Casino Royale (Book Review)

Indulge me in a little pulp fiction. I have never read an Ian Fleming book, and I have only seen one James Bond movie. It was a Roger Moore version–I can’t remember which one–and I was not impressed; I want my spy stories to be serious. I loved Mission Impossible and hated Get Smart when I was young. So when Richard Spencer did yet another Radix podcast on James Bond, they mentioned that the books were very different from the movies, so I had to read one.

Figuring I would get necessary background in the first installment, I picked Casino Royale.  It’s a good, short book. Notice how so many books today are long and serialized?  Movies are similar.  It’s a relief to be able to zip through a complete story.  The plot was tight–nothing fantastical–and the writing good enough.  Bond was not the Movie Bond. there was nothing frivolous. Bond has a real human side.  The story lingers in my mind days after reading it.  I’ll probably read another eventually.

It made me think of the Cold War; Casino Royale was published in 1953, the end of the beginning of the Cold War. A few notes about the time:

  • The Berlin Airlift, 1948, touched off the Cold War;
  • Alger Hiss trial, 1948;
  • China goes Communist, 1949;
  • Senator McCarthy’s Wheeling speech on the infiltration of Communism in the State Department, 1950;
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg give away the nuclear secret, 1950;
  • The Korean War, 1950-53;
  • Whittaker Chamber’s Witness, 1952;
  • Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, 1953;
  • National Review founded, 1955

The Cold War must have been a huge shock after the struggle of World War II, and now a dark sinister cloud descended over the country, with the government honeycombed with a large Fifth Column. Right wing resistance was rising from a liberal-dominated society.

More on the home front:

  • Boring baseball, and the New York Yankees dominate, win five straight World Series, 1949-53
  • Levittown, NY:  the birth of suburbia, 1947-51
  • The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, 1955

I won’t try to comment on the significance of Ian Fleming’s Bond.  It’s good pulp.


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