Casino Royale

casino royale cover paperback cards
8.0 Overall Score

Introduces James Bond, more raw and real than other adventures

Low tech Bond isn't for everyone

Book Info

Book Title:  Casino Royale

Publisher:  Jonathan Cape

Writer:  Ian Fleming

Release Date:  April 13, 1953


First Edition

James Bond, Agent 007, is in the biggest game of his life.  The Secret Service agent has been sent to France to compete in a high-stakes game of baccarat against a ruthless opponent named Le Chiffre who serves as a launderer for the organization SMERSH.  Teaming with a beautiful agent named Vesper Lynd, Bond going to have to test his nerves to defeat Le Chiffre, but Le Chiffre might not take defeat easily.

Written by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale introduced the world to secret agent James Bond.  Published in 1953, the novel was met with positive reviews and swift sales in England but retooled American versions failed to light up the publishers charts (the book was even reworked for American audiences with the titled You Asked For It and also sometimes had the main character known as “Jimmy Bond”).  Despite this, the spy novel eventually became a classic and served as the basis for a long (and still continuing) franchise including books, films, games, and more.

Casino Royale might have introduced Bond, but for years, this book was not the best known of Bond’s adventures simply because of problems with the films.  The book was first adapted as a TV special for the series Climax! on CBS soon after its release on October 21, 1954 with no Vesper Lynd and Barry Nelson playing James Bond (usually referred to as Jimmy).  The second attempt to adapt Fleming’s first Bond story resulted in Casino Royale in 1967 with David Niven as Bond (or one of them) which contained aspects of the story but was mostly a spoof of spy films and books.  Finally in 2006, an official adaption as the twenty-first film in the James Bond series was released with Daniel Craig taking the lead…and it had me hooked again on Bond.


Penguin Edition

With Casino Royale’s release, I went back and read all of Fleming’s Bond stories and enjoyed a large majority of them.  I will say however, that Casino Royale feels a bit more real and raw than some of the other Bond novels.  There is very little gadgetry, and Bond is quite vulnerable.  It felt like that Bond lost of that vulnerability (and with it some likeablility as a character) as it went on.  Bond almost seemed to buy into his own parodies.  In its own way Casino Royale also helps explain how Bond became the way he did.

With the exception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s Tracy, Bond never seems to fall hard for the girls in his stories…except for Vesper Lynd.  This Bond allows himself to get emotionally involved with his coworker and it physically almost breaks him.  He opens up, reevaluates his life, and considers making changes…the fact that it was built on illusions and Vesper’s original intentions weren’t pure leads him to become cold.  Fleming could use this if he ever needed to justify the difference in Bond in later books.

Fleming does a nice job (and better than some of his other novels) of giving his characters life.  Maybe it is because it was the first book, I give some lenience and read into more, but Bond feels fresher and more interesting here…it is a bit of an origin book despite giving little background on the character.  If you have seen the movies, I do recommend seeking out the books…even if you aren’t necessarily a Bond fan.  Casino Royale was followed by Live and Let Die in 1954.

Related Links:

Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale (2006)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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