Risico - Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only cover

'The destruction of a Russian hideout at SHAPE headquarters near Paris; the planned assassination of a Cuban thug in America; the tracking of a heroin ring from Rome to Venice and beyond; for Bond it is just routine. For anyone else - certain death.'

For Your Eyes Only is a collection of five James Bond short stories by Ian Fleming and was first published in 1960. Fleming had originally written the stories for a proposed series of Bond television adventures to be broadcast by CBS but that never transpired in the end. Two of the stories here were first published by Cosmopolitan and Playboy respectively. Although regarded to be an interesting offshoot from his series of Bond novels, For You Eyes Only is not generally regarded to be one of the strongest examples Fleming's work.

The first story is called From A View To A Kill and is set in and around Paris. Bond has to investigate the death of a motorcycle intelligence dispatch rider who was found in undergrowth with his important papers and documents missing. After studying the scene of the mystery, Bond decides to stake-out the area and discovers that Soviet agents are operating there from an underground base of operations. Despite the inevitable danger, he must infiltrate the group and expose the whole operation. From A View To A Kill, although a rather short story, takes a while to get going but Bond's investigation becomes more intriguing as it develops, especially when he uses camouflage to see exactly what is going on. This is an interesting but nothing special little story with Fleming's descriptive prose always enjoyable and a fun motorbike chase. At 37 pages though there is precious little time to flesh characters out or turn it into anything memorable.

The second story is called For Your Eyes Only. When Colonel Havelock and his wife are murdered, M, who was a guest at their wedding, sends James Bond to kill the culprits - who led by former Nazi war criminal von Hammerstein and had his men do it to get hold of the Havelock's property. Bond is sent on an ultra secret mission to Canada to complete his task but soon finds out that the Havelock's daughter, Judy Havelock, is out for revenge too. For Your Eyes Only, which contains strands and characters from the film that pilfered its title, is not bad with a range of far flung locations, a great scene between Bond and M - where M has a crisis of conscience over whether or not to have the assassins of the Havelock's killed - and an interesting political angle that was very topical when this collection was published. Hammerstein works for Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista who of course was deposed around this time. Hammerstein knows a big change is coming in Cuba and this has profound consequences for his choice of action. One could argue perhaps that Hammerstein is a little underdeveloped but his henchman Gonzales is rather nasty.

The third story is called Quantum of Solace. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the abysmal 2008 film of the same name and finds Bond enduring a dull dinner with the Governor of the Bahamas and guests in Nassau after his mission in Cuba. Things perk up though when the Governor tells Bond a tale about a governmental employee’s relationship with an airline attendant, a dark and interesting story about human relationships that Bond finds fascinating, leaving him with much to muse on. 'I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up,' says the Governor. 'I’ve seen crimes and even murder foreign by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and other forms of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster - all of these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this and I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the law of the Quantum of Solace.' This is a real departure for a Bond story but fascinating nonetheless with the story of infidelity and intrigue in Bermuda’s British community always interesting - as too are Bond's reflections and thoughts. 'I should say you’re absolutely right. Quantum of Solace - the amount of comfort. Yes, I suppose you can say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that.'

The fourth story is called Risico - which is one of the few Fleming titles that EON have yet to pilfer for the film series - and contains elements and characters that were later used in the 1981 Roger Moore film For Your Eyes Only. This story finds Bond traveling to various locations in Rome and Venice to investigate a drugs smuggling ring and finding out that it is sometimes difficult to work out who the real enemy is. This is a decentish short story with intrigue and double crosses and a couple of strong characters - Kristatos and Columbo - for Bond to match wits with. Lisl Baum makes a memorable Bond woman and there is an exciting raid on a wharehouse that makes for a good action set-piece. Risico perhaps takes a while to get going but Fleming's descriptions of the locales are enjoyable as usual although his attempts at regional lingo - 'In this piznizz is much risico' - don't always work terribly well.

The final story is called The Hildebrand Rarity. While on holiday in the Seychelles, Bond falls in with dubious millionaire Milton Krest and is persuaded to join a search for a rare spiked  fish known as The Hildebrand Rarity which Krest must find as part of a tax dodge. Krest beats his wife with a whip and poisons countless fish looking for The Hildebrand Rarity and the millionaire will be lucky to survive the boat trip without getting his comeuppance. Possibly the most accomplished story on offer here, The Hildebrand Rarity has a rich exotic atmosphere that makes you feel as if you are on the boat yourself in these languid and sun-drenched Indian Ocean waters. There are great descriptions of the locations and the underwater search too. The Hildebrand Rarity is not the most exciting Bond adventure ever to make it into print but it works quite nicely as a reverse murder mystery and certainly has a memorable method of death for one character. Not bad at all with an interesting character in Milton Krest - who later turned up in the 1989 Bond film Licence To Kill.

For Your Eyes Only is an interesting collection that Bond or Fleming fans will certainly want to own but it probably isn't the best example of the author's work and contains a couple of so-so stories. There is a lot of good stuff here but overall it remains less satisfying than the author's stronger and more conventional Bond novels.

- Jake

c 2010 Alternative 007