Casino Royale (novel)
First edition cover, published by Jonathan Cape
|Cover artist||Ian Fleming (devised)|
|13 April 1953|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||Live and Let Die|
Casino Royale is Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. It paved the way for a further eleven novels by Fleming himself, in addition to two short story collections, followed by many "continuation" Bond novels by other authors.
The story details James Bond, Agent 007 of the "Secret Service", travelling to the casino at Royale-les-Eaux in order to bankrupt a fifth-columnist, Le Chiffre, the treasurer of a French union and a member of the Russian secret service. Bond is supported in his endeavours by Vesper Lynd, a member of his own service, as well as Felix Leiter of the CIA and René Mathis of the French Deuxième Bureau.
Since it was first published on 13 April 1953, Casino Royale has been adapted for the screen three times. The first was a 1954 episode of the CBS television series Climax! with Barry Nelson as CIA agent "Jimmy Bond". The first Casino Royale film was a 1967 spoof with David Niven playing "Sir James Bond", with the second being the twenty-first film in the Eon Productions film series starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, released in 2006. Casino Royale has also been adapted as a comic strip in a British national newspaper, the Daily Express.
Casino Royale was written by Fleming in Jamaica over a period of around two months, largely from his own experiences and imagination; he also devised the artwork for the cover. The book was given broadly positive reviews by critics at the time and sold out in less than a month in the UK, although US sales upon release a year later were much slower.
M, the Head of the Secret Service, assigns James Bond, Special Agent 007, to play against and bankrupt Le Chiffre, the paymaster for a SMERSH-controlled trade union, in a high-stakes baccarat game at the Royale-les-Eaux casino in northern France. As part of Bond's cover as a rich Jamaican playboy, M also assigns as his companion Vesper Lynd, personal assistant to the Head of Section S (Soviet Union). The French Deuxième Bureau and the CIA also send agents as observers. The game soon turns into an intense confrontation between Le Chiffre and Bond; Le Chiffre wins the first round, bankrupting Bond. As Bond contemplates the prospect of reporting his failure to M, CIA agent Felix Leiter helps Bond and gives him an envelope with thirty-two million francs and a note: "Marshall Aid. Thirty-two million francs. With the compliments of the USA." The game continues, despite the attempts of one of Le Chiffre's minders to kill Bond. Bond eventually wins, taking from Le Chiffre eighty million francs belonging to SMERSH.
Desperate to recover the money, Le Chiffre kidnaps Lynd and subjects Bond to brutal torture, threatening to kill them both if he does not get the money back. In the midst of the torture session, a SMERSH assassin bursts in and kills Le Chiffre as punishment for losing the money. The agent does not kill Bond, saying that he has no orders to do so, but cuts a Cyrillic 'Ш' (sh) to signify the SHpion (Russian for spy) into Bond's hand so that future SMERSH agents will be able to identify him as such.
Lynd visits Bond every day as he recuperates in the hospital, and he gradually realises that he loves her; he even contemplates leaving Her Majesty's Secret Service to settle down with her. When Bond is released, they spend time together at a quiet guest house and eventually become lovers. One day they see a mysterious man named Gettler tracking their movements, which greatly distresses Lynd. The following morning, Bond finds that she has committed suicide. She leaves behind a note explaining that she had been working as an unwilling double agent for the MVD. SMERSH had kidnapped her lover, a Polish RAF pilot, who had revealed information about her under torture; SMERSH then used that information to blackmail her into helping them undermine Bond's mission, including her own faked kidnapping. She had tried to start a new life with Bond, but upon seeing Gettler – a SMERSH agent – she realised that she would never be free of her tormentors and that staying with Bond would only put him in danger. Bond informs his service of Lynd's duplicity, coldly telling his contact, "The bitch is dead now."
Characters and themes
The lead character of Casino Royale is James Bond, an agent of the "Secret Service". For his protagonist, Fleming appropriated the name of James Bond, author of the ornithology guide, Birds of the West Indies. Fleming explained to the ornithologist's wife that "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born". He further explained that:
- When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument ... when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard.
