Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Literary Goldfinger

Scott D. Parker

In the past week, I have listened to two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. The fiction title was Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. I listened to it (again) via Audible. Simon Vance does a splendid job and he becomes the literary Bond in my ears.

I say again because I listened to it for the first time a few years ago and, being between books, I thought I just listen to the first few chapters to get a taste of the Fleming Style. I went through the entire book in a few sittings. The style really moves you along through the book.

Which is interesting considering how tranquil large passages of the book are. If you remember the movie, the whole “jet pack” opening sequence is pure movie magic. In fact, the first four chapters basically deal with the Goldfinger-cheating-at-cards scenario where Bond blackmails Goldfinger into throwing the card game. Then things really get moving with Bond assigned night duty. That is, he mans the radio feed back at the home office. Thrilling stuff, I have to tell you.

Unlike the movie, Bond’s run-in with Goldfinger-as-card-cheat is a coincidence. 007 isn’t even assigned to the case until later in the book. The golf game is included here and it’s takes up nearly an entire chapter. Fleming all but gives a play-by-play of an eighteen hole match, but he does so in a way that makes the game nearly as thrilling as an action-packed fight.

All I’ve just mentioned takes up half the book. Yes, half. No shooting, no real action, just a secret agent doing what secret agents do: watch and learn. It’s probably close to real life, but it’s a surprisingly light “thriller.”

That’s what makes the literary Bond so unlike the cinematic Bond. In the books, he’s a regular person. Granted, he’s an excellent agent and can do his job well, but he’s not superhuman. The killing he has to do affects him, and not just in a ‘straighten the tie’ sort of way. When strapped to Goldfinger’s table (it’s a rotary saw in the book, not a laser like the movie), Bond prays that he has the fortitude to suffer the painful death without talking. He knows he’ll die, but hopes the other agents will use the information Bond gleaned and take down Goldfinger. It’s rare in the movies when you see Bond sweat a situation.

Have y’all read the Fleming books? What are y’all’s favorites?

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