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"Live and Let Die" was Ian Fleming's second James Bond novel. In Casino Royale (Vintage Classics) he established the character of Bond, ending with the agent resolving to go after Soviet Intelligence's terror machine, SMERSH. In fact, Fleming was partly out of date in using SMERSH in this way because, it had been disbanded before the nineteen fifties when he was writing. But it was a useful conceit for his story telling and played effectively on fears generated by Cold War which was then at its height.

"Casino Royale" had shown many features that will continue to appear in the Bond novels. But the first book is, in some ways, different from other Bond books in that the main thriller action largely takes place the first two thirds. In "Live and Let Die," the James Bond format is properly established in ways that were largely followed in the films also: Bond is briefed by M about an enemy agent (in this case an American gangster, Mr Big) and sent abroad to break the SMERSH operation. In the course of the adventure, which moves from New York via Florida, to its climax in Jamaica, Bond encounters an assortment of villains and henchmen plus the inevitable beautiful woman.

This action is combined with Fleming's atmospheric descriptions of the places Bond visits which are often very accurate and based on local knowledge, for example his descriptions of the winds in Jamaica. The characterisation of Mr Big, as with all the villains, is highly effective: a Negro who uses Voodoo (which Fleming had read about, and maybe misrepresents) to cultivate fear. There is also the first use Barracuda's which seem to be a favourite animal of Bond villains for disposing of people, and which Fleming was familiar with as an enthusiastic skin diver. Plus, as always, there is the pace of the writing, which Kingsley Amis called the "Fleming sweep," that keeps the reader interested from beginning to the end.

Fleming, to me, is one of the most effective thriller writers ever. His ability to provide this mixture of pace, thrills and atmosphere is, as always, a winning combination. This is perhaps not my personal all-time favourite Bond novel. That would be either From Russia with Love (Vintage)or Dr No (Penguin Modern Classics) which were still to come. But "Live and Let Die" still is near the top of the very best Bond novels and, unlike thrillers from some other authors, remains fresh and very readable even on repeated readings.
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This is my second Bond book.

The story is a little more complex than Casino Royale, the first of the "Bond Books"

This book is well worth reading and has excellent characterisation, and a very strong descriptive narative, as with all good writing each sentence seems to move the story on, overall this is a good story very well told.

One has to remember the book was published in 1954 and so may seem a little racist in its language to our more sensitive ears, however in all other respects the writing is timeless.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and after the perhaps slightly simplistic story in Casino Royale found this a much more accomplished novel.

I am looking forward to reading the next one...
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on 15 October 2002
"Live and Let Die" is the second and, in my opinion, one of the best of the original Bond novels. "Casino Royale" wonderfully introduced the world to James Bond 007 but "Live and Let Die" is a more satisfying adventure.
James Bond 007 is pitted against Mr.Big, a member of SMERSH who uses the voodoo religion to terrify both his subjects and his enemies.
As with all the original Bond novels, certain elements haven't aged well. In places it does have a somewhat racist tone and everyone knows about how our hero treats the fairer sex. It's hard to forget that these books are around fifty years old. Though having said that, the depiction of James Bond with his frustrations, fears and morale doubts is still compelling reading.
"Live and Let Die" is amazing piece of work. It is not a novel that is rich in symbolism or meaning but is its focus is something more visceral. Live and Let Die is escapism, thrusting the reader from one narrow escape to the next, from one shock to the next. It contains passages of pure excitement and an amazing sense of danger. Not as far fetched as some of his later works, Live and Let Die has a very well balanced tone. "Midnight among the worms" is one of the most memorable and exciting chapters I have ever read.
If you want to get to know the literary or just want to get your heart pounding then read "Live and Let Die".
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on 21 September 2015
The 2nd James Bond novel in the renowned spy series, Live and Let Die is set in New York’s Harlem and the shark-infested seas of the West Indies. Bond must investigate a voodoo cult organised by soviet SMERSH operative Mr. Big; a man whose soviet training, freakish size, and manipulation skills make him the first “villain”; and a worthy adversary for what can be seen as Bond’s first real mission. To confront SMERSH has been a long-awaited opportunity for him.

Bond has whisked away clairvoyant card-reader Solitaire, an attractive and talented woman who Mr. Big sees as his personal property. Solitaire is a damsel in distress, and her knowledge of Mr. Big’s crime machine puts them both in danger and forces Bond to accept that there is more to Mr Big’s control. The most exciting and compelling scenes were when Bond and Solitaire were on the train, with fearful anticipation for Mr. Big’s assassins to get at them.

