Risico - Ian Fleming's For Your Eyes Only
'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.