has been a prime target of the British Secret Service for years. If Bond can wipe out his bankroll, Le Chiffre will likely be “retired” by his paymasters in Moscow. But what if the cards won’t cooperate? After a brutal night at the gaming tables, Bond soon finds himself dodging would-be assassins, fighting off brutal torturers, and going all-in to save the life of his beautiful female counterpart, Vesper Lynd.

My rating: 8/10.
My review:


♥ His last action was to slip his right hand under the pillow until it rested under the butt of the .38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel. Then he slept, and with the warmth and humour of his eyes extinguished, his features relapsed into a taciturn mask, ironical, brutal, and cold.

♥ And then there was this pest of a girl. He sighed. Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.

♥ Above all, he liked that everything was one’s own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master. Lick had to be accepted with a shrug or taken advantage of up to the hilt. But it had to be understood and recognized for what it was and not confused with a faulty appreciation of the odds, for, at gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck. And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared. Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed ot brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women. One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luick. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility.

♥ “A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”

Oui, monsieur.

“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”

“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

Bond laughed. “When I’m… er… concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

♥ Bond frowned. “It’s not difficult a Double O number if you’re prepared to kill people,” he said. “That’s all the meaning it has. It’s nothing to be particularly proud of. I’ve got the corpses of a Japanese cipher expert in New York and a Norwegian double agent in Stockholm to thank for being a Double O. Probably quite decent people. They just got caught up in the gale of the world like that Yugoslav that Tito bumped off. It’s confusing business but if it’s one’s profession, one does what one’s told.”

♥ “I should love that,” she said, “but will you give me one of your lucky numbers to play on?”

“I have no lucky numbers,” said Bond unsmilingly. “I only bet on even chances, or as near them as I can get.”

♥ In the background there thudded always the hidden metronome of the Casino, ticking up its little treasure of one-per-cents with each spin of a wheel and each turn of a card - a pulsing fat-cat with a zero for a heart.

♥ Bond shrugged his shoulders. Sufficient unto that day had been its evil. He gazed for a moment into the mirror and wondered about Vesper’s morals. He wanted her cold and arrogant body. He wanted to see tears and desire in her remote blue eyes and to take the ropes of her black hair in his hand and bend her long body back under his. Bond’s eyes narrowed and his face in the mirror looked back at him with hunger.

♥ You are about to awake when you dream that you are dreaming.

♥ “When I was beaten up,” he said, “I suddenly liked the idea of being alive. Before Le Chiffre began, he used a phrase which stick in my mind… “playing Red Indians”. He said that’s what I had been doing. Well, I suddenly thought he might be right.

“You see,” he said, still looking down at his bandages, “when one’s young, it seems very easy to distinguish between right and wrong, but as one gets older it becomes more difficult. At school it’s easy to pick out one’s own villains and heroes and one grow up wanting to be a hero and kill the villains.”

He looked obstinately at Mathis.

“Well, in the last few years I’ve killed two villains. … For those two jobs I was awarded a Double O number in the Service. Felt pretty clever and got a reputation for being good and tough. A double O number in our Service means you’ve had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some job.

“Now,” he looked up again at Mathis, “that’s all very fine. The hero kills two villains, but when the hero Le Chiffre starts to kill the villain Bond and the villain Bond knows he isn’t a villain at all, you see the other side of the medal. The villains and heroes get all mixed up.

“Of course,” he added, as Mathis started to expostulate, “patriotism comes along and makes it seem fairly all right, but this country-right-or-wrong business is getting a little out-of-date. Today we are fighting Communism. Okay. If I’d been alive fifty years ago, the brand of Conservatism we have today would have been damn near called Communism and we should have been told to go and fight that. History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts.”

♥ “Now in order to tell the difference between good and evil, we have manufactured two images representing the extremes - representing the deepest black and the purest white - and we call the God and the Devil. But in doing so we have cheated a bit. God is a clear image, you can see every hair on His beard. But the Devil. What does he look like?” Bond looked triumphantly at Mathis.

Mathis laughed ironically.

“A woman.”

“It’s all very fine,” said Bond, “but I've been thinking about these things and I’m wondering whose side I ought to be on. I’m getting very sorry for the Devil and his disciples such as the good Le Chiffre. The Devil has a rotten time and I always like to be on the side of the underdog. We don’t give the poor chap a chance. There’s a Good Book about goodness and how to be good and so forth, but there’s no Evil Book about evil and how to be bad. The Devil has no prophets to write his Ten Commandments and no team of authors to write his biography. His case has gone completely by default. We know nothing about him but a lot of fairy stories from our parents and schoolmasters. He has no book from which we can learn the nature of evil in all its forms, with parables about evil people, proverbs about evil people, folk-lore about evil people. All we have is the living example of the people who are least good, or our own intuition.

“So,” continued Bond, warming to his argument, “Le Chiffre was serving a wonderful purpose, a really vital purpose, perhaps the best and highest purpose of all. By his evil existence, which foolishly I have helped to destroy, he was creating a norm of badness by which, and by which alone, an opposite norm of goodness could exist. We were privileged, in our short knowledge of him, to see and estimate his wickedness and we emerge from the acquaintanceship better and more virtuous men.”

♥ “Ah, but our conscience, my dear Bond. What shall we do with him while we are committing some juicy sin? That is a problem. He is a crafty person this conscience and very old, as old as the first family of apes which gave birth to him. We must give that problem really careful thought or we shall spoil our enjoyment. Of course, we should murder him first, but he is a tough bird. It will be difficult, but if we succeed, we could be worse even than Le Chiffre.”

♥ “You admit that Le Chiffre did you personal evil and that you would kill him if he appeared in front of you now?

“Well, when you get back to London you will find there are other Le Chiffres seeking to destroy you and your friends and your country. M will tell you about them. And now that you have seen a really evil man, you will know how evil they can be and you will go after them to destroy therm in order to protect yourself and the people you love. You won’t wait to argue about it. You know what they look like now and what they can do to people. You may be a bit more choosy about the jobs you take on. You may want to be certain that the target really is black, but there are plenty of really black targets around. There’s still plenty for you to do. And you’ll do it. And when you fall in love and have a mistress or a wife and children to look after, it will seem all the easier.”

Mathis opened the door ands stopped on the threshold.

“Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.”

♥ Flowers seemed to ask for recognition of the person who had sent them, to be constantly transmitting a message of sympathy and affection. Bound found this irksome. He disliked being cosseted. It gave him claustrophobia.

♥ Bond looked at her tenderly. Like all harsh, cold men, he was easily tipped over into sentiment.

♥ The lengthy approaches to a seduction bored him almost as much as the subsequent mess of disentanglement. He found something grisly in the inevitability of the pattern of each affair. The conventional parabola - sentiment, the touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the feel of the body, the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears and the final bitterness - was to him shameful and hypocritical. Even more he shunned the mise en scéne for each of these atcs in the play - the meeting at a party, the restaurant, the taxi, his flat, her flat, then the week-end by the sea, then the flats again, then the furtive alibis and the final angry farewell on some doorstop in the rain.

♥ It was the same with the whole Russian machine. Fear was the impulse. For them it was always safer to advance than to retreat. Advance against the enemy and the bullet might miss you. Retreat, evade, betray, and the bullet would never miss.

♥ The business of espionage could be left to the white-collar boys. They could spy, and catch the spies. He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.
Tags: 1950s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, adventure, british - fiction, card games (fiction), casinos (fiction), crime, fiction, french in fiction, gambling (fiction), james bond, literature, my favourite books, poker (fiction), romance, series, spy novels
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