Live and Let Die (novel): Wikis


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Live and Let Die  
Original cover
1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) cover.
Author Ian Fleming
Cover artist Devised by Ian Fleming, completed by Kenneth Lewis.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series James Bond
Genre(s) Spy novel
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date April 5, 1954
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 234
Preceded by Casino Royale
Followed by Moonraker

Live and Let Die is the second novel in Ian Fleming's James Bond series. First published by Jonathan Cape on April 5, 1954, it is considered one of Fleming's most controversial novels due to its depiction of Afro-Caribbean people and voodoo.

The novel was adapted in 1973 as the eighth official film in the EON Productions Bond franchise and the first to star Roger Moore as James Bond. Besides the film of the same name, major plot elements from this novel appeared in two other Bond films: For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Licence to Kill (1989).



Ian Fleming intended the follow-up to Casino Royale to be of a more serious tone, a meditation on the nature of evil. The novel's original title The Undertaker's Wind reflects this.[1] Fleming conducted research for Live and Let Die and completed it before Casino Royale was published; his publishers had offered him a contract for three books following Royale's popularity.[2] Drawing from personal experiences, the opening with Bond's arrival at New York's Idlewild Airport was inspired by Fleming's own arrivals in 1941 and 1953.[3] Also, the warehouse at which Felix Leiter is attacked by a shark was based on a warehouse Fleming had visited in 1953.[4]

Plot summary

James Bond is sent to New York City to investigate "Mr. Big", an underworld voodoo leader who is suspected by M of selling 17th century gold coins to finance Soviet spy operations in America. These gold coins have been turning up in Harlem and Florida and are suspected of being part of a treasure that was buried in Jamaica by the Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan. Although Bond is at first reluctant to take on the mission, his attitude quickly changes upon learning that Mr. Big is an agent of SMERSH and that this mission offers him a chance of retaliation for previously being tortured by SMERSH operative Le Chiffre and having a Russian (Cyrilic) letter carved into the back of his hand by a SMERSH assassin in Casino Royale.

In New York, Bond meets up with his counterpart in the CIA, Felix Leiter. The two decide to visit some of Mr. Big's nightclubs in Harlem, but Mr. Big is aware of their movements through his network of informers and they are easily captured. Bond is personally interrogated by Mr. Big, who uses his fortune telling-girlfriend, Solitaire, to determine if Bond is telling the truth. Solitaire lies to Mr. Big, supporting Bond's cover story. Mr. Big decides to release Bond and Felix with only a mild beating, and has one of his men break one of Bond's fingers by pulling it backward until it snaps, but Bond then escapes and kills several of Mr. Big's men in the process. Leiter is released by a sympathetic gang member who shares his love of jazz.

Solitaire later contacts Bond and they travel to St. Petersburg, Florida. While Bond and Leiter are scouting one of Mr. Big's warehouses that is used for storing exotic fish, Solitaire is kidnapped by Mr. Big's minions. Felix later returns to the warehouse by himself, but is either captured and fed to a shark or tricked into standing on a trap door over the shark tank. He survives, losing an arm and a leg. Bond finds him in their safe house with a note pinned to his chest "He disagreed with something that ate him". After getting Felix to the hospital, Bond investigates the warehouse himself, and discovers that Mr. Big is indeed smuggling gold by placing it in the bottom of fish tanks holding poisonous tropical fish. Bond destroys much of the warehouse and then causes Mr. Big's gunman to fall into the shark tank without leaving evidence that he has discovered the coin-smuggling scheme.

Bond continues his mission in Jamaica where he meets Quarrel and John Strangways, the head of the MI6 station in Jamaica. Quarrel gives Bond training in Scuba diving in the local waters. Bond swims through shark and barracuda infested waters to Mr. Big's island and manages to plant a limpet mine on the hull of his yacht before being captured once again by Mr. Big. In the grand finale, Mr. Big ties Solitaire and Bond to a line behind his yacht and plans to drag them over the shallow coral reef and into deeper water so that the sharks and barracuda that he attracts in to the area with regular feedings will eat them.

