Doctor No novel

Dr No Covers

Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date:
31st March 1958
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Pat Marriott

At the beginning of Dr No we find Bond being chastised by M for having nearly being killed at the end of From Russia, With Love.

His solution is to re-equip Bond with more a more suitable weapon to the Beretta he had been using until now and then sends him on a “holiday” assignment to Jamaica, where an agent has disappeared.

In common with Live And Let Die, the book is full of local colour derived from the Jamaican surroundings and luckily for the reader, Bond’s assignment turns out to be much more than the holiday envisaged by M. It also features one of the most memorable heroines, Honeychile Rider, who Bond first encounters naked on the beach of an island owned by the sinister Dr Julius No.

Bond takes a single room with shower in Blue Hills Hotel “a comfortable old-fashioned hotel with modern trimmings”, probably based on the Blue Mountain Inn. The balcony to his room on which he breakfasts overlooks a “riot of tropical gardens to Kingston, five miles below” and once again he spends most of his time with Quarrel, the Cayman Islander we first meet in Live And Let Die, who takes Bond to “The Joy Boat” restaurant, down on Kingston harbour.

The restaurant is owned by his friend Pus-Feller, named on account of his one-time fight with a big octopus and to “the throb and twang of calypso music” they eat broiled lobster, steak and native vegetables, washed down with a gin and tonic with a lime for Bond and a Red Stripe for Quarrel.

Bond spends the next day in Kingston at King’s House, where he meets the Governor and then the Colonial Secretary for information on the case. The following day Bond and Quarrel make an early start for Beau Dessert, taking the Junction Road to the North Coast. Bond is planning to pay a visit to Crab Key, thirty miles north of Galina Point in Jamaica and 60 miles south of Cuba.

Before setting off, Bond undertakes three days of training under Quarrel’s supervision and the two eventually set off in a small canoe destined for the mangrove swamps of Crab Key, where Bond eventually comes face to face with Dr No.

What we say

After his attempt at a straight espionage thriller, Dr No turned out to be rather more fantastic. Fleming based the book on an unused screenplay he had written for a proposed TV show. The book was famously attacked by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman in a review titled “Sex, Snobbery and Sadism”.

Once again Bond is sent to Jamaica where he looks into the disappearance of local station chief John Strangways and his assistant. Bond links the disappearance with their investigation into the activities of Dr Julius No and sets sail for Dr No’s private island, Crab Key, recognisable as the archetypal Bond villain lair.

There he meets a beautiful girl, faces a fire-breathing “dragon”, is held captive in a “mink lined prison” and dines with Dr No, who reveals he is in the pay of Russia. Finally Bond must endure an obstacle course that ends with him face to face with a giant squid.

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