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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 19 June 2017

"Thunderball" by Ian Fleming

I have enjoyed James Bond books in the past. The Spy Who Loved Me, written from the perspective of the lady and NOTHING like the film, is a very good book; Goldfinger is a cute classic. One of the joys, also one of the problems, is that they are so firmly rooted in their time so that ransom demands seem modest and fast cars slow. Attitudes have changed too. The books contain casual sexism and racism that sound shocking to modern ears. But it is important to read these books to understand what Fleming had that made him such a popular author. Because for Goldfinger I said that Ian Fleming was a very good thriller writer.

But Thunderball, the ninth Bond book, feels tired. The first few chapters cover a subplot in which James is sent to a health farm; this has tenuous connections with the main plot which therefore only gets going on page 55. I can only presume that it is the level of detail. Felix Leiter spends two pages describing the profit margins when barmen add water and olives to gin in mixing a Martini. Ships are described in the sort of obsessive details that you get in manuals, so are cars. I have issues as to whether the electric chair method of execution would actually work (electrodes that are "concealed" are probably also insulated which means that the current created by the 3000 volts might have been sufficient to cause a heart attack but scarcely enough to kill in the manner described; to achieve this in the real electric chair requires careful attachment of electrical contacts to a prisoner). But on the whole Fleming has done meticulous research. The trouble is that he writes it all down. I mostly skipped those pages but I guess that many readers find them the best.

Occasional moments:

  • "She [Bond's Bentley] went like a bird and a bomb and Bond loved her more than all the women at present in his life rolled, if that were feasible, together." (p 92) At least that's funny although 'bird and a bomb' doesn't work for me.
  • "Bond's stomach crawled with the ants of fear and his skin tightened at the groin." (p 237)


Much of this book seems like Fleming ranting against health farms and the outrageous prices in Nassau restaurants. June 2017; 354 pages

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