Bond and Solitaire are saved when the limpet mine explodes moments before they are dragged over the reef. Bond and Solitaire are protected from the explosion by the reef, and Bond watches as Mr. Big, who survived the explosion, is killed by the sharks and barracuda. Bond and Solitaire then stay in Jamaica for a brief holiday in the book's close.


  • James Bond - A British Secret Agent, working for MI6, who is sent to New York City to investigate Mr. Big.
  • Mr. Big - An agent of SMERSH, he is also an underground voodoo practitioner, and the leader of a large criminal organization based in Harlem, New York, who has been distributing by sale the bounty of a 17th century pirate; his name is actually an acronym for Buonapart Ignace Gallia, his real name.
  • M - M sends Bond on a mission to investigate Mr. Big, who is suspected of selling 17th century gold coins.
  • Felix Leiter - Bond's CIA counterpart and partner in New York and St Petersburg. Leiter is captured and dumped in a shark tank by Mr. Big's men.
  • Quarrel - A fellow MI6 agent, Quarrel gives Bond SCUBA training when he arrives in the Caribbean.
  • Miss Moneypenny - M's secretary.
  • John Strangways - Chief Secret Service agent in Jamaica.
  • Solitaire - A psychic in the employ of Mr. Big. she is known as Solitaire because she excludes men from her life.[5]
  • Tee Hee Johnson - Henchman of Mr Big who breaks Bond's finger and is killed by Bond shortly afterward.
  • Baron Samedi - Mr Big is believed by many who come in contact with him to be either the Voodoo god Baron Samedi or his zombie.
  • Whisper - Henchman of Mr Big. A tuberculosis survivor who has only half of one lung. Operates the telephone switchboard that is the center of Mr. Big's surveillance network in Harlem

Critical reviews


Reaction to the novel has been mixed. Some critics have accused Fleming of barely concealed racism and ignorance regarding the general social behaviour of black people in the Caribbean and America, as for instance when he describes a room in Harlem as "the air was thick with smoke and the sweet, feral smell of two hundred Negro bodies"[6]

Fleming uses several instances to go into great detail in describing the physical characteristics of Africans, using the word "purple" to describe those characters with darker skin tone. Fleming uses words like "nigger", "negroe" or "negress" in reference to black people and, specifically, in reference to Mr. Big, to denote people of passion who think by instinct, in contrast to Bond and other white people, whom Fleming regards as thinking by logic.[citation needed]

Some critics note that Fleming suggests that Mr. Big's leadership qualities stem from his French blood. Critics have made the inference that people with "black blood" are regarded as being biologically excluded from leadership.[citation needed]

However, it can be argued that Fleming did not set out to portray all black people in a negative way. For example, M states that "the negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions — scientists, doctors, writers ... They've got plenty of brains and ability and guts." Earlier, Bond generalises that they are "pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought except when they've drunk too much."[citation needed]


Fleming's natural English reserve has been blamed for his fumbling descriptions of sex scenes in Live and Let Die. Critics tend to agree that there is no finesse in the sex scenes and that they lack passion compared to the movie version. Bond's love making techniques are rudimentary and Fleming does not give any thought to a woman receiving any pleasure from it – instead, women are viewed as objects of pleasure to Bond.

Fleming had a tempestuous love life; he had numerous affairs even though he was married, and there were frequent accusations of sado-masochistic acts in his relationships with women.[7] This has led critics to speculate over how much Fleming projected his own character into the figure of James Bond as Bond, too, has a dismissive attitude towards women. For instance, Bond does not desist from hitting women and his rough handed treatment of women has been noted.[8]


Live and Let Die was Fleming's second novel, and critics have praised the development of Fleming's writing style as he gained experience as a writer. Fleming developed a technique of leaving the reader in suspense at the end of each chapter. Some critics claim that the novel's style is more mature, the language is more refined, and the plot is more taut than in Casino Royale.[citation needed]

Allusions and references

Allusions to actual history

This novel, like others in the series, reflects the changing roles of Britain and America during the 1950s and the perceived threat from the Soviet Union to both nations. Unlike Casino Royale, whose Cold War politics revolve around British-Soviet tensions, in Live and Let Die Bond arrives in Harlem to protect America from the Soviets working through the Black Power movement.[9] Subsequent books in the series reprise Bond's efforts to save America from Soviet danger, even as Britain's political power declines and America's rises.


