Moonraker (1955)

Author: Ian Fleming
Published: 7th April 1955
MI6 Rating:

Data Stream
Villains: Hugo Drax
Plot: The destruction of London with a nuclear rocket
Bond Girls: Gala Brand
Allies: None
Locations: London, UK; Kent, UK
Highlights: Bridge game at Blades

Capsule Synopsis
Bond is asked, as a personal favour to M, to expose a member of the exclusive gentlemen's club, Blades, who is suspected of cheating at cards. The man is Hugo Drax, head of Britain's Moonraker rocket program. The stakes are increased as a security officer looking into Drax's work is murdered, and Bond takes his place in an effort to discover the truth behind Drax's motives and his past.
Above: 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)

Official Blurb (Penguin 2002 Edition)
At M's request, Bond has gone up against Sir Hugo Drax at the card table, on a mission to teach the millionaire and head of the Moonraker project a lesson he won't forget, and prevent a scandal engulfing Britain's latest defence system. But there is more to the mysterious Drax than simply cheating at cards. And once Bond delves deeper into goings-on at the Moonraker base he discovers that both the project and its leader are something other than they pretend to be...

Official Blurb (Pan 1963 Edition)
M wants you... The summons to his chief, that quiet Monday, was to give JAMES BOND, Secret Service Agent No. 007, a new assignment more hazardous and more exciting than any he had met before - a stupendous gamble with fate that was to mean for him - and the lovely Gala - days of tension... and fear!

Chapter Listing

Part One / Monday

  1. Secret Paper-Work
  2. The Columbite King
  3. 'Belly Strippers', etc.
  4. The 'Shiner'
  5. Dinner at Blades
  6. Cards with a Stranger
  7. The Quickness of the Hand

Part Two / Tuesday, Wednesday

  1. The Red Telephone
  2. Take it from Here
  3. Special Branch Agent
  4. Policewoman Brand
  5. The Moonraker
  6. Dead Reckoning
  7. Itching Fingers
  8. Rough Justice
  9. A Golden Day
  10. Wild Surmises

Part Three / Thursday, Friday

  1. Beneath the Flat Stone
  2. Missing Person
  3. Drax's Gambit
  4. 'The Persuader'
  5. Pandora's Box
  6. Zero Minus
  7. Zero
  8. Zero Plus
Above: British Pan paperback 5th-10th editions (1961 onwards)

'Benzedrine,' said James Bond. 'It's what I shall need if I'm going to keep my wits about me tonight. It's apt to make one a bit overconfident, but that'll help too.' He stirred the champagne so that the white powder whirled among the bubbles. Then he drank the mixture down with one long swallow. 'It doesn't taste,' said Bond, 'and the champagne is quite excellent.'

Above: British Pan paperback 8th-11th editions (1962 onwards); American Permabooks "Too Hot To Handle" paperback edition (December 1956); British Pan paperback 24th-25th editions (1962 onwards)

M asks Bond to investigate Sir Hugo Drax, patriot extroadinaire and head of the vital Moonraker ICBM programme because he cheats at cards in M's club, Blades. Bond and M must stop him doing it again without causing him to cancel his missile or letting the press know. Bond and M go to Blades that evening, and Bond realises Drax cheats by using his reflective cigarette case to see the cards as he deals them. Bond cheats himself to prove he is onto Drax, and in doing so he and M win a great deal of money from the furious millionaire.

Next morning Bond is called to investigate a murder-suicide among the German workers at Drax's plant. Bond replaces the murdered head of security, working alongside Gala Brand, the undercover secretary. Bond notices various suspicious things, and these are confirmed when someone causes a cliff to fall on the duo, nearly killing them. Gala is then discovered trying to replace figures she stole which show Drax is in fact intending to test fire the missile into London with a real nuclear warhead. When Bond is also caught while pursuing Drax and Gala, Gala warns him of the plan.

Drax explains that he is in fact a German spy mistaken for a Briton when most of his face was blown off in WWII. He became a powerful businessman, always intending to get revenge on the country he hates. However after Bond angers him Drax forgets to remove a blowtorch and Bond and Gala painfully use it to escape into a ventilation shaft. Then, after the rocket is set to fire they emerge from the shaft and Bond returns the rocket to its original settings so that after it takes off it plunges into the North Sea. Drax is killed by the bomb while escaping in a Soviet submarine.

On completion of the mission, Bond fails to get the girl for the only time. Gala's engagement ring wasn't only to keep Drax off her back.


"There must be no regrets. No false sentiment. He must play the role which she expected of him. The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette."

"M lifted his yes from his pipe and cleared his throat. 'Got anything particular on at the moment, James?' he asked in a neutral voice. 'James.' That was unusual. It was rare for M to use a Christian name in this room."

