Casi-NO Royale

Mr. Fleming:

We have read your short novel—really more of a novella—“Casino Royale,” but I am afraid that we can not offer to publish it as submitted. If you would consider making changes to the manuscript, we would, however, be willing to reconsider it. Several specific observations and some suggestions follow:

Your protagonist—ostensibly a romantic, heroic, “cool” character—has a most dull, exceedingly unromantic name. “James Bond” puts us in mind of an ornithologist. Alternatively, when you refer to him by his covert designation, 007, one wonders why we are reading about the exploits of merely the seventh-best British agent. Why not, therefore, rechristen your spy something more exciting and memorable, such as “W. Severinsen Bond”?

Another note about nomenclature: Giving other, more mysterious characters, single-letter sobriquets is effective, as is naming the agency for which Mr. Bond works simply the “Secret Service,” but then you go and call the bad guys “SMERSH.” Really, Mr. Fleming: SMERSH? Were we supposed to chuckle at this? Because chuckle we did.

Which brings us to this point: It is unclear if you intended “Casino Royale” to be a serious spy novel or a spoof of serious spy novels. The head of the British Secret Service sends Bond to Northern France... to play cards... with the paymaster of SMERSH (so silly!)... in order to bankrupt a trade union. All of the “action” in the story takes place at a baccarat table, prompting one of our junior manuscript readers to wonder if several chapters had gotten lost in the post. And Mr. Bond is not even a very good card player! Our hero has to be bailed out by a CIA operative. This does not make England look very good at all.

Next: Your description of the torture inflicted upon Mr. Bond is not just unsettling in the extreme, but also unfortunately specific, which we fear would prompt readers—especially impressionable young, male readers—to “try this at home,” as it were, likely on younger brothers. Our solicitors advise us strenuously against publishing such material. (Likewise the recipe for Bond’s preferred cocktail.)

Finally, it is just too obvious, from her first appearance in the narrative, that Vesper Lynd is a double agent... that Bond will fall in love with her... and that she will commit suicide. The romantic subplot simply offers no suspense whatsoever. But seriously: SMERSH?!


Le Chiffre Publishers, Ltd.

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.