Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thunderball, by Ian Fleming

(pb; 1961: ninth book in the original 007/James Bond series)


A new terrorist group, SPECTRE – acronym for “The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion” – headed by Ernesto Stavro Blofeld (who directly battles Bond in two later novels, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice), has two atomic bombs and is threatening to use them on the United States and England… that is, of course, unless the two superpowers pay mad cash.

M, vexed, unofficially sends Bond to Nassau, in the Bahamas, to investigate the area as a possible stash spot for the bombs. There, Bond sniffs out (and later matches wits with) Emilio Largo (aka, SPECTRE associate “No. 2”), an urbane “treasure hunter” who means to make good on SPECTRE’s bomb threats, if necessary.

Bond also meets, and aligns with, Largo’s bored mistress, Domino – born Dominetta Petacchi – whose calid temper and cool intelligence makes her Bond’s compeer, in the ways of survival.

Felix Leiter, Bond’s friend and ex-Pinkerton detective, is back in action, too. Leiter has been reinstated in the CIA (serving as Bond’s American counterpart).

Ninth in the series, following the anthology For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball has a meant-to-be-funny but maladroit set-up in the first forty pages (Bond goes to Shrublands, an English health clinic, to detox from all his boozing and smoking, and ends up pissing off a SPECTRE hitter, Count Lippe). After that, it’s all systems go, and what a “go” it is!

There’s not a whole lot that’s new here, but it is a fun read – Fleming’s Bond novels are always a pleasure to peruse – and Fleming employs some effective foreshadowing – SPECTRE, replacing SMERSH; Blofeld – for future Bond tales.

Followed by The Spy Who Loved Me.

Thunderball was released stateside as a film on December 29, 1965.

Sean Connery played Bond. Claudine Auger played Dominique “Domino” Derval – the altered version of Dominetta Petacchi. Adolfo Celi played Emilio Largo/SPECTRE #2. Rik Van Nutter played Felix Leiter. Guy Doleman played Count Lippe.

Bernard Lee played M. Lois Maxwell played Miss Moneypenny. Desmond Llewelyn played Q.

Terence Young directed the film, from a script by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins.

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