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Top 10 literary Bond moments to honour the 'Carte Blanche' launch

26-May-2011 • Literary

As Jeffrey Deaver's new James Bond novel is released Mark Monahan selects the most thrilling and hilarious episodes from the original 007 author's thrillers.

The fight in the train (From Russia, with Love, 1957)
A highlight of the books as well as the films, this first climax (of two) in From Russia, with Love is brilliantly told. Too late, Bond realises that the supposedly friendly Captain Nash is in fact Donovan Grant, Smersh’s chief executioner, who’s about to shoot him through the heart with his gun (disguised as a book, no less). Can 007 distract him enough to get his gunmetal cigarette case in between the bullet and the vital organ? This is clearly Fleming’s suggestion that smoking can – occasionally – be very good for you indeed.

The golf match (Goldfinger, 1959)
It took chutzpah to dedicate such a disproportionate amount of a spy thriller to a round of golf, but Fleming carries it off in style, bringing an epic quality to this war-by-putting between Bond and his red-haired, gold-obsessed adversary. Neither plays fair, but Bond out-cheats Goldfinger, bien sur.

The climax in the water (Live and Let Die, 1954)
Having tied Bond and Solitaire together and flung them in the sea, Mr Big is towing them behind his boat with the intention of flaying them alive on the shallow reef and letting the sharks feast on them. It’s a nasty way to go, so much so that Bond is altruistically planning to drown Solitaire before they reach the coral. Will the limpit mine on the boat detonate in time? It’s a pulse-quickening passage, one that eventually made its way into the 1981 film For your Eyes Only.

The Card Game (Casino Royale, 1953)
How exactly is Hugo Drax constantly winning at cards? M charges Bond with going to Blades club and finding out – which he does, and in high style, despite having enough Benzedrine in him to launch a jet-fighter, not to mention enough vodka martinis to bring one down.

The Description of Rosa Klebb (From Russia, with Love, 1957)
One of Fleming’s great strengths as a writer was the vividness with which he described his characters (especially the women). His account of Smersh’s Roas Klebb as she tries to seduce Tatiana Romanova – concluding with “She looked like the oldest, ugliest whore in the world” – is not, perhaps, one of his most affectionate, but it’s certainly one of his best.

Bond’s apparent death (From Russia, with Love, 1957)
Rosa Klebb (see above) gets the last laugh in the best Bond book, kicking Bond in the shins with the blue-neurotoxin-covered blade hidden in her shoe. That description of Bond’s fingers, as the poison takes hold, as feeling like “cucumbers” is oddly unforgettable.

The garden of death (You Only Live Twice, 1964)
At the end of You Only Live Twice, Fleming lets himself completely off the leash, with Bond’s chief adversary hiding out in the midle of a poison-filled garden straight out of the most lurid mitteleuropean fairytale. Suddenly, Blofeld appears... in a suit of armour! Bonkers, and kind of inspired.

Quantum of Solace (short story in For Your Eyes Only, 1960)
A Bond story in which Bond barely gets a mention? Yet again, one takes one’s hat off to Fleming for his nerve, with this tale of expat infidelity (and revenge) that somehow wound up lending its name to Daniel Craig’s second screen outing as 007. The Eton-educated Fleming, who lived in Jamaica, probably knew what he was talking about with this particular fable...

The shoot-out with the two hitmen (Diamonds Are Forever, 1956)
Bond surprises silky hitmen Mr Wint and Mr Kidd in their cabin. They try to outwit him with a predetermined, American football-style “code”, but he keeps his cool, and, having dispached one of them, swiftly turns to the other, shooting “straight into the screaming mouth”. It’s a reminder of how well Daniel Craig captures Bond’s (and Fleming’s) brutality.

The Living Daylights (short story in Octopussy, 1966)
This little Bond-vs-apparent-hitwoman episode makes for a tense read, besides having named Timothy Dalton’s first appearance as Bond, as well as having been lifted almost wholesale for the start of the film-proper. (The “teaser” has Bond dodging Barbary Macaques on the Rock of Gibraltar and then bonking on a boat.)

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