Ok, so it’s been a while since I read/reviewed the first James Bond novel (Casino Royale). But please do not read into that. As I mention in my review, Casino Royale is a bloody brilliant book, and I enjoyed it immensely. I just had other stuff to read. But, anyway, this week I decided to come back and read “Live and Let Die”, the second instalment of the James Bond series, and, despite some negative aspects, it is a worthy successor. I enjoyed it immensely.
To begin with, however, there is no getting past some of the blatant racism that is immediately encountered within the book, and carries on throughout. Whether you want to defend the language and imagery repeatedly utilised by Fleming as simply an example of attitudes from another time, or not, there is no getting past it. Most modern readers will most probably feel uncomfortable (as I did) with the frequent usage of the words “negro” and “nigger”, the exaggeration and often ridicule of the way African Americans and Jamaicans talked, as well as the ridiculous assertions that all “black” men believe(d) in voodoo, and are quite often treated as inferior, even if only subliminally. Personally, I believe that this book should be treated in a similar fashion to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; in other words, the overt racism should be treated as an example of past values, it should be used to illustrate how far we have come as a civilization(s) and as a tool to ensure we never forget, but at the same time, it should be enjoyed as literature. Unadulterated.
That being said, the main villain in this piece is an African American, and an incredibly smart and powerful African American at that. The synopsis of the book goes like this: recently vast sums of Gold have begun being distributed throughout America, and the various intelligence agencies believe that it is the remnants of Henry Morgan’s treasure; the American agencies believe that the culprit is a Harlem gangster named Mr Big, and they organise a multi agency (including Britain’s Mi6) effort to investigate and take him down, led by none other than James Bond. Simple eh?
Even though the synopsis and “going’s on” of the book are vastly different from its namesake movie, Live and Let Die will probably seem a lot more “James Bondy” than its predecessor. Unlike Casino Royale, which, despite its awesomeness, is essentially a bottleneck book full of intrigue; Live and Let Die contains more of the investigation and espionage that those of us who grew up on the movies have come to know and love. Although its basic premise is a little weaker than it’s predecessor, it is much faster paced and has greater action and suspense scenes.
As with its predecessor, I would gladly suggest this book to anyone and everyone, albeit with a disclaimer concerning the racism. It’s story and characters are strong. It is fast paced and action packed. And, it continues the good start to a series that we all know and love. Furthermore, its synopsis is so far removed from that of its namesake movie, that regardless of whether you have watched the movie you can still be in for some shock and awe. All in all, it is a well-rounded and well-constructed thriller, despite it coming from another time.
Title: Live and Let Die
Author: Ian Fleming
Pages: 240 (Paperback)
Josh’s Rating: 4/5