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Ian Fleming
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The 28th May is Ian Fleming's birthday! Born in 1908, the author of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be 109 years old today. You can find out more about Ian Fleming's fascinating life here: http://bit.ly/IFTIMELINE
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Pritpal Nandra, James' friend at Eton

‘Yes M’Tutor!’ Snapped Mister Codrose as he looked around for somebody to help and grabbed a slightly fat Indian boy with a white turban.
‘Nandra. This is James Bond, could you take him in hand, please.’
‘Yes M’Tutor.’
Codrose stared at James with his cold fish eyes.
‘I will see you later, Bond,’ he said. ‘Welcome to Eton.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
Codrose strode off, and the sea of boys parted to let him pass.
The Indian boy smiled at James and shook his hand.
‘Pritpal Nandra,’ he said, and led James down the corridor. ‘I’ll be messing with you, I have the room next to yours, we were wondering what you would be like.’
‘Will I do?’
Pritpal smiled again. ‘I think so.’

From SilverFin, by Charlie Higson
Art by Kev Walker
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James Bond, student of Eton

James jumped out of bed, fetched the water, poured it into the basin on his washstand and washed his hands and face. Then he took a deep breath and steeled himself for the hardest task of the morning - putting on his school uniform for the first time.
He got into each new item with mounting discomfort, the long, black, itchy trousers, the white shirt with its wide, stiff collar, the waist coat, the fiddly little black tie, his bum freezer Eton jacket, and, most ridiculous of all, a tall top hat. To a boy like James, who was used to wearing a simple short sleeved shirt and a pair of grey flannel trousers with his comfy old plimsolls it was torture. He felt awkward and self-conscious, as if he was at some dreadful fancy dress party. They weren’t his clothes and were one more unreal element in this whole unreal situation. As he tied the laces on his heavy black boots, he cursed. He hated laces.

From SilverFin, by Charlie Higson
Art by Kev Walker
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Max Bond, James' uncle

‘I remember one time when your father and I were boys,’ said Max. ‘We decided it would be the thing to stay up all night. We tried everything to keep ourselves awake, but in the end we both fell asleep, and in the morning we, of course, both pretended that we hadn’t.‘
‘I can’t really picture you and father as boys like me, ‘ said James.
‘Oh we were, you can believe it! And before that we were babies, and before that... we were twinkles in your grandfather’s eye.’ Max stared into the fire and James watched him, like he had watched the girl at the circus, and, somewhere behind the yellowish wrinkled skin and the black-rimmed eyes, he saw the boy that Max had once been.

From SilverFin, by Charlie Higson
Art by Kev Walker
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Charmian, James' Aunt

Charmian was James’s favourite relative and he always enjoyed staying with her. She had a small house south-east of London, near Canterbury, in a tiny village called Pett Bottom, a name which always made James smile. Charmian had no children of her own and treated James as an adult, letting him get on with things without constantly interfering.
Charmian had been an anthropologist, she had studied many different people and cultures around the world, and her house was stuffed with paintings and books and odd objects which she’d collected from her travels. She was very well read and could talk to James about almost anything, and, what’s more, make it interesting. There was always music playing on her gramophone or the radio and exotic food bubbling on the stove.

From SilverFin, by Charlie Higson
Art by Kev Walker
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Fleming's second novel Live and Let Die was published in 1954 and had the daunting task of following the impressive debut Casino Royale, released just one year prior. Readers were thrilled with the combination of danger and luxury as Bond came up against Smersh in France, and Fleming's answer to the clamouring for more was a flourish of exoticism and a grand expansion of scope for Bond's new mission. The setting moved from Northern France to North America. Bond switched baccarat for tarot, and at stake this time? a fortune of stolen gold coins.

The cover for this edition is stylistically similar to its predecessor; a block colour background with stylised text boldly highlighted in a contrasting colour. The colour here, of course, is evocative of the golden treasure of the novel, the pursuit of which acts as a principal drive for the narrative. This pursuit of gold will of course become a recurring theme of Fleming's Bond novels, and it is interesting to see its inception here emblazoned upon the cover.

The multiple resonances of the title, an inverted version of the famous 'live and let live' idiom, are well emphasised in its positioning on the cover. The larger lettering of 'live' and 'die' foreground the violence of Bond's adventures (an association already affirmed with the reader from the previous novel), with the duality of life and death evoking again the alluring binary of the books: Bond lives a life of indulgence, but could also be killed at any moment.

Finally, the title illustrates the tone which underpins the book's narrative. The inversion of the familiar idiom is of course a catchy example of Fleming's wry, dark humour, but also a message to the reader; the sentiments from the finale of Casino Royale continue here. There is an inherent fragility of life in the novel, and we cannot expect Fleming, nor Bond, to treat it too preciously. Almost a warning on the front cover of this book, the 'live and let die' tone will continue to resonate throughout Fleming's series, and remains one of the most darkly fascinating qualities of the books.
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First published in 1953, Ian Fleming's first James Bond book is now a household name, and a byword for the author's unique brand of luxurious espionage thriller. This edition was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK, and features a design by Ian Fleming himself.

The inscription surrounding the central heart, 'a whisper of love, a whisper of hate' refers to the 'gipsy magic' moniker for the 9 of hearts, which those who have read the novel will recognise as a significant weapon in Bond's coup de grâce over Le Chiffre at the baccarat table.

James Bond, who has become intrinsically associated with gambling and the opulent and dangerous space of the casino, was made so by Fleming before the first reader read the very first page. From the cover alone we are entering the 'Casino Royale', perfectly welcomed inside with the immortal opening line: 'The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.'
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