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A JAMES BOND Omnibus, Volume 1
From Russia, With Love
Doctor No
Goldfinger

By Ian Fleming

MJF Books, Reprint $9.98
ISBN 1-56731-160-1

A JAMES BOND Omnibus, Volume 2
Thunderball
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
You Only Live Twice

By Ian Fleming

MJF Books, Reprint $9.98
ISBN 1-56731-161-X

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(10/11/99)

The death of Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond, didn't stop the commerical success of his character. James Bond has become one of the most recognized literary creations after Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. There is a Volvo car commerical on the radio that plays off the James Bond 007 movies. The commerical uses Bond-like music and the name of a Bond villian (Goldfinger) to make the point that Volvo is the car 007 would prefer to drive. A television commercial uses a woman painted in gold paint to advertise a sale at a major local department store. The recent hit movie "Austin Powers" is a parody of many of the 60's spy movies, especially the 007 movies.

John Gardner and now Raymond Benson have continued the Bond adventures in new books. This November, the 19th Bond film, "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH," will debut starring Pierce Brosnan, the seventh actor to play Bond. (I've included the TV production in the count.)

But for the purest, the real James Bond is to be found in the original stories written by Ian Fleming. Fleming can create scenes with crackling tension and danger. His minute knowledge of arcane subjects and sense of the bizarre were hallmarks in the best of his stories. The result is outlandish fun and escapism.

Volume 2 of the Ominbus is the Blofeld Trilogy, Bond's war against the international crime syndicate named S.P.E.C.T.R.E. THUNDERBALL, the first book, played on our fear of nuclear terrorism. An ingenious plot to steal a nuclear bomb, exotic settings (the Bahamas), a powerful villian (Emilio Largo) has made this a favorite of fans. Three movies have been based on this story, "THUNDERBALL," "NEVER SAY NEVER, AGAIN" (both starring Sean Connery), and "TOMORROW NEVER DIES" starring Pierce Brosnan.

The second installment, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, goes deep undercover to Blofeld's lair in the Swiss Alps. Along the way, Bond makes an unholy alliance with the Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Union Corse. Fleming writes:

"'The Union Corse', more deadly and perhaps even older than the Unione Siciliano, the Mafia. He [James Bond] knew that it controled most organized crime throughout metropolitan France and her colonies -- protection rackets, smuggling, prostitution and the suppression of rival gangs. Only a few months ago a certain Rossi had been shot dead in a bar in Nice." The Union Corse had involvement with the legendary Rommel's gold. "In 1948 a Czech diver called Fleigh, who had been in the Abwehr, and had got on the track of it, was warned off by the Union and then vanished off the face of the earth. Quite recently the body of a young French diver, Andre Mattei, was found riddled with bullets by the roadside near Bastia. He had foolishly boasted in the local bars that he knew the whereabouts of the treasure and had come to dive for it."

As a sidelight, Fleming introduced biological terrorism back in 1963.

In the third installment, You Only Live Twice, Bond loses his double 'O' license to kill and is sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan only to discover Blofeld who used the Japanese fascination with death to build a garden of death. By far one of the weakest of the Bond books. It is more of a travelogue than a thriller. The bits of good writing (like the first chapter) get dragged down by a story that goes nowhere until the last few chapters.

Volume 1 of the Omnibus includes perhaps the best of the Bond books, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. It was the book that propelled Fleming to popularity when it made President John F. Kennedy's top ten book list. Published in 1957, it captured the Cold War struggle for us. Here the Russian killing machine, SMERSH is at its best against Bond, the best of the British Secret Service. This book and CASINO ROYALE were the closest Fleming came to writing a realistic spy book.

DOCTOR NO and GOLDFINGER established the "formula" for the rest of his best Bond books. We have the outlandish villian, bizarre methods of death, exotic locations, the melodramatic names (Goldfinger, Pussy Galore, Pus-Feller), and the insider's knowledge of gold, guano or diamonds. Great escapism. The two omnibus volumes are a great introduction to the real James Bond as well as nice additions for the 007 collector. Unfortunately these books are not to be found in most regular bookstores. I picked up my copies at Barnes & Nobles. If you can't get to one of their stores, try their WEB site. Otherwise try writing the publisher at the following.

MJF Books
Fine Communications
Two Lincoln Square
60 west 66th Street
New York, NY 10023

Edcom: These books are also available at various sites on the internet, including Amazon.com (although Volume 2 is not always available at each site).


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