The detail behind Mr. Big’s operations makes for intriguing background reading, with fear, superstition, secret communication, and black magic curses. Though he is resolute and is no stranger to pain, there were a few moments where Bond was fooled and frustrated. I liked this, for it kept consistent with prequel Casino Royale, where he had yet to be properly tested. I liked that there were more action scenes against enemies, which were often imaginative and sometimes ended in dark humour.

Criticism is that even though we’re introduced to an impressive villain, Live and Let Die develops through Bond’s inability to predict Mr. Big’s next moves. From there, I was fast-tracked to the opening of Bond’s final solo mission (which was actually his original mission before he decided to scope Mr. Big’s operations). The final solo mission was lengthy, with some parts over-descriptive, and a lot of back-and-forth preparation between Bond and his contacts in Jamaica. The descriptive writing style did well to cover scenes of underwater peril, yet it made the lead up to the conclusion tiresome. I would have liked to see more of a struggle between Bond and Mr. Big, and to perhaps link Solitaire’s talents into the action. In the end, Bond’s preparation and calculation, rather than sharp instincts or observation or heroics, saved the day.

Live and Let Die is a fast-paced intriguing novel that sees Bond challenging enemies directly. The setting and the scale of the voodoo cult was terrifying and adrenalin-filled. The locations were rich with detail, and the reader sees the first of the ingenious Bond villian. Though terminology and items are out-of-date, it’s difficult not to feel nostalgic for Bond’s personal tastes and global adventures.
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First published in 1954, this is the second print outing for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Following the superb Casino Royale, it cemented the character of the international man of mystery and set him on the road to legendhood.

Bond is dispatched to America to look into the activities of Mr Big, notorious gangster and possible KGB agent. He and his old friend Felix Leiter are soon plunged into a dangerous adventure as they uncover a scheme to use salvaged pirate treasure to finance KGB operations in America. The consequences for Leiter are brutal, as with all of Flemng's Bond books there is a level of visceral violence and torture that makes the skin crawl.

There is an added dimension to this book, as well as fighting the usual Russian agents, Bond must also deal with the spiritual world. Big is a voodoo priest, and uses the cult to run his underground empire effectively. Bond has to counter Mr Big's magic as well as his bombs and bullets.

As usual Fleming writes with verve, passion, and an eye for the grotesque. His overblown detailed descriptions still read well and thrill. There is a feeling of tension running throughout the book, a feeling of constant danger, exploding every now and then in big action set pieces. It's a real thriller.

It's not a book without it's problems. Mr. Big's organisation is composed of people drawn from ethnic minorities in America, and to the modern reader Flemings attitudes and descriptions can seem a little, er, old fashioned. It's not exactly politically correct (though for the day in which it was written these were the prevailing attitudes, so perhaps Fleming can be excused) and can be uncomfortable for the more sensitive modern reader. 4 stars for the book.

Rory Kinnear's unabridged audio reading is excellent. He manages the range of accents and voices with ease, providing many distinct voices and never slipping into insensitive stereotyping as would be so easy to do. He has a great pace, and a feel for the rythm of the book. 5 stars for the reading.

The book is on 6 discs, and clocks in at around 7 hours runtime. The discs are in a spindle case. There is a short, disposable, interview with Kinnear at the end of the sixth disc. All in all it's a great product, 5 stars.
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on 22 March 2014
The second instalment of the Bond novels translated into Roger Moore's first screen outing with the spirit of the book altered by a degree of quick witted levity and the accentuating of the voodoo element into a more frightening component. It is therefore fascinating to read the original story and to discover why the film had to move with the times and jettison Fleming's racist stereotypes as well as many the rather lame character Solitaire far more interesting. The passage of the 20 years between the book and the film saw marked social changes which Fleming acknowledged were apparent in this novel which would have made a literal version of the story on screen into uncomfortable watching such was the author's patronising attitude to race. This novel is almost like a spy adventure written by Enid Blyton.

