Live And Let Die (1954)

Author: Ian Fleming
Published: 5th April 1954
MI6 Rating:

Data Stream
Villains: Mr Big
Plot: To smuggle pirate gold coins to finance SMERSH operations.
Bond Girls: Solitaire
Allies: Felix Leiter, Quarrel
Locations: Harlem, NY, USA; Tampa Bay, FL, USA; Shark’s Bay, Jamaica
Highlights: First encounter with Mr Big; Fight in warehouse; Bond’s swim to Mr Big’s base

Capsule Synopsis
Mr Big is a Harlem gangster, who controls his empire with superstitious fear. He has discovered a lost treasure beneath a Jamaican Island and is smuggling the gold into America. Bond's mission to stop him is made more urgent by the suspicion that he is also an agent of SMERSH.
Above: 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)

Official Blurb (Penguin 2002 Edition)
Her hair was black and fell to her shoulders. She had high cheekbones and a sensual mouth, and wore a dress of white silk. Her eyes were blue, alight and disdainful, but, as they gazed into his with a touch of humour, Bond realized that they contained a message. Solitaire watched his eyes on her and nonchalantly drew her forearms together so that the valley between her breasts deepened. The message was unmistakable...

Official Blurb (Pan 1964 Edition)
Meet JAMES BOND, Britain's key Secret Service agent against the dreaded Soviet murder organisation SMERSH... Bond lives dangerously - he expects to kill or be killed; he's no stranger to torture.
Meet MR BIG, a huge American Negro - master criminal, head of a Voodoo cult, high in the SMERSH guild of terror.
Meet SOLITAIRE, Mr Big's inquisitor, an exotic Creole beauty with the power to read a man's mind.
Racing from a night-club in New York's Harlem to the shark-infested seas of the West Indies this power-packed James Bond adventure will set your nerves a-tingle!

Chapter Listing

  1. The Red Carpet
  2. Interview with M
  3. A Visiting-Card
  4. The Big Switchboard
  5. Nigger Heaven
  6. Table Z
  7. Mister Big
  8. No Sensayuma
  9. True or False?
  10. The Silver Phantom
  11. Allumeuse
  12. The Everglades
  13. Death of a Pelican
  14. 'He Disagreed with Something that Ate Him'
  15. Midnight Among the Worms
  16. The Jamaica Version
  17. The Undertaker's Wind
  18. Beau Desert
  19. Valley of Shadows
  20. Bloody Morgan's Cave
  21. 'Good Night to You Both'
  22. Terror by Sea
  23. Passionate Leave
Above: British Pan paperback 8th-9th editions (1962)

Beautiful, fortune-telling Solitaire is the prisoner (and tool) of Mr Big – master of fear, artist in crime and Voodoo Baron of Death. James Bond has no time for superstition – he knows that this criminal heavy hitter is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, after tracking him through the jazz joints of Harlem, to the everglades and on to the Caribbean, 007 has realized that Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced. And no-one, not even the mysterious Solitaire, can be sure how their battle of wills is going to end...

Above: British Cape hardback 1st edition (1954) cover devised by Ian Fleming, completed by Kenneth Lewis; American Signet paperback 8th-23rd editions (circa 1963); British Pan paperback 22nd edition (1969)

M tells Bond that gold coins, seemingly from Bloody Morgan’s treasure, are being used to finance SMERSH. Br Big, a soviet agent and known member of SMERSH is expected of involvement. He is (and this is where political correctness is defenestrated) the world’s most powerful Negro villain, and immerses his activities amongst Voodoo culture.

007 flies to New York to investigate, and teams up with Felix Leiter. As they enter Harlem and the negro underworld, Bond and Leiter are followed and captured. Bond is interrogated by Mr Big, who uses Solitaire, a fortune-teller as his backup. However, she chooses to corroborate Bond’s lies, and is allowed to leave after henchman Tee-Hee breaks Bond’s finger.

Bond goes South to St Petersburg, California, where Mr Big’s yacht, the Secatur, is often seen, but is joined by a desperate Solitaire before getting on the train. Bond and Felix visit the suspicious Ouroborous Worm and Bait shop, but while they are doing so, Solitaire is kidnapped. That night Felix returns to the Ouroborous, only to be returned to Bond half-dead after a shark encounter, bearing a note saying, ‘He disagreed with something that ate him’.

The furious Bond, on his return to Ouroborous, discoversd that the coins are being transported beneath the sand in the poisonous fish tanks at Ouroborous. Bond barely survives an encounter with henchman The Robber before throwing him where he threw Leiter.

007 flies to Jamaica and, after being briefed by local agent Strangways, joins Cayman Islander Quarrel who trains him for the swim across to Mr Big’s island. Secatur eventually arrives with Mr Big and Solitaire aboard, so Bond deduces that the ship is taking its final collection. Bond swims across that night, but is captured.

