|Cover artist:||Ian Fleming|
|Published by:||Jonathan Cape|
|Release date:||13 April, 1953|
|Alternate title:||You Asked for It|
|none||Live and Let Die|
Casino Royale is the first James Bond novel by the British author Ian Fleming. Published in 1953, it paved the way for a further eleven novels and two short story collections by Fleming, followed by numerous continuation Bond novels by various other authors. The story concerns British secret agent James Bond, gambling at a French casino to bankrupt the treasurer of a communist French trade union and member of the Russian secret service.
Fleming used his wartime experiences as a member of the Naval Intelligence Division, and the people he met during his work, to provide plot elements; the character of Bond also reflected many of Fleming's personal tastes. Fleming wrote the draft in early 1952 at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica while awaiting his marriage. He was initially unsure whether the work was suitable for publication, but was assured by his friend, the novelist William Plomer, that the novel had promise.
Within the spy storyline, Casino Royale deals with themes of Britain's position in the post World War II world, particularly the relationship with the US in light of the defections to the Soviet Union of the British traitors Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. The book was given broadly positive reviews by critics at the time and sold out in less than a month after its UK release on 13 April 1953, although US sales upon release a year later were much slower.
The book introduces Bond gambling in the fictional French seaside resort of Royale-les-Eaux. Flashbacks reveal that his assignment is to establish himself at the casino, where Soviet agent Le Chiffre, paymaster of a fifth-columnist union, is attempting to make up his losses of Soviet funds diverted to a bad personal investment by banking a baccarat game. Her Majesty's Secret Service has enacted a scheme for Bond, their best player, to bankrupt Le Chiffre, exposing him to his Soviet masters and causing scandal and discredit to their Communist union when his corruption comes to light.
Bond is introduced to his various allies in this effort -- the French intelligence agent René Mathis, who seems to always be in control of the situation; CIA agent Felix Leiter, who is sent to support Bond; and Vesper Lynd, secretary to MI6's head of anti-Soviet operations, who is sent along to assist him. Mathis makes it clear that Le Chiffre is somehow already onto Bond, as does an assassination attempt by bomb practiced by unfortunate Bulgarians.
Bond goes ahead and plays against Le Chiffre, having good luck initially, until one horrifying run of bad luck wipes out his entire stake, threatening to give Le Chiffre all the money he needs. As Bond contemplates the prospect of reporting his failure back to M, Leiter slips him an envelope of cash courtesy of Uncle Sam, allowing him to continue. Despite another attempts by one of Le Chiffre's minders to kill him, Bond eventually wins, taking from Le Chiffre eighty million francs belonging to SMERSH.
Bond celebrates with Vesper, who leaves after getting a note from Mathis. Bond finds the whole thing off, notices that the note is a forgery, and follows just in time to see Vesper snatched by Le Chiffre's men and dragged in their car. Bond chases them through the roads at night in his Bentley, but they ambush him with a spike mat, wrecking his car. Le Chiffre takes a bruised Bond to his villa, where he demands to know where Bond has hidden the check with the winnings, applying torture to his genitals with a carpet beater.
Bond responds with a hearty "**** you," and is only saved by the arrival of a Russian SMERSH assassin with orders to kill Le Chiffre but not, he claims, orders to kill Bond, thus saving him. Instead the agent cuts a scar of the Russian cyrillic letter "Ш" (SH) (for Shpion: "Spy") on the back of one of his hands, identifying Bond as a spy should the Soviets encounter him again.
Bond recovers in hospital, where he realizes that he and Vesper share feelings for each other, and tells Mathis that he plans to resign, as the brand-new 00 agent has been disillusioned by a spell of moral relativism in which he claims difficulty distinguishing heroes from villains anymore and a dissatisfaction with killing people just because he's told to. Mathis tells him that he will realize that real evil does exist, and that he can fight it by making it personal. Bond then leaves the hospital to recover at a beach inn with Vesper. There, enjoying a peaceful idyll, he realizes that he feel more for Vesper than just the animal lust that originally characterized his approach to her, and resolves to propose.
When he is released from hospital they spend time together at a quiet guest house and eventually become lovers. One day they see a mysterious man named Adolph Gettler tracking their movements, which greatly distresses Lynd. The peace is broken, however, when Vesper appears startled when Bond finds her making a call, and her explanations appear increasingly strained and she's increasingly defensive and anxious, as well as paranoid about visits to the inn by a mysterious one-eyed man. The relationship turns toxic, until Bond finally admits that he was ready to marry her. At this, she promises to explain in the morning and reconciles with him that night.
When he wakes up, however, Bond discovers that she committed suicide, leaving a note explaining that she was a double agent for the USSR, pressured by her boyfriend's kidnapping to keep him alive by feeding the Soviet Union information. She had betrayed Bond's mission before falling for him and resolving to make the most of her time with him before running off to hide from SMERSH.
The visits from the eye patched SMERSH killer, however, had convinced her that she could never be free, and so she killed herself to save Bond from getting caught in the crossfire and to keep from having to confess to him while alive and shatter his love. Bond, though now unable to think of Vesper as anything but a spy, realizes his personal hatred for SMERSH, recognizing them as evil and determining to smash them, thus proving Mathis right. Bond informs his service of Lynd's duplicity, coldly telling his contact, "The bitch is dead now."