Thunderball

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Domino Vitale; The Villain: Emilio Largo; Supporting Characters: Guiseppe Petachi, Felix Leiter,Ernst Stavro Blofeld; Locations Covered: London, Shrublands, Nassau

Undoubtly one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable novels. It is the picture perfect Bond story with intrigue, murder, an impossible plot, two masterpiece villians, and the glorious girl. James Bond has returned once more in probably the most outrageous 007 thriller ever written. Ian Fleming, Jack Whittingham and Kevin McClory have done a fabulous job on everything in this book from the planning of the high-jacking, the Chemin de fer game against Largo, the search for the plane and the bombs, to the creation of SPECTRE and Ernst Blofeld.

Other elements are the basic Casino scene between either Bond and the villain, or 007 and the beautiful girl. In this case, it is the villain, Largo at Chemin de fer. The Villain’s liking of Bond in the opening, but hating him by the end. And of course, the Morland Specials, Vodka Martinis, and Walther PPK are all present for 007 in his mission. Now, onto the story. 007’s health is in the toilet! He is packed off by M to a place called Shrublands. There, he becomes involved with the first SPECTRE agent, Count Lippe. After nearly ripping 007 limb from limb on “The Rack”, James Bond decides that he must fry the Count in a piping hot Sitz bath. SPECTRE is “The Special Executive of Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion.”

This is the begining of James Bond’s problems with SPECTRE. Immediately following that, SPECTRE decides that this is the time for the final haul, the retirement job. The job, stealing two nuclear warheads from NATO. This can be summed up by the letter from SPECTRE on pages 75 -76:

Bond reached into his pocket for a cigarette. It couldn’t be, but yet it was so. Just what all of the services of the World had been dreading. Every tin-pot little nation would be making bombs in their backyard, so to speak.

Apperently, now there was no secret about the things now. It had been the prototypes that had been difficult-like the first gunpowder weapons or machine guns or tanks. Today, these were everyones bows and arrows. Tomorrow, or the day after, the bows and arrows would become nuclear weapons. And this was the first blackmail case. Unless SPECTRE was stopped, the word would get around and soon every criminal scientist with a chemical set and scrap iron would be doing it. If they couldn’t be stopped, there would be nothing to do but pay up. ”

Fleming had a problem with the CIA. It is rather evident in this passage from Page 116:

‘The man from CIA was due in on the Pan America flight at 1:15. His name was Larkin, F. Larkin. Bond hoped that he wasn’t a muscle bound ex-college man with a crew-cut and a desire to show up the incompetence of the British.’

What does that tell you about what Fleming thought? Well, Larkin is actually Felix Leiter.

The main Bond Girl here is the strong willed Italian named Domino. She is written beautifully by Fleming and her character is very interesting. When she meets Bond, she is attracted to him instantly, (aren’t all Bond girls?), and is sort of clinging to him nearer to the middle of the novel. But, at the end of the novel, it is very clear who she is. Other than in the middle, her presence in this novel is extremely strong, but is knocked out of being the “most interesting character”, by one person. Her lover, Emilio Largo.

Largo is the self-discribed pirate of Nassau. He owns a massive estate named Palmyra, a glorious yacht called the Disco Volante, and most importantly, the High Commander of SPECTRE’s field organization, on Operation Omega (Thunderball to MI6). His character is what makes the book. His prescene in scenes adds a vast ammount of style and flash to the novel. The only character (villian wise) that can match him is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the famous head of SPECTRE.

The plot is a realistic one, compared to other Bond plots, (Doctor No, Live and Let Die, Goldfinger) and this one is more interesting than most of the other ones. The plot is still fresh today, (Broken Arrow, The Peacemaker).

The Casino scene where Bond plays Chemin De Fer against Largo is a highlight of the book. This is where Largo starts to really doubt that Bond is down here to buy property and that he is actually British Secret Service. The coolness that Largo shows is realistic and rather convincing.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, (Who would reappear in later adventures) is basically a secondary character in the novel and that is rather well done. His character needed his own novels to develop and it was good that Fleming gave him that opportunity.

Leave a Reply