Fate Worse Than Death
Time, August 30, 1963


by Ian Fleming
299 pages. New American Library. $4.50.

SOME TIME BACK, when sober-sided Britons belabored Author Ian Fleming for the consumer snobbery of his caddish hero (James Bond's car is a Bentley, his girls invariably smell of Guerlain), Fleming was unrepentant. He was sorry, he said, only for having once permitted Bond the unforgivable gaffe of ordering asparagus with bearnaise instead of mousseline sauce. But in Fleming's latest Bond bombshell, there are disquieting signs that he took the critics to heart. On page 152, sophisticated Secret Agent 007 cozies up to a blonde who smells of nothing more aristocratic than Mennen's baby powder.

For Fleming fans, who like 007 just as he is, worse is to come. Pitted once more against Ernst Blofeld, the fell master of the international crime syndicate called SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Revenge and Extortion), Bond at first displays his customary stocks in trade. He uses his own urine as invisible ink, and successfully escapes from Blofeld's Alpine retreat by a daredevil schuss down the snow-covered, moonlit slope—as patrols of goons with guns set an avalanche tumbling down after him. Then, suddenly, Bond is threatened with what, for an international cad, would clearly be a fate worse than death: matrimony.

The lady is a countess named Tracy She drives like Stirling Moss and reeks of Guerlain. So far so good. But —horrors—she sometimes sounds like Debbie Reynolds. Gushes Tracy to Bond: "I've got enough sheets and pillows for two and other exciting things to do with being married." The old Bond would ordinarily give this kind of chatter some suavely short shrift. The new Bond revels in it. "Togetherness," he reflects sententiously. "What a curiously valid cliché it was!"

When Bond actually marries Tracy all seems lost. Author Fleming, however, has never been without resources. He appears deus ex machina (the machine, reassuringly, is a lethal red Maserati) on page 299 and saves James Bond from his better self.