Sunday, June 10, 2007

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, by Ian Fleming

(pb; 1963: eleventh book in the original 007/James Bond series)

From the back cover:

“The superlative thriller that pits James Bond once more against SPECTRE’s archfiend Blofeld, architect of the nefarious scheme to destroy the free world… the thriller in which 007 falls in love with the lovely Tracy, daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Union Corse…”


A year after the fireworks of Thunderball, Bond is still – unsuccessfully – hunting Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who masterminded the aforementioned missile hijacking-and-blackmail plot. Blofeld has completely disappeared (as has SPECTRE), it seems. But then a lead is unearthed…

Posing as Hilary Bray, a specialist who traces clients’ ancestries, he infiltrates Blofeld’s (who’s had plastic surgery) mountainous retreat. Bond is surrounded by a gaggle of rich, young girls who are undergoing “treatment” for various “allergies” – as well as Fräulein Irma Bunt, a woman who’s more thug than nurse.

This mission is not the only thing on Bond’s mind. He’s also in love with Tracy di Vicenzo, wild daughter of a gregarious gangster-revolutionary – and possibly the perfect woman for Bond.

It’s typical 007 stuff, though the pacing and focus is different (the love story is as important as the action, which is downplayed), the characters (especially Bond) have matured a bit, and the ending, similar to that of From Russia With Love, is one of the most shocking Fleming has penned.

One of my favorite 007 novels – and movies – in the series. Check them out.

[Side-note: Sharp-eyed readers will spot the phrase “the world is not enough,” which later became the title of a James Bond film, and references to Irma La Douce and Ursula Andress, who starred in Dr. No.]

Followed by You Only Live Twice.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released stateside as a film on December 18, 1969. Peter R. Hunt directed the film, from a screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Simon Raven (who provided additional dialogue to the script).

George Lazenby played Bond. Diana Rigg played Tracy di Vicenzo. Telly Savalas played Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Gabriele Ferzetti played Marc-Ange Draco. Ilse Steppat played Irma Bunt.

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