If We Build Them, Will Bond Come?

Vicki here, mulling over the fact that tomorrow Mainers go to the polls to vote on several referendum questions, among them two that will approve construction of three new casinos. Proponents say passage will create needed jobs; opponents argue that “yes” votes mean Maine will end up with more gambling venues than in all other New England states combined.

It’s an important decision.  No one wants to roll the dice with Maine’s future, or turn Vacationland into Vegasland. I’ve read the editorials and studied the scenarios, and without fail, one image keeps creeping into my crime writing brain.

It’s Bond.

James Bond.

Say the word “casino” and the suave spy appears, stealthy and stylish, along with the novel in which he debuted — Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.

I can still remember “finding” the Bond books. I was a girl of twelve or thirteen, at my grandfather’s hunting camp, and sick of flipping through stacks of old National Geographic magazines. I reached for some paperbacks, cracked open Casino Royale’s racy cover, and read the first sentence, inhaling that mildewy scent I still associate with the pleasure of a good read.

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.

Gone were Agatha Christie’s thatched English roofs and Carolyn Keene’s staid River Heights.  Before you could say “shaken, not stirred,” I was hooked on a new genre: the thriller.

Fleming wrote the first draft of what he called “the spy story to end all spy stories” in 1952, and it was published a year later.  In the days before websites, Twitter, or Facebook, Fleming gambled on good old word of mouth, getting his friends to read and recommend the yarn. His strategy succeeded: the initial printing of 4,728 copies sold quickly, prompting a second edition just one month later.

The plot of Casino Royale is relatively straightforward. 007 is pitted against Le Chiffre, French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH. What makes the book worthwhile are Fleming’s descriptions of the opulent casino, the high stakes Baccarat game, and his spot-on portrayal of the protagonist.

Casino Royale gave life to the spy Raymond Chandler once described as “what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets.” (Yeah, well – right, and casting Daniel Craig in the last two movies certainly didn’t hurt.) Many of the characteristics we now know so well — Bond’s sophisticated appearance, copious drinking, habitual smoking, and skilled gambling — came from Casino Royale.

All fiction aside, tomorrow’s election is about real casinos with real consequences for our state’s future. Rest assured that I’ll be banishing Bond to his Aston Martin so that I can cast my vote. I’m betting that together we can make smart choices for our state.







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1 Response to If We Build Them, Will Bond Come?

  1. Gerry Boyle says:

    Alas, Vicki, Bond will be banished from the Maine casino as well, unless he wants to hang out with bus loads of middle-aged people in sneakers yanking on slot machines. Glam gambling does exist, of course, but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking here.
    Not that I’m not necessarily against it. I’ve always thought it was height of hypocrisy for the state of Maine to heavily promote its own gambling operation but pull out the morality card whenever the Penobscots proposed a casino.

    But you’re right about the Bond books. They introduced us all to an iconic character who has outlasted several actors, good (Sean Connery), bad (Roger Moore) and indifferent. What an invention!

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