"These rare men are apt to possess three basic attributes - their physical appearence is extraordinary, they have a quality of relaxation, of inner certainty, and they exude a powerful animal magnetism "
What to say about Ian Fleming's Thunderball? Just another 007 thriller heavy on international travel, super villains and glamorous women? Of course Thunderball contains all the classic Bond ingredients but the reason I'm reviewing the novel this week is due to a first edition copy I was gifted for Valentines' Day - not bad!
My copy is from the original 50 thousand first printed in hard-back by Jonathan Cape in March 1961 and sold for 15 shillings (about £20 in today's money). The novel quickly sold out and whilst my copy is missing the original dust jacket it is in remarkable condition.
As I opened the first page I thought about who first bought this copy back in the sixties. As the ninth book in the Bond series the original owner could well have been a 007 fan already but no doubt the forthcoming release of the first Sean Connery film adaptation, Dr No (released in 1962) would have been hotly anticipated by readers at this stage. Whatever the reason splashing out on a hard-back copy would have been quite an indulgence.
I'm pretty sure that it didn't disappoint. The story is set mostly in the Bahamas with Bond dispatched to track down two nuclear bombs stolen by new international syndicate SPECTRE. Fleming writes some pretty violent passages at times, the scene in which pilot Petacchi is murdered by a stiletto through the roof of the mouth and into the brain is described as 'a sear of pain, and an explosion of brilliant light'.
James Bond's attitude to women remains one of the most 'period' aspects of the book. In one scene Fleming admits that 'women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class' before realising the danger for Bond as 'this girl drives like a man'.
Interestingly Thunderball was the first Bond novel adapted from a screenplay (Fleming had previously worked on the screenplay Longitude 78 West) which suggests how important Fleming's cinematic aspirations had become at this stage. The novel was written in Flemings Caribbean home Goldeneye and was so well received that it has been adapted twice for the cinema as well as for a radio play and a comic strip.
Needless to say I'm now contemplating investing in more first edition copies!
I read this novel in hardback on the train into Marylebone
Thunderball by Ian Fleming published by Jonathan Cope, 253 pages.