First Graf: Goldfinger

IF YOU HAVE NEVER READ the original James Bond stories by Ian Fleming, you don’t know James Bond.

You also don’t know sweeping prose that zips along like a rocket; lush description with a reporter’s eye for detail; fourth-wall breaking double-entendres; high-concept doomsday plans only one man can stop; and some of the best philosophical bon mots in the business. I like Fleming’s Bond for all these reasons, but mostly I like Fleming because he is a writer who inspires me to write — he makes it look easy, unlike some of my other literary heroes.

Bond of the novels is different from Bond of the movies — he’s less of a gadgeted wonderman and more of a hired killer — but just as refined in his tastes concerning wine, women and weaponry. Most of Fleming’s Bond novels open in the middle of an action scene, but Goldfinger, published in 1959 as the seventh Bond novel, is different — it slides us into the action like gold paint on skin, and is as hard to shake. We begin with Bond — well, let’s let Ian tell us:

James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.
It was part of his profession to kill people. He had never liked doing it and when he had to kill he did it as well as he knew how and forgot about it. As a secret agent who held the rare double-O prefix — the licence to kill in the Secret Service — it was his duty to be as cool about death as a surgeon. If it happened, it happened. Regret was unprofessional — worse, it was a death-watch beetle in the soul.

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