Live and Let Die, a film based loosely on the novel, was released in 1973. The film was directed by Guy Hamilton, produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and starred Roger Moore in his first outing as the secret agent. In the film, a drug lord known as Mr. Big plans to distribute two tonnes of heroin free so as to put rival drug barons out of business. Bond is soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to Mr. Big's scheme.[10]

The characters as portrayed in the film differ from Fleming's descriptions. Mr. Big's real name in the movie is Dr. Kananga instead of Buonaparte Ignace Gallia, and he smuggles heroin instead of gold coins from Bloody Morgan's treasure. In the novel, Baron Samedi was only a voodoo myth – people believed Mr. Big was actually Baron Samedi or perhaps his zombie. Solitaire's real name is revealed in the novel, she does not lose her virginity to Bond until after the actual events in the novel, and there is no evidence that she risks losing her psychic powers by having sex. Also, in the novel she uses regular playing cards.

Some scenes from this novel were depicted in subsequent Bond movies; for example, the keelhauling sequence was later used in the film adaptation of For Your Eyes Only, and Felix Leiter was not fed to a shark until Licence to Kill.

Live and Let Die was adapted as a daily comic strip which was published in the British Daily Express newspaper and syndicated around the world. The adaptation ran from December 15, 1958 to March 28, 1959. The story was truncated, omitting much of the detail and background information to compress the story into 15 weeks of strips,[11] making Live and Let Die much shorter and less faithful than the previous strip Casino Royale. The adaptation was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky, whose drawings of Bond had an uncanny resemblance to Sean Connery, the actor who portrayed Bond three years later.[12] The strip was reformatted from its original cells and reprinted in full in the 1967 James Bond Annual, the only 007 strip to be reprinted in this way. Titan Books reprinted the strip in the early 1990s and again in 2005 as part of the Casino Royale collection, which is a collection of James Bond comics including Casino Royale and Moonraker.[13]

Publication history

The following are the publications of Live and Let Die.[14]

  • April 5, 1954, Jonathan Cape, hardcover, first British edition.
    • Jacket devised by Ian Fleming and executed by Kenneth Lewis..
    • 7,500 total first edition copies were printed.
  • April 1955, Macmillan, hardcover, first American edition.
  • June 1956, Permabooks, paperback, first American edition.
  • 1956, The Reprint Society, hardcover
  • October 18, 1957, Pan Books, paperback, first British edition.
  • October, 1959, Signet, paperback, American edition.
  • February 23, 1978, Triad/Panther, paperback, British, ISBN 0-586-04521-X.
  • 1981, Triad/Granada, paperback, British, ISBN 0-586-04521-X.
  • 1988, Coronet Books, paperback, British, ISBN 0-340-42570-9. Introduction by Anthony Burgess.
  • April 4, 2002, Viking/Penguin, hardcover, British, ISBN 0-14-100301-4.
    • In 2002 for the first time in the United States since the book was published, the original title of chapter five, "Nigger Heaven", was used.
  • April 2003, Penguin Books, paperback, American, ISBN 0-14-200323-9.
  • October 26, 2006, Penguin Books, paperback, British. Introduction by Louise Welsh


  1. ^ Simpson, Paul (2002). The Rough Guide to James Bond. Rough Guides. pp. 36. ISBN 1843531429. 
  2. ^ Black, Jeremy (2005). The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming's Novels to the Big Screen. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 10–11. ISBN 080326240X. 
  3. ^ Black, The Politics of James Bond, 11.
  4. ^ Black, The Politics of James Bond, 14.
  5. ^ Fleming, Ian, Live and Let Die (MacMillan, 1954), ch. 7.
  6. ^ "Will the real James Bond, please stand up ?". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  7. ^ "The Real James Bond". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  8. ^ "Understanding 007". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  9. ^ Black, Jeremy. "What We Can Learn from James Bond". Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  10. ^ Inside "Live and Let Die" Documentary (Live and Let Die Special Edition DVD)
  11. ^ "James Bond 007 Comics - Live and Let Die". Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  12. ^ "The James Bond Films - 2006 onwards". Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Just Johnny's James Bond Comics Website". Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  14. ^ "Live and Let Die publications". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 

External links

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