MI6 looks back at Ian Fleming's debut novel - Casino
Royale - with story coverage and details on how you
can catch up with the original James Bond adventure...
Casino Royale - Literary Primer
4th February 2005
Casino Royale is
the first book in the epic James Bond saga by Ian
Fleming, and is certainly one of the best. As well as some
wonderfully tense scenes, and a superbly defined and more realistic
James Bond, the plot is clever, but also astoundingly simple.
First published in 1953, elements of the adventure are to be adapted
in the 21st film in the series
- due out in 2006.
M has approved a plan to eliminate the
SMERSH agent Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre has stolen funds from
his Russian superiors, and in order to save his life he
is planning to win it back at the Casino in Royale-les-eaux.
Bond’s orders are to oppose Le Chiffre with English
funds and bankrupt him, thus taking SMERSH’s money,
and leaving them to murder the renegade killer.
Bond arrives in France and is assisted by Rene Mathis of
the French intelligence service, and Felix Leiter (who works
with the Joint Intelligence Staff at NATO), with whom he
builds a lasting friendship. Attractive British agent Vesper
Lynd ("3030") is also attached to Bond, whose
presence in Royale is known immediately, as two men blow
themselves up while trying to bomb 007.
Bond then confronts Le Chiffre at Baccarat, but seems to
have been wiped out of his 16 million (old) Francs, before
Leiter adds another 32 million at the last minute, with
which Bond bankrupts Le Chiffre. Bond and Vesper celebrate,
but she is kidnapped by Le Chiffre and his men, whom Bond
pursues. However, Bond is captured when the SMERSH man lays
a bed of spikes on the road and 007 crashes his Bentley.
Above: British Pan paperback 9th-12th
editions (1962 onwards)
Le Chiffre sadistically interrogates Bond with, among other
things, a carpet-beater against the genitals, to find out where
the 40 million Bond has won is. As Bond is about to die, a SMERSH
operative sneaks into the house and kills Le Chiffre. He has no
orders to kill Bond, but instead carves SH on the back of Bond’s
hand to mark him as a spy.
Bond comes round in hospital, and considers leaving the SIS before
Mathis persuades him otherwise. Predictably, he falls in love
with Vesper, and the pair go for a romantic week on the French
coast. But Vesper suddenly kills herself, explaining in a note
that she had been a Russian double-agent. Bond, who had been about
to ask her to marry him, reports back to London that ‘the
bitch is dead’.
Casino Royale is the first James Bond book, but by the end of
it, it already feels like we have known him for years. Bond is
a gourmet and drink-lover, whose vices also include smoking and
women, with whom he is more than happy to make love. Bond is probably
in his late thirties, but in excellent physical condition. He
can be a cold-blooded killer, but prefers not to be. In this sense,
and others, Bond is more realistic than in some of the later books.
He also has a condescending attitude towards women, and he does
consider leaving the service. The Bond of Casino Royale is the
most believable, but in many ways the cruellest, ending the book
with the coldest of remarks.
Casino Royale is also more violent than later books, but this
is necessary for the torture scene to be so haunting. The gambling
scenes are also marvelously handled. Fleming simply explains the
rules of Baccarat, Bond’s calculated preparation, and then
lets the tension build throughout the card game. Fleming set up
the Bond formula with this debut novel, and laid the ideal foundation
for the forthcoming adventures. A common criticism though, is
that Le Chiffre is a very forgettable villain. There is little
insight into the characters other than Bond, and the first thirty
or forty pages are a little slow-moving. Nevertheless, this is
one of the most memorable and tense Bond novels, and is highly
Prepare Yourself For Casino Royale In 2006!
Titan Books are remastering and republishing the classic
newspaper comic strips, and on February 25th 2005, the latest
edition in the new collection by writer Henry Gammidge and
artist John McLusky will be released. Don't miss this stunning
graphic adventure closely adapted from Ian Fleming's original
The legend continues! Get ready to enjoy more thrills and
spills with the world's greatest secret agent in the latest
addition to this classic action series! This is the story
that introduced us to James Bond. He's charming, sophisticated
and handsome but also chillingly ruthless and very deadly.
In his first mission, James must neutralize a Russian operative
by ruining him at the Baccarat table and forcing his 'retirement'.
Lady luck appears to be taken with Bond as his target hits
a losing streak, but Bond's attraction to a beautiful female
agent leads him to disaster...
Casino Royale - Literary
Royale (2006) - Movie Coverage
Royale - Titan Books Coverage