Friday, July 20, 2012

59. Thrilling Cities by Ian Fleming

Thrilling Cities is another collection of Fleming's columns written for the Sunday Times.  For this series, he was sent on two trips around the world to write about the racier sides of various cities.  The first trip is to Asia and across the Pacific to the US and the second is a drive across Europe.

It's a really entertaining read.  He is a fun writer and it is cool to see both the state of these various cities in the early 60s and the cultural approach that this semi-upper class Brit takes to them.  The first half, especially the Asian part, seems a lot more fun, because Fleming was single (or at least had left his wife behind).  In the drive across Europe, she is with him (though barely mentioned) and we hear very little about any dancing girls or geishas. 

What was interesting is that he absolutely hated New York.  The way he wrote about it made it sound like the NYC of Death Wish except the people are even ruder.  My father worked in New York for a summer around this time and he had a very similar reaction.  Fleming hated it so much that he even adds a little James Bond vignette where he goes on one of his high-class consumer fetish trips (trying to get this razor and that shirt and so on; Bond is kind of boring when he gets into this stuff, though it may have been extra-exaggerated for effect here) and ends up having none of it work out.

This book is also written around the time of the beginning of the Parker series and what Fleming writes about the syndicate in the Chicago chapter very much jibes with the world Westlake describes in The Outfit.  I think any Parker fan will enjoy Thrilling Cities, at the very least for the U.S. section.

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