Read for CBR10 Bingo: Birthday between August and November. The fictional James Bond’s birthday has been listed in several sources as November 11.
I’ve gotten into Anthony Horowitz’s work this past year so when I saw his James Bond book at a used bookstore, I grabbed it. I later discovered it was a direct sequel to Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger. I hadn’t read Fleming for several years but I remembered liking Casino Royale, warts and all, so I decided to pick it up.
I’m not a James Bond fan, per se. Some of the movies are good, especially the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale. But I’m well aware of the problems they have, especially with misogyny. It seems these days the Mission Impossible franchise gives us everything we want out of a Bond movie but better.
However, Fleming’s books grab the misogyny dial and crank it up to a ten. There’s a character named Pussy Galore for heaven’s sake. Also, Fleming really likes the men-turning-lesbians-heterosexual bit which, oh boy, does that need to die the death of a thousand suns. It’s a horrible, homophobic retrograde way to view women and sexuality.
Again, I knew what I was getting into with Fleming and if the plot was interesting at all, I might have enjoyed it more but I didn’t. Casino Royale had a good villain and an interesting premise. Goldfinger isn’t really much of an adversary. He cheats at games and he hoards gold. Also, he uses capitalist means to advance communism, which kind of makes Fleming’s strident anti-communist leanings irrelevant but whatever. The idea is interesting. The execution not. 90 pages into a 264 page book, the most thrilling things that happen are games of canasta and golf respectively.
The action does turn up later in the book and Fleming writes it well, hence 2 stars. But I just can’t with these books. I get that these were written in a different time but lesbians also existed in that time and probably were not fans of being told that they just needed an alpha male like James Bond to screw them straight. We should always be willing to grapple with the problematic nature of our entertainments but we also need to ask at what point the problems become more than they are worth.