For all their faults, the Bond books remain readable and even though the passage of 60 years has tamed them considerably I do enjoy them. The fascinating thing about the books is how they differ from the films with the better cinema offerings being much weaker on the page. This is a good example. The story moves along at a cracking pace and whilst Bond remains in New York with the assistance of Felix Leiter it is impossible not to get dragged along by the story. I love the fact that Leiter is a jazz fanatic and was intrigued by the authenticity of the names rattled off when they visit the legendary Savoy ballroom. Only the obvious name of Chick Webb is missing. For me, this passage in the book served to illustrate that whilst set in the 1950's, Bond and his cohorts belong to an earlier and less sophisticated era. Just like with "Moonraker", the sensation of the book almost feels more like the 1930's than the mid 1950's.

The plot is ratcheted up some degrees when the story then transfers to Florida with the conclusion eventually taking place in Jamaica. At this point, Fleming's failings as a writer re-surface. The villains are pantomime figures just as within the films. Unfortunately Fleming lumbers them with incredibly hackneyed dialogue and as the adventure reaches it's climax, you almost feel like you can hear boos and hisses in the background. The back shat with The Robber almost feels like a parody of Batman or something dreamt up by a kid with a crayon.

I find Fleming to be a strange writer. Bond's character seems to mutate in the later adventures as he becomes more recognisable as the spy in the films. There is a suspicion that Fleming became increasingly influenced by the scripts of the films in the later books but, I would also suggest, his continued boredom with the character seemed to prompt his writing to become more experimental so that books like "The spy who loved me" or the collection of short stories in "For your eyes only" certainly benefit from their abridged nature. In contrast with this earlier book, I would have to admit they are far superior.

For all that is good about this novel, it is badly let down by the final quarter of the novel just as is the case with "Dr. No." and, in my opinion, the newcomer to Fleming's work is probably advised to start with the less celebrated titles where there is a sharpness and crispness in the journalistic style of writing that you won't find in the more flabby books like this one, "Dr No" and the ridiculous but fun "Moonraker." "From Russia with love" remains the novel I would recommend to start with as this is one of the books that is superior to this film. Anyone coming to this novel first will probably be slightly disappointed by the vulnerability of the character on the page and the linear nature of the tale contrasts poorly with more experimental writing like "The spy who loved in." A period piece very much of it's time but not one of Fleming's best as fun as it is to read.
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on 12 May 2016
Ian Fleming’s Bond is irrepressible in his second outing.

Having seen and enjoyed the film, the original storyline is tighter, more tense and contains many twists and ideas which appear in other 007 films.

Taught, crisp writing and a cracking plot make this a great read for any thriller aficionado.
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on 21 December 2013
About six months after the end of Casino Royale. Bond is sent to the United States to investigate "Mr Big" like Le Chifre the villain from Casino Royale he is a member of SMERSH.

Mr Big is using gold coins that originate from treasure that goes back to the days of the pirate Henry Morgan to finance Soviet and his own ambitions in the United States. Alongside Mr Big is Miss Solitaire a fortune teller who Mr Big wants as his wife. Solitaire pleads and Bond agrees to take her away from Mr Big.

The story takes in New York, Florida and Jamaica. Along the way Bond is helped by Felix Leither the CIA man. Leither meets with some serious injuries. This leaves Bond alone to trace Solitaire who has been kidnapped by Mr Big's men from a motel in Florida.

On arrival in Jamaica Bond is helped by John Strangways and the Cayman Islander called Quarrel. Intelligence confirms that Solitaire is being held on Mr Big's yacht which has come to collect some more Gold coins.

Bond is captured and both him and Solitaire are reunited then are seconds away from meeting a nasty end when his prior calculations come good and justice is done.

I liked this. Yes it is dated but is a lot better than the 1973 film adaption which was around 20 years after the original book was published.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 July 2015
I did not realise that the films do not follow the same order of the books.
I also discover that the film is a different story sometimes, even when the titles are the same.
This one is full of sharks and killer fish. I think that part was used in 'License To Kill.'
Despite all of this - I enjoyed the book.
I was shocked by the casual use of the 'N' word but then I remembered it was written in 1953 when things were very different.
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on 5 October 2014
Not as good as 'Casino Royale', but still damn good in itself.

In relation to the movies, 'Live and Let Die' featuring Roger Moore and 'License to Kill' featuring Timothy Dalton have chopped up this story between them.

It has to be said that the book is better than both of the films.

Casino Royale is frighteningly realistic, and real, at times. This second novel in the collection starts the somewhat far-fetched, over-the-top Bond series rolling.

I prefer the gritty realism of the Royale, but make no mistake, this is a fine book - well worth a read for both Bond fans and casual readers alike!
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