Friday, September 24, 2021

[Review] - Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

I grew up watching the James Bonds on TBS in the late '80s and early '90s, a time when cable television played good movies, so I was already a 007 fan when Goldeneye arrived in theatres in 1995. Despite my love for reading, I never attempted to own copies of the original Ian Fleming novels. Though I recall looking at a local library, and they didn't carry any of the titles. The only 007 book I read during my teenage years was the novelization of The World Is Not Enough by Raymond Benson in 1999. It wasn't until many years later that I started to run across 007 books at thrift stores. Since then, I've picked up paperbacks of Casino Royale, The Man With The Golden Gun, Doctor No, and Goldfinger.

Casino Royale was first published in 1953, featuring the very first appearance of the British secret agent James Bond. The 213-page story received its first screen adaptation in the 1954 episode of the Climax! CBS anthology starring Barry Nelson as the first and only American version of James Bond. David Niven played "Sir James Bond" in the 1967 Casino Royale spoof. 007 fans had to wait until 2006 to get a big-budget Eon Productions film adaptation, which starred Daniel Craig in his debut outing as James Bond.

Casino Royale centers around 007 posing as a rich Jamaican in his attempt to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a villain who works for SMERSH (Soviet counterintelligence agency), in a high-stakes baccarat game at the fictional Royale-Les-Eaux casino in France. With millions of francs at his disposal, thanks to his boss M, Bond is determined to take out Le Chiffre with help from the beautiful Vesper Lynd, French secret service agent René Mathis, and CIA agent Felix Leiter.

Eventually, Bond's cover is blown, which leads to torture and heartache.

Final Thoughts

Casino Royale is a rare case where the book is lackluster compared to the movie. Ian Fleming must've loved baccarat because he goes into extreme detail about the game in one too many chapters. I'm not a card player, so I was a bit bored during these scenes.

Unlike most 007 movies, except for the Daniel Craig ones, Bond is more an assassin than a spy. The character became a 00 by killing two villains in cold blood on his own accord while on assignments. Receiving a 00 gives you the license to kill based on your best judgment.

Bond isn't just a womanizer - he's a sexist. Remember, Casino Royale came out in 1953, so the character considers women to be nothing more than distractions while on missions. In Bond's point of view, women are for "pleasure" and nothing else. Well, that's until he falls in love with Vesper Lynd and decides to retire. Let's say the relationship doesn't work out. 
(Note - Vesper's end in the novel is a lot different than the movie.)

There's a torture scene in the 2006 film where Bond is stripped naked, tied to a chair, and whipped in a sensitive area. I was under the impression the filmmakers concocted the scene for the movie - but I was wrong! The scene in the books is much more violent.

Overall, Casino Royale is a must-read for any James Bond fan. Yes, there are a few flaws, and it's slightly outdated, but it's still a good read.


  1. I agree with your final thoughts, I enjoy the movies so much more than the books.

    1. Most of the 007 movies are better than novels. However, I appreciate Ian Fleming's original stories. Bond is a more fleshed-out character in the books than in the films.


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