Ian Fleming has written 4 books in 4 years. They have sold over one million copies in the English language. They have been translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese and URDU. No. 5 is called FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
And Tatiana Romanova is the perfect bait.
Her 'defection' from Russia's counter-espionage program, coupled with the delivery of a top secret decoding machine to MI6, might just be enough to cause 007's guard slip. That and her undeniable attractiveness and squeaky-clean, innocent disposition.
Bond agrees to harbor her to safety from Istanbul to Paris aboard the Orient Express, not fully trusting her, but willing to risk it for the chance to tip the Cold War scales in the West's favor. This is a terrific cat-and-mouse game with remarkably drawn adversaries of three sorts for Bond to battle with. JFK thought so too, ranking it in his Top 10 favorite books of all time.
If you read only one of Ian Fleming's spy thrillers, read From Russia With Love!
WHY I LOVE IT
Having now read nine of the fourteen (Russia itself is the fifth), I loved the powerful rubber band of tension set off from Chapter 1 and stretched further and further before snapping in spectacular fashion in the final few aboard a lethal Orient Express train ride. That tension, this time better than any other novel, is in large part due to Fleming's ability to establish worthy adversaries. Breaking from the other novels' traditional form, we get 96 pages—Part I in its entirety—meeting Bond's enemies:
- Rosa Klebb, a 5'4" toad-woman strategizing every detail of Bond's impending murder
- Red Grant, Irish turncoat and SMERSH's absolutely psychotic assassin
- & Tatiana Romanova, a double agent ordered to 'defect' and seduce Bond
Bond's entrance comes—finally—at the curtain-lift of Part 2: The Execution, with the line, "The blubbery arms of the soft life had Bond around the neck and they were slowly strangling him. He
was a man of war and when, for a long period, there was no war, his spirit went into decline." [JG]
"Sitting by the window of her one room and looking out at the serene June evening, at the first pink of the sunset reflected in the windows across the street, at the distant onion spire of a church that flamed like a torch above the ragged horizon of Moscow roofs, Corporal of State Security Tatiana Romanova thought that she was happier than she had ever been before. Her happiness was not romantic. It had nothing to do with the rapturous start to a love affair, those days and weeks before the first tiny tear-clouds appear on the horizon. It was the quiet, settled happiness of security, of being able to look forward with confidence in the future, heightened by the immediate things, a word of praise she had had that afternoon from Professor Deniken, the smell of a good supper cooking on the electric stove, her favorite prelude to Boris Goudonov being played by the Moscow State Orchestra on the radio, and over all, the beauty of the fact that the long winter and short spring were past and it was June."
2. Intro to Rosa Kleb
"The square-cut rimless glass of the spectacles flashed in the light of the chandelier as the woman straightened from her position of concentration and looked across the desk at the General. The pale moist lips below the sheen of nicotine-stained fur over the mouth parted and started moving rapidly up and down as the woman gave her views. To Kronsteen, watching the face across the table, the swuare, expressionless opening and shutting of the lips reminded him of the boxlike jabber of a puppet...The devils knows, thought Kronsteen, what her breasts were like, but the bulge of uniform that rested on the table-top looked like a badly packed sandbag, and in general her figure, with its pear-shaped hips could only be likened to a cello."
1. Intro to General Kronsteen
"Kronsteen was not interested in human beings—not even his own children. Nor did the categories of 'good' and 'bad' have a place in his vocabulary. To him all people were chess pieces. To foretell their reaction, which was the greater part of this job, one had to understand their individual characteristics. Their basic instincts were immutable. Self-preservation, sex and the instinct of the herd—in that order...Character would greatly depend on upbringing and, whatever Pavlov and the Behaviorists might say, to a certain extent on the character of the parents. And, of course, people's lives and behavior would be partly conditioned by physical strengths and weaknesses."
Ian Fleming (1908-1964) served as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II, a key player in English and Allied espionage efforts. His travels, interests, and wartime experiences birthed his first novel, Casino Royale, which he penned from "Goldeneye," his home in Jamaica in '52. The first printing sold out in the first month. Fleming went on to write twelve James Bond novels in twelve years, with sales skyrocketing four years later, after President Kennedy named Fleming's fifth, From Russia With Love, one of his favorite books. Sixty-five years later, over one hundred million copies of Bond's adventures have been sold.
"He was sitting naked, except for his shorts, at one of the windows of his room, sipping a vodka and tonic and staring into the heart of the great tragic sunset over the Golden Horn...beneath which he caught his first glimpse of Tatiana Romanova."
— Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love