Short Story #18: “The Property of a Lady” — Ian Fleming (1963)
What, you thought it was all going to be sci-fi?
“The Property of a Lady” was one of Ian Fleming’s last short stories to be published, and has James Bond … going to an auction. That’s it. No shootouts, no seductions, no supervillains — just secret agent 007 as part of a counter-espionage team quietly and carefully taking down a spy network by … paying attention to details.
There was a time when I was obsessed with the James Bond movies — partially because of their pop culture cache, but mostly (I deduced later) because my parents wouldn’t let us go seem them when we were growing up. They were forbidden, taboo — and therefore of course irresistibly alluring. Eventually I saw all the Bond movies, some multiple times, and finally came to realize they were all pretty much ridiculous.*
The books on the other hand … the books are a fascinating time capsule of the Cold War, and for all the over-the-top plotting of the various megalomaniacs intent on world domination, Ian Fleming’s spy novels are constructed on a substrate of actual spy craft, meticulous detail and procedure. Fleming’s greatest creation isn’t even supposed to be an interesting person. The author once described James Bond as “an extremely dull man to whom things happened.”
Among all the martini-shaking, product placement, explosions and Bond girls, this got lost along the way (although the one film that holds up great as a movie, and a Bond film — 2006’s “Casino Royale” — is the one that also adheres the closest to Ian Fleming’s original novel.)
*Except for the music composed by John Barry. That’s still fucking awesome.