"Drax's fist crashed down on the desk, 'Hitler was betrayed again by those swinish generals and the English and Americans were allowed to land in France.' 'Too bad,' said Bond drily. 'Yes, my dear Bond, it was indeed too bad.' Drax chose to ignore the irony."

"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 hands and bend her long body back under his."

"'Bring me a whisky and soda,' said M. 'Sure you won't have anything?' Bond looke at his watch. It was half-past six. 'Could I have a dry Martini?' he said. 'Made with Vodka. Large slice of lemon peel.' 'Rot-gut,' commented M briefly as the waiter went away."

"He touched her for the last time and then they turned away from each other and walked off into their different lives."

Above: British Pan paperback 13th-23rd editions (1963 onwards)

Above: British Coronet paperback 4th edition (circa 1990); British Penguin paperback edition (April 2002 onwards); American Penguin paperback edition (February 2003 onwards)


James's companion is as smashing a lovely as any predecessor in the role, the villain as sulphurously infernal, the declaration of war as dramtic... "Astonish me!" the addict may challenge; Mr Fleming can knock him sideways
- The Scotsman

Ian Fleming continued to be irresistably readable, however incredible; seldom has an expensive education been turned more cunningly to account.
- Observer

Fleming is splendid; he stops at nothing.
- New Statesman

Mercilessly readable.
- Listener

I couldn't put this book down.
- Daily Telegraph

Moonraker establishes its author as Mr Eric Ambler's rival or successor
- Tablet

Sheer good writing and skilful development. The game, its setting and the way Mr Fleming leads up to it make me a convinced admirer of Bond -and of Mr Fleming.
- Oxford Mail

Above: British Pan paperback 27th edition (1976)

Publication Timeline
1955 April 4 - 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) released - Jacket artwork devised by Ian Fleming, and executed by Kenneth Lewis
September 20 - 1st edition Macmillan hardback (USA)
2nd edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
1956 October 15 - 1st edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Kirby
December - "Too Hot To Handle" Permabooks paperback (USA) - Cover artwork by Lou Marchetti
1958 3rd edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
1st edition Gallimard hardback (France)
1959 4th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
2nd edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Kirby
3rd edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Kirby
1960 October - 1st edition Signet paperback (USA)
4th edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Kirby
1st edition Macmillan Book Club Edition hardback circa 1960s (USA)
1961 5th edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Pef
6th edition Pan paperback (UK) - Jacket artwork by Peff
7th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1962 April - 2nd edition Signet paperback (USA)
5th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
8th edition Pan paperback (UK)
9th edition Pan paperback (UK)
10th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1963 6th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
11th edition Pan paperback (UK)
12th edition Pan paperback (UK)
13th edition Pan paperback (UK)
14th edition Pan paperback (UK)
9th edition Signet paperback (USA)
13th edition Signet paperback (USA)
14th edition Signet paperback (USA)
15th edition Signet paperback (USA)
1964 7th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
15th edition Pan paperback (UK)
16th edition Pan paperback (UK)
17th edition Pan paperback (UK)
18th edition Pan paperback (UK)
19th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Skrifola paperback (Denmark)
1965 8th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
20th edition Pan paperback (UK)
21st edition Pan paperback (UK)
22nd edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Editôra Civilização Brasileira paperback (Brazil)
1st edition Gallimard hardback (France)
1966 23rd edition Pan paperback (UK)
1st edition Albert Bonnier hardback (Sweden)
1967 3rd edition Basak Yayinevi paperback (Turkey)
1968 1st edition Olaf Bouwer hardback (South Africa)
1969 24th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1971 25th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1972 9th edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
1973 march - 1st edition Bantam paperback (USA)
26th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1975 January - 1st edition F.A. Thorpe/Ulverscroft large print hardback (UK)
1976 27th edition Pan paperback (UK)
1978 November - 1st edition Oxford University Press China children's editoin paperback (UK)
1981 July - 1st edition Jove paperback (USA)
1984 August - 1st edition Berkley paperback (USA)
1st edition Zwarte Beertjes paperback (The Netherlands)
1989 June - 1st edition Coronet paperback (UK) - Introduction by Anthony Burgess
1st edition Coronet/General paperback (Canada) - Introduction by Anthony Burgess
1991 1st edition Printest/GART hardback (Estonia)
1994 1st edition MJF/Fine Communications hardback (USA) - Jacket artwork designed by Richard Rossiter, and illustrated by Christoph Blumri
1995 1st edition The First Edition Library hardback (USA)
1998 1st edition Delfín paperback (Czech Republic)

April 4 - 1st edition Viking/Penguin hardback (UK) - Photography by Toby Mcfarlan Pond
April 4 - 1st edition Penguin paperback (UK) - Photography by Toby Mcfarlan Pond
December 17 - 1st edition Penguin USA paperback (USA)