In the first draft of Casino Royale he decided to use the name James Secretan as Bond's cover name while on missions.
According to a Fleming biographer, Andrew Lycett, "within the first few pages Ian [Fleming] had introduced most of Bond's idiosyncrasies and trademarks", which included his looks, his Bentley and his smoking and drinking habits. The full details of Bond's martini were kept until chapter seven of the book and Bond eventually named it "The Vesper", after Vesper Lynd.
'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Certainly monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm ... er ... concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I think of a good name.'— Casino Royale, Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir
Speaking of Bond's origins, Fleming said that "he was a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war", although Fleming himself gave many of his own traits to the character. Bond's tastes are often taken from Fleming's own, as is some of his behaviour: Fleming used the casino to introduce Bond in his first novel because "skill at gambling and knowledge of how to behave in a casino were seen ... as attributes of a gentleman". Lycett sees much of Bond's character as being much "wish fulfilment" by Fleming. Continuation Bond author, Jeffery Deaver says that Bond "is a classic adventure-story hero. He confronts evil. Simple as that." Deaver also clarifies the point, saying that Bond is not a superhero, but that he is very human, doubting himself and making errors.
Bond's superior, M, was largely based on Fleming's superior officer in Naval Intelligence during the war, Admiral Sir John Godfrey; Godfrey was known for his bellicose and irascible temperament. One of the likely models for Le Chiffre was the influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley, whose physical features are similar to Le Chiffre's; his tastes, especially in sado-masochism, were also akin to those of Le Chiffre and, as Fleming biographer Henry Chancellor notes, "when Le Chiffre goes to work on Bond's testicles with a carpet-beater and a carving knife, the sinister figure of Aleister Crowley is there lurking in the background."
Casino Royale was written shortly after, and was heavily influenced by, World War II. As the power of British Empire was beginning to decline, journalist William Cook observed that "Bond pandered to Britain's inflated and increasingly insecure self-image, flattering us with the fantasy that Britannia could still punch above her weight." In 1953, when Casino Royale was published, coal and many items of food were still rationed, and Bond was "the ideal antidote to Britain's postwar austerity, rationing and the looming premonition of lost power", according to historian and The Times journalist Ben Macintyre. The communist influence of Le Chiffre, with the overtones of a fifth column struck a chord with the largely British readership as Communist influence in the trade unions had been an issue in the press and parliament at the time. Britain had also suffered from defections to the Soviet Union from two MI5 operatives who were part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets, thus Lycett observes that Casino Royale can be seen as Fleming's "attempt to reflect the disturbing moral ambiguity of a post-war world that could produce traitors like Burgess and Maclean".
The question of Anglo-American relations was also raised within the novel, where Bond and Leiter's warm relationship was not mirrored in the wider US-UK association. Christopher Hitchens observed that "the central paradox of the classic Bond stories is that, although superficially devoted to the Anglo-American war against communism, they are full of contempt and resentment for America and Americans". Fleming was aware of this tension between the two countries, but he did not focus on it too strongly. Academic and writer Kingsley Amis, in his exploration of Bond in The James Bond Dossier, pointed out that "Leiter, such a nonentity as a piece of characterization ... he, the American, takes orders from Bond, the Britisher, and that Bond is constantly doing better than he".
During the course of World War II, Ian Fleming had mentioned to friends that he wanted to write a spy novel. It was not until 1952, however, shortly before his wedding to his pregnant girlfriend, Ann Charteris, that Fleming began to write Casino Royale, to distract himself from his forthcoming nuptials. Fleming started writing on his book at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica on 17 February 1952, typing out 2,000 words in the morning, directly from his own experiences and imagination. He finished work on the manuscript in just over two months, completing it on 18 March 1952. Describing the work as his "dreadful oafish opus", Fleming showed it to an ex-girlfriend, Clare Blanchard, who advised him not to publish it at all, but that if he did so, it should be under another name.