He and Solitaire are tied behind the yacht ready to be cut open on a coral reef and finished off by sharks. But Bond had placed a timed mine on the ship. Will it go off in time to save Bond? Of course it will. He and Solitaire escape with cuts, while Mr Big is ironically killed by the sharks that could have killed Bond and his new love Solitaire.


Mr. Big looked across at Bond. "'Which finger do you use the least Mister Bond?' Bond was startled by the question. His mind raced. 'On reflection, I expect you will say the little finger of your left hand,' continued the soft voice. 'Tee-Hee, break the little finger of Mr. Bond's left hand.'

'This case isn't ripe yet. Until it is our policy with Mr Big is to "live and let live".' Bond looked quizzically at Captain Dexter. 'In my job,' he said, 'when I come up against a man like this one, I have another motto. It's "live and let die".'

'You have doubtless read Trotter's "Instincts of the Herd in War and Peace", Mister Bond. Well, I am by nature and predilection a wolf and I live by a wolf's laws. Naturally the sheep describe such a person as a "criminal"'.

Above: British Pan paperback 11th-21st editions (1963-1966)

Above: American Jove paperback 1st edition (1980); British Coronet paperback 6th edition (1988); British Viking/Penguin 1st edition hardback and paperback (2002)


A snorter. From first word to last.. the reader is compelled to surrender to a superb storyteller.
- Time & Tide

Speed... tremendous zest... communicated excitement. Brrh! How wincingly well Mr Fleming writes.
- Sunday Times

Don't blame me if you get a stroke.
- The Observer

Mr. Ian Fleming is without doubt the most interesting recent recruit among thriller writers. The second aventure of his Secret Service agent fully maintains the promise of his first book. . .containing passages which for sheer excitement have not been surpassed by any modern writer in this kind.
- Times Literary Supplement

An ingenious affair full of recondite knowledge and horrific spills and thrills
- The Times

Above: British Pan paperback 23rd-25th editions (1973)

Publication Timeline
1954 April 5 - 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) released - cover devised by Ian Fleming, completed by Kenneth Lewis
1955 1st edition Macmillan hardback (USA)
1956 June - 1st edition Permabooks paperback (USA) - cover artwork by James Meese
Book club edition The Reprint Society hardback (UK)
1957 October 16 - 1st edition Pan paperback (UK)
1958 2nd edition Pan paperback (UK)
1959 October - 1st edition Signet paperback (USA)
3rd edition Pan paperback (UK)
1960 4th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1961 5th edition Pan paperback (UK)
6th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1962 7th edition Pan paperback (UK)
8th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Skrifola paperback (Denmark)
1963 June - 7th edition Signet paperback (USA)
August - 10th edition Signet paperback (USA)
September - 11th edition Signet paperback (USA)
9th edition Pan paperback (UK)
10th edition Pan paperback (UK)
11th edition Pan paperback (UK)
12th edition Pan paperback (UK)
8th edition Signet paperback (USA)
9th edition Signet paperback (USA)
1964 June - 14th edition Signet paperback (USA)
July - 15th edition Signet paperback (USA)
13th edition Pan paperback (UK)
14th edition Pan paperback (UK)
15th edition Pan paperback (UK)
16th edition Pan paperback (UK)
17th edition Pan paperback (UK)
13th edition Signet paperback (USA)
16th edition Signet paperback (USA)
1965 July - 1st edition Plon paperback (France)
18th edition Pan paperback (UK)
19th edition Pan paperback (UK)
20th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Editôra Civilização Brasileira paperback (Brazil)
1966 21st edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Ullstein paperback (1966) - cover artwork by Wolfgang Dohmen
1st edition Albert Bonnier hardback (Sweden)
1969 22nd edition Pan paperback (UK)
1973 July - 1st edition bantam paperback (USA)
23rd edition Pan paperback (UK)
24th edition Pan paperback (UK)
25th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Aldus/Bonniers paperback (Sweden)
1980 June - 1st edition Jove paperback (USA)
1984 1st edition Zwarte Beertjes paperback (The Netherlands)
1985 8th edition Berkley paperback (USA)
1988 1st edition Coronet paperback (UK) - Introduction by Anthony Burgess
1st edition Coronet paperback (Canada) - Introduction by Anthony Burgess
1993 1st edition Scherz paperback (Germany)
1995 April - 1st edition MJF/Fine Communications hardback (USA) - cover artwork by Richard Rossiter, illustrated by Christoph Blumich
1st edition The First Edition Library hardback (USA)
1998 May - 1st edition Delfín paperback (Czech Republic)
2002 April 4 - 1st edition Viking/Penguin hardback (UK) - photography by Toby McFarland Pond
April 4 - 1st edition Viking/Penguin paperback (UK) - photography by Toby McFarland Pond
2003 May - 1st edition Penguin USA paperback (USA)