was first released on April 13, 1953, in a United Kingdom hardcover edition by publishers Jonathan Cape. The first paperback edition of Casino Royale
in the United States was re-titled by publisher American Popular Library in 1955 (this followed a hardcover edition with the original title). Fleming''s suggestions for a new title, The Double-O Agent
and The Deadly Gamble
, were disregarded in favour of You Asked For It
. The novel was subtitled "Casino Royale" and made reference to secret agent 007 as "Jimmy Bond" on the back cover. In 1960 the original title Casino Royale
replaced You Asked For It
for all further paperback editions in the United States.
In 1954, Anthony Boucher reviewed the book for The New York Times,
commenting that the book, although about a British Secret Service operative, belongs "pretty much to the private-eye school" of fiction. He praised the first part, saying that
Fleming, in a style suggesting a more literate version of Cheyney''s "Dark" series, manages to make baccarat clear even to one who''s never played it and produced as exciting a gambling sequence as I''ve ever read. But then he decides to pad out the book to novel length and leads the weary reader through a set of tough clichés to an ending which surprises nobody save Operative 007. You should certainly begin this book; but you might as well stop when the baccarat game is over.
When the book came to the UK in paperback form in 1955, readers were given their first glimpse of an image of secret agent James Bond on the book jacket. The image of Bond was based on a photograph of American actor Richard Conte, who would become known for roles in films such as Ocean''s Eleven
(1960) and The Godfather
The 2002 Penguin Books paperback edition. This same cover was used for the 2006 edition, released to coincide with the newest film adaptation.
Monsieur Le Chiffre ("the cypher"), an agent of the Soviet assassination bureau SMERSH, is running a baccarat game in the casino at Royale-les-Eaux, France, in order to recover SMERSH money he lost in a failed chain of brothels.
Expert baccarat player James Bond (British secret agent 007) is assigned the defeat of Le Chiffre, in the hope that his gambling debts will provoke SMERSH to killing him. Bond is provided an assistant, the beautiful, emotionally unstable Vesper Lynd, who becomes his lover. Yet she is a Soviet double agent ordered to ensure Bond does not escape Le Chiffre. After hours of intense play Bond beats Le Chiffre. Soon after, Le Chiffre abducts Vesper and uses her to lure Bond into a near-fatal car chase, which results in Bond''s capture. Le Chiffre tortures Bond, repeatedly striking him in the testicles with a carpet beater. However, when it becomes clear to Le Chiffre that Bond will not tell him where the money is, he threatens to castrate him. Seconds later a SMERSH agent assassinates Le Chiffre for his betrayal, shooting him through the head with a pistol. Unintentionally, the SMERSH assassin (whose organization became the hero''s bitter nemesis in later adventures) spares the captive Bond, saying: "I have no orders about you" — yet cuts the Cyrillic letter "Ш" (шпион,shpion
, spy) in back of Bond''s left hand, "for future reference".
Bond spends three weeks in hospital recovering from Le Chiffre''s torture, expressing intent to resign from the secret service, and spends his convalescence with Vesper Lynd. He is suspicious of her because of the combination of apparent dishonesty and her terror of a man with an eyepatch. Believing that man to be SMERSH agent Gettler sent to kill her and Bond for her disobedience Vesper commits suicide by swallowing poison, leaving Bond an explanatory note. Her betrayal inspires him to remain in service; he tersely reports to HQ: "The bitch is dead now".