Casino Royale was inspired by certain incidents that took place during Fleming's career at the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty. On a wartime trip to Portugal, en route to the United States, Fleming and the Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Godfrey, went to the Estoril Casino. Due to Portugal's neutral status, a number of spies from warring regimes were present. Fleming claimed that while there he was cleaned out by a "chief German agent" at a table playing Chemin de Fer. Admiral Godfrey told a different story: Fleming only played Portuguese businessmen and that afterwards he fantasised about playing against German agents. The references in the novel to "Red Indians" (four times, twice on last page) came from Fleming's own 30 Assault Unit, which he nicknamed his "Red Indians". The failed attempt to kill Bond while at Royale-Les-Eaux was also inspired by a real event: a miscarried assassination against Franz von Papen, Vice-Chancellor of Germany and Ambassador under Adolf Hitler. Both Papen and Bond survived their assassination attempts, carried out by Bulgarians, due to a tree that protected them from a bomb blast.
Release and reception
Casino Royale was first released on 13 April 1953 in the UK as a hardcover edition by publishers Jonathan Cape, priced at 10s, 6d each, with a cover devised by Fleming himself. 4,728 copies of Casino Royale were printed, selling out in less than a month; a second print run the same month also sold out, as did a third run of more than 8,000 books published in May 1954. In the US three publishers had turned the book down before Al Hart of Macmillan Publishing Co offered Fleming a deal. Casino Royale was published in 23 March 1954 in the US, but sales in the territory were poor, totalling only 4,000 copies across the entire US during the course of the year. When the novel was released as a paperback in 1955, it was re-titled by publisher American Popular Library; Fleming's suggestions for a new title, The Double-O Agent and The Deadly Gamble, were disregarded in favour of You Asked for It, but this marketing ploy failed to raise the interest. The Popular Library version also changed Bond's name, calling him "Jimmy Bond".
Hugh I'Anson Fausset, writing in The Manchester Guardian, thought that Casino Royale was "a first-rate thriller ... with a breathtaking plot". Although he considered the plot "schoolboy stuff", he felt the novel was "galvanised into life by the hard brilliance of the telling". Alan Ross, writing in The Times Literary Supplement wrote that Casino Royale was "an extremely engaging affair", and that "the especial charm ... is the high poetry with which he invests the green baize lagoons of the casino tables". Concluding, Ross thought that "altogether, Mr. Fleming has produced a book that is both exciting and extremely civilized." For The Listener, Simon Raven believed that Fleming was a "kind of supersonic John Buchan", but he was somewhat dismissive of the plot, observing that it is "a brilliant but improbable notion" that includes "a deal of champagne-drinking, bomb-throwing, relentless pitting of wits etc ... with a cretinous love-affair". Raven also dismissed Bond as an "infantile" creation", but did allow that "Fleming tells a good story with strength and distinction ... his creation of a scene, both visually and emotionally, is of a very high order indeed."
John Betjeman, writing in The Daily Telegraph, considered that "Ian Fleming has discovered the secret of the narrative art ... which is to work up to a climax unrevealed at the end of each chapter. Thus the reader has to go on reading". Publishers Jonathan Cape included many of the reviews on their advertisements for the book, which appeared in a number of national newspapers; the reviews included those from The Sunday Times, which concluded that Fleming was "the best new English thriller-writer since Ambler" and The Observer, which advised their readers: "don't miss this".
Time magazine praised Casino Royale, saying that "Fleming keeps his incidents and characters spinning through their paces like juggling balls." In the review, which also critiqued Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, the Time writer went on to say that "As for Bond, he might be Marlowe's younger brother except that he never takes coffee for a bracer, just one large Martini laced with vodka."
