Sunday, July 02, 2006




I'm not going to say too much about Thunderball - the words. It's a smashing good novel with no quaint notions about race and homosexuality to mock and deride. So there isn't too much to say except to give a brief synopsis, link to wikipedia, and offer up one blockquote about James Bond's views on - women drivers.

A NATO jet plane carrying nukular missiles turns up missing over the Atlantic and James Bond is sent to the Bahamas to follow up on a very slim lead. Among the many eccentric adventurers in the islands is Emilio Largo, a man of mysterious wealth who is about to take his customized yacht to look for sunken treasure. Of course that could just be a very clever cover story for someone who is about to go and salvage a missing NATO jet carrying nukular missiles!

His customized yacht, by the way, is the Disco Volante, which is Italian for "Flying Saucer." How could he be an international criminal when he names his yacht something dorky like that?

This is the novel where Fleming introduced the international criminal organization known as SPECTRE, which stands for (deep breath) the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. (Which actually spells SECTRE.) This is the only novel where Fleming used SPECTRE, possibly because he could never remember what the acronym stood for and he was too lazy to look it up.

This is also the first appearance of the Grand Poobah of the Bond villains, Ernst Stavros Blofeld, who would appear in two more of the novels and a bunch of Bond films.

It's a pretty good book as Bond (with the help of Felix Leiter) plays detective, follows up every little clue and scrap of information, and eventually foils the evil plans of SPECTRE!

To find out more about Thunderball, check out the wikipedia entry.

The girl is an Italian who hangs out with Largo and pretends she is his niece. Her name is Domino. She has a great monologue where she spends about three days talking about her obsession with the design on the Players cigarettes packet.

Bond is impressed with her driving skills, prompting this soliloquy:

Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was ready for the unpredictable. Four women in a car he regarded as the highest potential danger, and two women nearly as lethal. Women together cannot keep silent in a car, and when women talk they have to look into each other's faces. An exchange of words is not enough. They have to see the other person's expression, perhaps in order to read the other's words or to analyse the reaction to their own. So two women in the front seat of a car constantly distract each other's attention from the road ahead and four women are more than doubly dangerous, for the driver not only has to hear, and see, what her companion is saying, but also, for women are like that, what the two behind are talking about.

But this girl drove lika a man. She was entirly focused on the road ahead and on what was going on in her driving mirror, an accessory reraly used by women except for making up their faces. And, equally rare in a woman, she took a man's pleasure in the feel of her machine, in the timing of her gear changes, and the use of her brakes.

I was certain she was going to turn out to be a lesbian and that Bond was going to cure her. But no. Just a regular straight girl who likes to drive.

Ian Fleming was growing up!

NEXT: Thunderball - In pictures!


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