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Live And Let Die by Ian Fleming

Live And Let Die (1954)

by Ian Fleming

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: James Bond (2)

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2,040483,273 (3.45)75



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Rating: 3.5* of five

**THIS REVIEW IS OF THE FILM** (The novel doesn't resemble the film too terribly much, being a very Cold-Warry Russkis versus Good Guys in the Caribbean; deeply uninteresting to a 1970s audience)

It's the 1973 first outing by Simon Templar...I mean Roger Moore!...that I review here.

Holy pimpmobile! I'd forgotten this was the blaxploitation Bond flick. Appallingly racist. Horrifyingly insultingly so. And may I just say, "INTRODUCING JANE SEYMOUR" is the most chilling phrase I've ever in all my life seen on a movie screen?

Introducing. Jane. Seymour. As in, "not seen on the big screen before?" She was in some other stuff...but nothing as big as Bond. And the horrible thing is that Jane Seymour's character is only able to tell the future as a tarot reader while she's a virgin. Does that clue you in on what Bond's gonna do?

But all that comes after Bond's first African-American love interest. He sleeps with her while in a pale-blue loser suit. With a white belt. Wearing a wife-beater under it. Oh gawd, the seventies.

Then Bond condescends to pop Jane's cherry and takes away he rpowers, which the sexist sociopath clearly doesn't believe in; things go further and further downhill as Geoffrey Holder does a horrifying turn as a voodoo priest in the most ridiculous half-white makeup...well.

So of course Bond solves the identity puzzle, rescues now-slutty Jane from her life of luxury, and brings down the (black, of course) drug dealer. Then Geoffrey Holder laughs his unique laugh as we head for the credits.

Wow. Forty years really makes a lot of difference in how things look. I never liked Simon Templar...I mean Roger Moore!...as Bond. From the get-go, I found him too TV for the role of the big screen's biggest baddest spy. What was charming and roguish in other performances was slippery and oleaginous in Moore's performances. But I had no memory of how revoltingly racist this film was. I shudder to say it, but I was probably blind to it because it was...ulp...the way I saw the lily-white privileged Republican world I lived in.


Well, that's enough of that. The dumbest car chase ever put on film takes place in an alternate New York where there are only Chevrolet Caprices, Chevrolet Impalas, and Cadillac Eldorados on the roads. Except one elderly Ford truck, which the lone Chevrolet Biscayne in New York, carrying Bond, hits head-on and somehow Bond isn't even scratched despite not wearing a seat belt. Yeah! Now that's the Bond we all love!

And the title tune. Oh my goodness, the title tune. It's one of the indelible memories of 1973, along with the Rayburn Committee hearings and the Energy Crisis. Pretty good tune. But earwormy as all hell! Once in your mind, it ain't a-comin' out easy.

"Enjoy." ( )
1 vote richardderus | Jun 28, 2014 |
Brace yourself for a lot of 1950s casual racism. Pretty much every black character except Mr. Big (who's only half-black anyway) talks like Jim from Huck Finn. And it seems like Bond can't go two hours without having to eat; is he diabetic or something? Yeesh. But he does get to fight a giant octopus, so that's pretty sweet. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
This is the first James Bond book I've read. It's got great action, including deadly battles with sharks, barracudas and even an octopus. But the book doesn't really hold up to the test of time, especially with its borderline racist descriptions of African Americans. It does give an interesting picture of race relations shortly after World War II when this book was written, though. ( )
  wethewatched | Sep 24, 2013 |
While I haven’t seen the film of ‘Live and let die’, I’ve no doubt that, like the Bond films I have seen, it was updated in its making, all of Fleming’s novels turned into something contemporary. So, reading this 1954 novel, the first thing that strikes me is how dated it is – as much in style as it is in its content. Long explanations and stiff dialogue actually remind me of the unnaturalness in many films of this era.

James Bond himself is no likeable character – just a rather egotistical, exploitative one. When we come across the stunningly beautiful Solitaire, for example, the woman we know will be the female interest in the tale, we find Bond thinking ‘for better or for worse he had decided to accept Solitaire, or rather, in his cold way, to make the most of her’. His criticisms of different foods and even old people for being old probably alienate today’s reader more than those from over half a century ago. “Bond noted the small grudging mouths of the women . . . the fluffy, sparse balls of hair on the women showing a pink scalp. The bony, bald heads of the men . . . ‘It makes you want to climb right into the tomb and pull the lid down,’ said Leiter at Bond’s exclamations of horror”. Just as well for Bond that his author froze him in his prime, otherwise today he’d be about 93 years old and no doubt horrified at what he’d become.

Spy stories don’t have to date so quickly. The early novels in Adam Hall’s Quiller series have stood up well to the test of time. This Fleming one, though, with the heavy-handed quips (e.g. Leiter telling Bond he uses his ears for listening not for collecting lipstick to which Bond replies ‘You lousy, goddam sleuth . . . If you find yourself dead in your bed tonight, you’ll know who did it’) and its lengthy bits on voodoo (oooooh!) and Solitaire being a clairvoyant alerting the reader but not the rather slow-witted Bond when things are going to get bad make this a pedestrian tale lacking real tension.

I guess successful spy stories depend on fast action, surprises and, for me at least, credibility. Apart from Fleming giving us the benefit of his research into such things as the geography of Jamaica, this novel does have forward momentum and it has some surprises too but not much credibility. On top of this I didn’t warm to Bond, finding him as callous as Mr Big. After Solitaire is kidnapped, we’re back to descriptions of his breakfasts and away from thoughts of her. For me the Bond films, or at least the Sean Connery ones, had a more human Bond, wry, yes, but not cold. ( )
1 vote evening | Sep 24, 2013 |
I liked this one but just couldn't find myself to give it 4 stars. At times I enjoyed the dialogue between Bond and Mr. Big. But the action scenes just weren't to action packed for me I think. ( )
  capiam1234 | Aug 14, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fleming, Ianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonetti, NorahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent.
'Don't go stirring up trouble for us. This case isn't ripe yet. Until it is, our policy is "live and let live".'
Bond looked quizzically at Captain Dexter.
'In my job,' he said, 'when I come up against a man like this one, I have another motto. It's "live and let die".'
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This work is by Ian Fleming.  Patrick Nobles is the editor of some editions.
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Book description

Britain's key secret service agent against the dreaded Soviet murder organization SMERSH...Bond lives dangerously - he expects to be killed; he's no stranger to torture.

Meet MR BIG,

a huge American negro - master criminal, head of a Voodoo cult, high in the SMERSH guild of terror.


Mr Big's Inquisitor, an exotic Creole beauty with the power to read a man's mind.

Racing from a night-club in New York's Harlem to the shark-infested waters of the West Indies this power-packed James Bond adventure will set your nerves a-tingle!

Speed...tremendous zest...communicated excitement. Brrh!...how wincingly well Mr Fleming writes - SUNDAY TIMES
Haiku summary
Double Oh Seven
takes on a black criminal
with Voodoo powers.

No descriptions found.

(see all 2 descriptions)

British secret agent James Bond has never met an adversary like Mr. Big, a gangland kingpin who uses voodoo to control his vast criminal empire. When a crooked trail of smuggled gold leads through Mr. Big's New York hideout to SMERSH headquarters in Moscow, Bond's mission takes him from Harlem to the Florida Everglades.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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