Writing for The New York Times, Anthony Boucher wrote that the book belongs "pretty much to the private-eye school" of fiction. He praised the first part, saying that Fleming "manages to make baccarat clear even to one who's never played it and produced as exciting a gambling sequence as I've ever read. But then he decides to pad out the book to novel length and leads the weary reader through a set of tough clichés to an ending which surprises nobody save Operative 007. You should certainly begin this book; but you might as well stop when the baccarat game is over."
CBS television episode (1954)
In 1954 CBS paid Ian Fleming $1,000 ($8,782 in 2014 dollars) to adapt Casino Royale into a one-hour television adventure as part of its Climax! series. The episode aired live on 21 October 1954 and starred Barry Nelson as secret agent "Card Sense" James 'Jimmy' Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre.
A brief tutorial on Baccarat is given at the beginning of the show by the presenter of the programme, William Lundigan, to enable viewers to understand a game which was not popular in America at the time. For this Americanised version of the story, Bond is an American agent, described as working for "Combined Intelligence", while the character Felix Leiter from the original novel is British, renamed "Clarence Leiter" and an agent for Station S. René Mathis does not appear as such. His surname is given to the leading lady, named Valérie Mathis, instead of Vesper Lynd.
Comic strip adaptation (1958)
Casino Royale was the first James Bond novel to be adapted as a daily comic strip which was published in the Daily Express newspaper and syndicated worldwide. It ran from 7 July 1958 to 13 December 1958, and was written by Anthony Hern and illustrated by John McLusky. To aid the Daily Express in illustrating James Bond, Ian Fleming commissioned an artist to create a sketch of what he believed James Bond to look like. The illustrator, John McLusky, however, felt that Fleming's 007 looked too "outdated" and "pre-war" and thus changed Bond to give him a more masculine look.
Aborted Howard Hawks project (1962)
According to the biography Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood, by Todd McCarthy, the director of His Girl Friday considered filming a version of Casino Royale in 1962, possibly starring Cary Grant as James Bond, but, ultimately, chose not to.
Casino Royale (1967)
In March 1955 Ian Fleming sold the film rights of Casino Royale to producer Gregory Ratoff for $6,000 ($52,822 in 2014 dollars). After Ratoff's death, producer Charles K. Feldman represented Ratoff's widow and obtained the rights to make the film. Feldman decided the best way to profit from the film rights was to make a satirical version, which was produced and released in 1967 by Columbia Pictures. The film, which starred David Niven as Bond, was made with five credited directors (plus one uncredited) and a cast that included Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles and Woody Allen. The 1967 version has been described as an "an incoherent all-star comedy".
Unproduced stage play (1985)
In 1985, Raymond Benson adapted Fleming's novel into a stage play. Although the play never received a full production, a staged reading was held for an audience off-off-Broadway in New York City in February 1986. The play was submitted to a British agent who recommended that it not be produced. In an interview Benson stated: "She was very elderly and in my opinion she just didn't get it. She recommended that the play not be produced. After further thought, Glidrose shelved it with the ultimate decision that a James Bond stage play simply wouldn't work. The films had Bond in a monopoly and there was no way a play could compete. I disagreed, but it was their property."
Casino Royale (2006)
In 1999, following legal action between Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM/UA, Sony traded the rights to Casino Royale for MGM's partial-rights to Spider-Man, which led to Eon Productions making a version of Casino Royale. The film stars Daniel Craig as Bond, supported by Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre; Judi Dench returns for her fifth Bond film as Bond's superior, M. Casino Royale is a reboot, showing Bond at the beginning of his career as a 00-agent and overall stays true to the original novel. The film had its premiere on 14 November 2006 and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc 13 March 2007.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Casino Royale|
- Ian Fleming.com Official website of Ian Fleming Publications.
- Climax! (1954) at the Internet Movie Database – original broadcast of the TV version
- Casino Royale (1967) at the Internet Movie Database
- Casino Royale (2006) at the Internet Movie Database
- Casino Royale (1967) at Rotten Tomatoes
- Casino Royale (2006) at Rotten Tomatoes
- 30 Commando Assault Unit – Ian Fleming's 'Red Indians'