It has been remarked that From Russia, With Love is Fleming’s most traditional novel, and it is sometimes suggested that this is the reason for the success of the film, which is faithful to its source.
Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date: 8th April 1957
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Richard Chopping
Search for first edition copies on Abebooks
Bond does not appear at the beginning of the book while the reader is taken through the machinations of the Russians plot to assassinate Bond and compromise British Intelligence. The story features some colourful scenes set in Istanbul and a dramatic ride on the Orient Express.
The film staring Sean Connery was the second to appear, following on the success of Dr No, and for many people it remains the best of the series, combining a minimum of gadgetry, a well-structured plot and a claustrophobic fight on the Orient Express.
What we say
With his fifth book, Ian Fleming really wanted to step up his game. A pure Cold War spy thriller, From Russia, With Love features Bond’s attempts at getting his hands on Russia’s Spektor cipher machine. Note the use again of a variation on the word “spectre”.
Bond doesn’t even appear until a third of the way through the book and the start of the novel, focusing on the Russian plot, sometimes drags. But once Bond is introduced Istanbul and then the Orient Express provide colourful backdrops to the story.
From Russia, With Love was the book that helped James Bond become established in the United States. When Life published an article about JFK’s reading habits, it appeared on his list of ten favourite books. Fleming couldn’t have asked for better publicity and US sales of all his books surged.
Friends & foes
James Bond finds a good friend and ally in the Head of Station T in Istanbul. Darko Kerim is is the product of a Turkish father and English mother and, according to M, “One of the best men we’ve got anywhere. Does a wonderful job”.
Kerim is two inches taller than Bond with a face that is “vaguely gipsy-like” and with a large build thanks to training to be a professional strong man.
Working as a corporal for the Ministry of State Security (MGB) in Moscow, Tatiana Romanova is chosen by Rosa Klebb for an operation to discredit the British Secret Service. Claiming to have fallen in love with an archive photo of Bond, her story is that she wants to defect to the West. To clinch it for the Secret Service she plans on bringing the Russian’s Spektor code machine with her.
Although working for Rosa Klebb and SMERSH, she does genuinely fall for Bond – and vice versa – and looks forward to her time with Bond and a new life in the West.
The head of a gang of gipsies, Vavra, is one of Kerim’s best sources. When Bond meets him Vavra wears Macedonian dress, a “white shirt with full sleeves, baggy trousers and laced soft leather top-boots”. He also carries a short curved dagger in a leather scabbard.
Before departing Vavra tells them that Kerim should beware of “a son of the snows” while Bond should watch out for “a man who is owned by the moon”.
One of Kerim’s numerous sons, known to all as “Tempo”, is based in Belgrade. He collects Bond and Tania from the Orient Express to take them back to his apartment for food and drink. But first Bond must tell him the news of his father.
Klebb worked as a double agent in the Spanish Civil War and worked her way through SMERSH to become its Head of Operations. She is described as being in her late forties, short and squat with dumpy arms and a short neck and thinning orange hair scraped back into a bun.
Although she is in the background throughout the operation, Bond finally meets her at the Hilton in Paris when she has a few tricks up her sleeve.
Donovan “Red” Grant
Red Grant is an Irish psychopath whose murderous tendencies peak during the full moon. Starting out by killing animals he soon progressed to people.
Posted in West Berlin after the war, Grant defected to the East where SMERSH trained him as an assassin. Rising through the ranks, Grant is now SMERSH’s Chief Executioner. He introduces himself to Bond as Captain Nash, the local secret service man in Trieste.
The head of the “Faceless Ones” is a Bulgarian “refugee” ordered by the Russians to kill Kerim, which he attempts with a bomb. Later Krilencu and his gang try to kill Vavra and his men in an attack on their gipsy camp. The attack forces Kerim to retaliate.
After Kerim arranges for two Russian agents to be removed from the Orient Express, only Benz remains. Travelling on a German passport, he avoids the restaurant car. Instead he spends most of his time in his sleeping compartment and buys sandwiches and beer at the stations at which they stop.
Tired of the monotonous “soft life” in London, Bond’s spirits are reignited when he is sent to Istanbul to rendezvous a beautiful Russian cipher clerk who claims to have fallen in love with him.
