Tag Archives: The Property of a Lady

Octopussy (And The Living Daylights)

The book Octopussy is a collection of short stories,written by Ian Fleming, but published, as a collective book, after his death. The book Octopussy contains three short stories. The first is “Octopussy”, the second “The Living Daylights” and the third is “The Property Of A Lady”. “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 The Hero: James Bond; The Villian: Dexter Smythe; Supporting Character: Oberhauser; Location covered: Jamaica

Octopussy isn`t just one of my favorite Ian Fleming stories. It`s one of my favorites stories. Period. It`s a rather unusual story, with Bond actually being a minor character. Also, the “villain” isn`t your typical villain. In Fleming`s hand, Dexter Smythe, is a multi-faceted, complex, weak, guilt ridden man.

The story is set in Jamaica, in particular, a small, out of the way strip of beachfront property where the lonely recluse, Major Smythe, lives. Smythe, once an officer of the Royal Marines, but now retired, spends his lonely days drinking and tending to “his people”. “His people” are actually an assortment of sea life that reside inside the reef right off the beach that Major Smythe owns. His wife is dead, and now he has only the fish to take care of, which he dutifully does everyday. He names every single one of the sea creatures, and even stirs up the sand so that the bottom dwellers will be able to find something to eat.

“He referred to them as “people”, and since reef fish stick to their territories as closely as do most small birds, he knew them all, after two years, intimately, “loved” them, and believed that they loved him in return. They certainly knew him as the denizens of zoos know their keepers, because he was a daily and a regular provider, scraping off algae and stirring up the sand and rocks for the bottome feeders…”—page 13.

You can almost feel a twinge of sadness for the character. Smythe must be desperately sad and a bit senile to believe that fish could love him, yet this bizarre belief makes Smythe a much more tragic character, and thus makes us sympathetic towards him. Major Dexter Smythe may have been loving towards sea life, but he had a secret gnawing away at him.

“…tropical sloth had gradually riddled him so that, while outwardly he appeared a piece of fairly solid hardwood, inside the varnished surface, the termites of sloth, self indulgence, guilt over an ancient sin, and general disguest with himself had eroded his once hard core into dust”— page 12.

“So Major Smythe was bored, bored to death, and, but for one factor in his life , he would long ago have swalloed the bottle of barbituates he had easily acquired from a local doctor”.—page 13

What sin had Dexter Smythe committed that has gnawed away at his conscience for so many years? He murdered a man in cold blood, and stole quite a fortune in gold bars. Bond knows this, and he`s come to Jamaica to give Major Smythe the opportunity to turn himself in. In Jamaica, Smythe recounts the story of what happened and why he killed a man called Oberhauser. He even goes into length describing how he covered up the crime.

“Oberhauser`s sausage was a real moutaineers meal -tough, well fatted, and strongly garlicked. Bits of it stuck uncomfortably between Major Smythe`s teeth. He dug them out with a sliver of a matchstick and spat them on the ground. Then his Intelligence-wise mind came into operation, and he meticulously searched among the stones and grass, picked up the scraps, and swallowed them. From now on he was a criminal…He was a cop turned robber. He must remember that!”—page 34.”

Page 47 holds a neat plot twist, with Smythe finding out why this particularly obscure case was of such interest to Bond. After hearing the why`s and the how`s of the murder tale, Bond tells Smythe the police will be by in a week to arrest him. Is that a hint Smythe wonders? A hint to commit suicide? To spare the court and the taxpayers the time and money of a trial? Bond leaves, and Smythe begins to wonder what his next move will be. Will he try and defend his actions in court? Will he flee the country? Will he kill himself? The choice ends up being made for Smythe. Justice prevails in a bizarre and ironic twist of fate for the Major.

The Living Daylights The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Trigger; Supporting Characters: “M”, Captain Sender, 272; Location covered: East Berlin

The Living Daylights is yet another of Ian Fleming`s best stories. In this one, 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. Fans who`ve already seen the movie will certainly suspect a few of the plot points and twists that Fleming provides. However, enough original material remains intact to make this worth your time to read. What`s impressive about the story was the absolute dread that Bond felt in having to murder an enemy agent in cold blood. Even though “Trigger” is the enemy, Fleming does such a wonderful job of portraying Bond`s anxieties about the mission, that we yet again see Bond, not as an all-powerful superhero, but as an ordinary man. A man that could be any one of us. In several passages, Fleming remarks about the sweat pouring off of 007`s body. In order to complete his mission, 007 has a bit to drink, which causes an angry outburst between James and his assistant, Sender.

Bond took a stiff drink of the whiskey before he donned the hideous cowl that now stank of his sweat. Captain Sender had tried to prevent him, and when he failed, had threatened to call up Head of Station and report Bond for breaking training.

“Look my friend”, said Bond wearily, “I`ve got to commit a murder tonight. Not you. Me. So be a good chap and stuff it, would you?” —page 86

Also of interest to readers is the relationship between Bond and “M”. There`s some mutual feelings of, dare I say, love, or at least respect for one another. “M” realizes this is going to be a tough assignment for Bond, and tries to shoulder much of the responsibility for it and to take off the weight of dread that 007 must be feeling.

“Where do you come in, 007?” M. looked coldly across the desk. “You know where you come in. You`ve got to kill this sniper. And you`ve got to kill him before he gets 272. That`s all. Is that understood?”. The clear blue eyes remained cold as ice. But Bond knew that they remained so only with an effort of will. M. did`nt like sending any man to a killing. But, when it had to be done, he always put on this fierce, cold act of command. Bond knew why. It was to take some of the pressure, some of the guilt, off the killer`s shoulders. —-page 67

Ian does a fantastic job putting in plot twists and turns, and intermixing them with real, discernible tension. From a beautiful cello player to “strawberry jam”, this story`s got it all!

The Property of a Lady The Hero: James Bond; The Villian: Maria Freudenstein Supporting Characters: Dr. Fanshawe; Kenneth Snowman; Mary Goodnight; Location covered: Sotheby`s

This one is the shortest of the short stories, and consequently has the least amount of character development. Also, too many characters are in this story, in my opinion, for a short story. 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. There`s not any surprises in this tale, and it`s much more of a straight forward story than anything else. It`ll give you a nice education in auction ettiquette though.