I picked up Octopussy, by Ian Fleming, sometime in the 1970s at the small-town public library where I grew up. It was for sale, and I think cost something like ten cents.
Being a young James Bond fan at the time, I was delighted to happen upon this book. But soon after I bought it, I promptly ignored it.
Now, of course I spent plenty of time examining the cover. I wondered why anyone would have “X’d” out the cover. I felt that the snub-nose revolver that Ian Fleming was holding was very un-Bondlike. And where was the smoke that he was supposed to be blowing away?
It wasn’t until years later that I cracked open the book. The lead story, “Octopussy” (which is nothing like the movie), is about 50-odd paperback pages. More a novella or long short-story than a real novel.
James Bond is only barely in the story. The main character is Dexter Smythe:
The widowed Smythe lives alone in his palatial, waterfront estate in the British West Indies, spending his days spearfishing in the shallow reefs by his home. Smythe has taken an interest in an octopus he has named Pussy. He wants to observe Pussy’s habits for a friend, Professor Bengry at the local Institute (presumably a marine biology lab of some type).
The deadly, poisonous scorpionfish is his nemesis. One prick of the scorpionfish’s needle-like erectile dorsal fins and a man with die within minutes.