Bond’s journey begins as he flies from London Airport to Istanbul via Rome Ciampini and Athens airports. Upon landing at Yesilkoy Airport, he is chauffeured to the Kristal Palas hotel, nestled in the heights of Pera (now Beyoğlu). Despite its lack of luxury, Bond appreciates the picturesque views of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus from his hotel room, and he finds solace in the delicious breakfast served there.
Also see: From Russia With Love: locations from the novel
Guided by Darko Kerim, the local station chief, Bond traverses the bustling streets of Istanbul. They drive through Taksim Square and Istiklal, passing the Galeta Bridge, which crosses the Golden Horn. Bond visits Kerim’s warehouse, tucked away on a narrow cobbled street parallel to the waterfront, and they later enjoy lunch at the Spice Bazaar.
One of the most intriguing moments occurs when Kerim leads Bond through a tunnel beneath the city. This tunnel, originally built to drain the Basilica Cistern, allows them to spy on the Russians through a periscope. The Street of Books, believed to be Çadırcılar Caddesi, leads to the Russian Consulate on the Beyoğlu side.
Venturing further, Bond and Kerim visit a gypsy camp on the outskirts of Istanbul, driving through the poorer quarters above the Golden Horn. Bond’s exploration takes him under the ruined Aqueduct, across the Ataturk Boulevard, and to the Column of Constantine before arriving at a long ornamental square.
The plot takes a twist as Bond returns to his hotel room to find Tatiana Romanova, the Russian cipher clerk, waiting for him. Their passion ignites, and Tatiana insists they flee Istanbul on the Orient Express the following evening.
Also see: The Orient Express
Boarding the legendary train at Istanbul station, Bond notices the sign indicating the various destinations: Thessaloniki, Beograd, Venezia, Milan, Lausanne, and Paris. The journey progresses, with Bond choosing to remain on the train despite identifying Soviet agents onboard. At various stops, including Thessaloniki and Belgrade, the intrigue deepens, leading to the shocking revelation of Kerim’s death.
As the train crosses borders and passes through cities like Trieste and Lausanne, Bond’s vigilance is tested. The pivotal moment arrives in the Simplon Tunnel, where Bond confronts his nemesis, Donald Grant, and successfully survives the encounter.
Upon reaching Dijon, France, Bond and Tatiana disembark from the Orient Express, opting for a different path. They travel to Paris, making a brief stop at the British Embassy before heading to the Ritz hotel. There, in room 204, Bond anticipates a midday rendezvous with Rosa Klebb, unaware of the danger that awaits him.
The article presents a vivid account of Bond’s journey through Istanbul and his eventful expedition on the Orient Express, weaving together real and fictional locations that contribute to the rich tapestry of the story.
Bond’s BEA flight to Istanbul stops over in Rome, where he enjoys two Americanos. On the final leg of the flight, he drinks a couple of tumblers of ouzo with a mouthful of ice water. During dinner, he savours two dry martinis and half a bottle of Calvet claret.
After arriving in Istanbul, Bond meets Darko Kerim, the head of Station T. Kerim takes him to lunch at the Spice Bazaar, where Bond is offered raki, a local drinks similar to ouzo, and has it refilled continuously. That night they go to a gypsy camp outside Istanbul where they are invited to eat. Bond and Kerim have ragout with bread and wash it down with raki.
Also see: From Russia With Love: food & drink from the novel
After Bond and Tatiana leave Istanbul aboard the Orient Express, they have lunch in the restaurant car. Bond orders Americanos and a bottle of Chianti Broglio to accompany hors d’oeuvres, tagliatelli verdi, and a delicious escalope.
During their journey, Bond and Tatiana make a stop in Belgrade, where they have smoked ham, peaches, and slivovic, a blue plum brandy. Bond and Tatiana also dine with Captain Nash, including an unspecified dinner where Tatiana’s wine is secretly drugged.
Upon arriving in Paris at the Ritz hotel, Bond orders a double vodka martini at the bar to pass the time before his rendezvous with Rosa Klebb.
Throughout the novel, James Bond’s drink choices range from strong coffee to various cocktails, spirits, and regional beverages. These selections not only add flavor to the story but also reflect Bond’s sophisticated and adventurous character.
Paperback: Amazon UK | Amazon US
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