I was a student at Dartmouth College when I first saw Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962). The film hit me right between the eyes, as if it had been fired at me from 007’s Beretta. Here was a guy with the ultimate cool: He was a bon vivant, handsome to women, and pitted against enemies who were the ultimate in evil. In Live and Let Die (1954), the second novel in the series after Casino Royale, Bond came up against the massive Mr. Big, a gargantuan Negro with not only pretensions to Voodoo (as Baron Samedi himself), but an operative of SMERSH, short for Смерть шпионам, “Death to Spies,” a Soviet counter-intelligence agency named by Joseph Stalin during World War Two.
The second part is dangled before us, but we don’t see any real Soviet spy business; and its role in the novel is negligible and could have omitted entirely. As with most of the Bond novels, it’s pretty easy to see what’s going to happen: The plot twists are well telegraphed. When 007 is preparing an underwater incursion on Mr. Big’s Jamaican hideaway and we are told that it would take 48 hours for the shark and barracuda repellent to arrive from the States, well we all know what is about to happen: Underwater feeding frenzy!
I must have read most of the Bond thrillers during my college years. It was candy for the mind and great adolescent wish-fulfillment. I guess that, into each life, some froth must fall.