le 25 janvier 2016
My latest haul from the library included this 1957 title and “The Mask of Dimitrios” (1939) by Eric Ambler. Both books were freshly (2015 ) translated into my mother tongue. Read it as a teenager in cheap paperback format when school libraries banned authors like Ian Fleming and Georges Simenon. As a book, it is not as thrilling as e.g. “Marathon Man” or “Kolymsky Heights”, later spy thrillers, but still quite good reading today against a backdrop of mounting frustration about New Russia.
James Bond on paper and on screen differ. Writers endow characters with thoughts, the ability to read and far more speech than screenwriters and film directors can deal with. In this book, James Bond is more naive than on screen and even reads books. On his slow flight from London to Istanbul, later in his hotel, Bond is immersed in “The Mask…”, regarded by experts like Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene and John Le Carré as an absolute masterpiece. This fifth Bond adventure is a true homage to Eric Ambler and “The Mask…”. The Orient-Express running between Paris and Istanbul plays a role in both books. So is the occasional mention of roses, having titled chapters and exactly the same length. Most of all, the Dimitrios character, a faceless, rootless international criminal, must have inspired Ian Fleming hugely.
Political correctness was invented long after 1957. Here, Ian Fleming’s good guys are blue-eyed, the bad ones are caricatures with Soviet or Balkan roots, whilst France with its communist labor unions is another suspect nation… Otherwise, a compelling plot, some excellent, some lesser scenes, and not too many brand names. It has not aged much, except re devices and transport. Everyone except James Bond in his prestigious Chelsea street has this new contraption called a television. Flying in 1957 happened 50% (s)lower than today. And the Orient-Express is history.
The closing chapters have plenty of loose ends. The finish is a cliff hanger.