Casino Royale is the first ever James Bond novel, written by Ian Fleming in 1952 and published the following year by Johnathan Cape. The novel is a spy story and the first to feature MI6 agent James Bond 007, kickstarting a huge franchise that consists of more novels written by Fleming, a number of continuation novels, comic strips, video games, and most famously, a long running film series.
The plot of the novel sees Bond heading to the fictional Casino Royale to play against Soviet agent Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of baccarat, with Le Chiffre hoping to win back a lot of money he lost in a bad investment, the money itself actually being the property of his employers, SMERSH. Bond is assisted by Vesper Lynd, a fellow MI6 agent, CIA agent Felix Leiter, and a member of the Deuxieme Bureau, Rene Mathis.
The book was well received by critics at the time of it's release, and in recent years still enjoys popularity amongst both critics and fans of the series.
The novel has been adapted to screen three times; in 1954, CBS used the story for the second episode of their anthology series Climax!, making in the first ever screen appearance of Bond. However, Bond was depicted as American. In 1967, a spoof of the "official" James Bond films, meaning those made by Eon Productions, was made and was loosely based on the novel. Finally, Eon themselves finally adapted the novel for their twenty-first Bond film in 2006. In the Climax version, Bond was played by Barry Nelson. In the spoof, he was played by David Niven, Fleming's choice for the role. In the 2006 film, Daniel Craig portrayed Bond.
Le Chiffre, an agent of the Soviet counterintelligence organization SMERSH (SMERt SHpionam, "Death to spies") has invested a large amoutn of SMERSH's money into a chain of brothels. However, a bill banning prostitution is signed into law, causing the investment to fail and Le Chiffre loses all of SMERSH's funds. He devises a way to get the money back; he will win a high stakes game of Cehmin de fer (baccarat) at the Casino Royale in France. MI6 learn of this plan and decide to stop him.
M, the head of the British Secret Service, assigns James Bond 007 to the mission, sending him to play against Le Chiffre and defeat him, which will bankrupt the villain. Bond travels to France, and to keep up Bond's cover as a Jamaican playboy, he is accompanied by fellow agent Vesper Lynd.
The card game soon turns into an intense standoof between Bond and Le Chiffre. Bond suffers a loss and is left bankrupt. He considers informing M of his failure, when a man named Felix Leiter hands him an envelope. Bond discovers the contents to be 32 million francs from the CIA, and the man was an agent.
Bond uses the money to re-enter the game and one of Le Chiffre's henchmen even tries to kill him, but the game continues until Bond wins, the winnings amounting to 80 million francs belong to SMERSH.
Shortly thereafter, Vesper is kidnapped by Le Chiffre. Bond pursues them in his Bentley, but ultimately crashes the car and is captured. He is then subjected to brutal torture by Le Chiffre, who demands to know where the money is so he can reclaim it and pay off his debt. Becoming further enraged when Bond refuses to cooperate, Le Chiffre prepares to castrate the agent, when suddenly a SMERSH agent bursts in. As Le Chiffre has failed to reclaim the money, SMERSH wants blood and the man then shoots Le Chiffre in the head. He tells Bond that he does not have orders to kill him, but cuts a symbol into his hand. This is a Cyrillic mark which warns other SMERH agents that Bond is a spy.
Two days later, Bond is visited in hospital by Vesper, and the two realise that they love each other. Three weeks on, the two go on vacation to a quiet guest house, but are followed a mysterious man named Adolph Gettler, which upsets Vesper.
The following morning, Bond wakes up to find that Vesper has overdosed on sleeping pills and killed herself. She leaves a note explaining to Bond the circumstances of her death. Vesper's lover, a Polish RAF pilot, was kidnapped by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Under torture, he revealed certain secrets which were then used to blackmail Vesper into acting as double agent. She was supposed to undermine Bond's mission, but soon came to fall in love with him. She wanted to move to South America and start a new life with Bond, maybe even having his children. However, when she saw Gettler, a SMERSH agent, watching them, she realised that she would never be free and took her own life. She ends her letter with "My love, my love."
Bond then decides to oppose SMERSH and all of their dealings in response. When he speaks to a British liason officer, he tells them of Vesper's lies and coldly states "The bitch is dead now."