LATELY — 19 March 2004
Recently took a bit of time out from Dostoyevsky (I’m reading The Idiot) to whip through Casino Royale, the first Bond book. Rather fun, it was. And also instructive:
In this book, James Bond does not attempt to save the world. As a brief explanation of what he has to do, saving the world is not even close. His job is to bankrupt a villain called Le Chiffre not by, say, killing him and taking his money, but by winning it from him, fair and square, in a game of Casino baccarat. And Le Chiffre, by the way, is bad because he’s the “Paymaster” (treasurer?) of a Communist-controlled trade union with 50,000 members in the “heavy and transport industries of Alsace.” Of course, there is fighting and bombs and guns and so forth but Bond’s actual job is to bankrupt a union. Woo fucking hoo.
According to the book, a Double O number is not a “license to kill.” Instead, it seems to be a sort of honour given to those who have had to kill in the course of duty:
“Well, in the last few years I’ve killed two villains. The first was in New York–a Japanese cipher expert cracking our codes on the thirty-sixth floor of the RCA building in the Rockefeller centre… The next time in Stockholm wasn’t so pretty. I had to kill a Norwegian who was doubling against us for the Germans. … For those two jobs I was awarded a Double O number in the Service. Felt pretty clever and got a reputation for being good and tough. A Double O number in our Service means you’ve had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some job.”