The book Octopussy is a collection of short stories, written by Ian Fleming, but published, as a collective book, after his death. Most publications of the book contain three short stories (Octopussy, The Living Daylights and The Property of a Lady) however; sadly some are minus the last short story The Propery of a Lady. Mine was such a publication so please excuse my lack of critique on this story. All three were originally published separately. The Living Daylights was published first in 1962 under the title The Berlin Escape and was first published in Argosy magazine. Octopussy and The Property Of A Lady were first published in Playboy magazine.
Octopussy I must say is nothing like what I expected. To begin with, James Bond is actually a minor character. For the most part of the story there is no mention of James Bond, sometimes he’s hinted at, but overall he has only a few lines of dialogue and even less of action. And when I say action I mean moving around; Bond never draws a gun, seduces a girl or anything like that in this story.
The story is consumed by the thoughts of Major Dexter Smythe, OBE, Royal Marines (Retd). While a slow moving story, throughout Smythe’s thoughts and some of Bond’s few words we get a glimpse at the world outside Bond himself. We learn of the man who taught him to ski, the man who killed this man and so on… It is very much a gripping and depressing look at a ‘has-been’ who stole Nazi Gold.
It’s interesting to note that the story in some format appears in Roger Moore’s Octopussy. Smythe in the movie is of course Bond Girl Octopussy’s father. However, in the movie adaptation we learn that Bond left Smythe alone on purpose, and then Smythe committed suicide rather than face a court marshalling.
Despite this story’s weird format I did enjoy it, and can say it is one of my favourite Fleming stories. It’s so un-Bond yet it gives a brilliant insight into him and the world around him. Personally, I feel that EON and others never truly developed the world around Bond otherwise it would be a much more popular movie series.
The Living Daylights is more of a Bond novel, well there’s more Bond in it. A lot of the features from this novel ended up creating the opening scenes for Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights. In The Living Daylights, Fleming’s version, Bond is assigned to provide cover for a defector code named 272. 272 will try and make the escape from East Berlin over to the West side and into freedom. However, the KGB have already been put on alert by a double agent, and not only know the escape route 272 will use, but now have one of their best snipers, code named ‘Trigger’, to assasinate 272 before he can cross the wall. I’m sure that fans of the movie will already know the few plot twists that appear in this novel especially with the sniper ‘Trigger’ so I’ll say no more. Despite knowing these twists the novel is still a great read. Fleming has present a lot of original material and again I love this story for giving a great insight into Bond’s head, especially how he worries over murdering an enemy agent in cold bloody. So with that in mind read this story, you won’t regret it.
Though I haven’t ready The Property of a Lady I’ll try and give you an insight into with what I’ve read from the net. This is the shortest of the three stories, and it’s commonly the reason it usually fails to be published. Being so short there is little character development. However, part of this story did appear in Roger Moore’s Octopussy when Bond is tracking the Faberge egg at the auction. Hence, Bond says “the property of a lady” as he leaves M’s office for the auction. The plot, in summary, is the investigation into a gift, received by a Miss Maria Freudenstein, working for M.I.6, which may have come from the KGB. Maria is due to receive the proceeds from the auction at Sotheby’s of the Emerald Sphere, and Bond, along with art expert Kenneth Snowman, goes to the auction to see who it is that will be there to bump up the price. The KGB may be sending someone to outbid everyone else at the auction, as a way of repayment for double agent services rendered by Miss Freudenstein. Apart from that, the most interesting thing I found in this novel was the introduction of a supporting character Mary Goodnight, who we all know appeared as that damn sexy blonde with a cute butt that got Bond into trouble in The Man With The Golden Gun (the film adaptation of course). And damn was she sexy.
Personally, I enjoyed the two stories that I read. Definitely read this collection because it’s worth it. If you’re looking to buy this novel make sure it comes published with The Property of a Lady because you wouldn’t want to be jibbed would you?
© Daniel Dykes, 2001