While travelling through America to "escape" her past life, one Vivienne Michel takes a job of being receptionist for a motel named The Dreamy Pines, which soon becomes a stage for crime and romance. The book consists of three parts; "Me" gives Vivienne's backstory to the reader, "They" is about her work in the motel and the arrival of the main antagonists, and in "Him", James Bond himself becomes a player in the story.
The tenth James Bond film shares the name of the novel but not its plot, as Fleming refused to allow them to use anything else. However, its main villains Sluggsy Morant and Sol Horror (the first one completely bald, and the second with metal teeth) did sneak into the film in the guise of Sandor and Jaws, because Fleming had been dead over a decade at this point and couldn't really object.
This novel has the examples of:
- Armed Altruism: Bond gives Vivienne a pistol with which to defend herself. She later puts six rounds into Sluggsy and Sol's car.
- Bald of Evil: Sluggsy suffers from alopecia. He doesn't even have nostril hair, which annoys him considerable when he's forced to chase Vivienne in the rain and catches a cold.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Sol "Horror" Horowitz and Sluggsy Morant.
- Broken Bird: Vivienne's love-life really roughed her up; she was just a summer fling to her first boyfriend and the second coldly dumped her when she got pregnant. The chapter about the latter guy is even named "Bird With a Wing Down".
- Chairman of the Brawl: Vivienne tries to slash Sluggsy with a knife, but he and Horror grab a chair each and overpower her.
- Chekhov's Gun: The vacancy-sign that Vivienne forgot on brings Bond into the motel after he got a flat tire.
- Continuity Nod: Bond tells Vivienne that he has just finished a job involving SPECTRE. Vivienne finds the name familiar, and Bond tells her that they were involved in the Operation Thunderball.
- "Dear John" Letter: After Derek, Vivienne's first boyfriend, went to study in Oxford, he sent a letter to her to explain that things are over between them since he was "sort of semi-engaged" to a daughter of his parents neighbours.
- Description in the Mirror: Once Vivienne wakes up after getting an electric shock, she wonders if all of her hair has turned white. She then checks herself with a mirror, giving the reader a description of her face.
- Dirty Old Man: Mr. Phancey, one of the two managers of the motel, is this, since he is constantly making moves at Vivienne, and she has to hook a chair under a door handle to keep him out of her room at night.
- Face of a Thug: When Bond arrives, Vivienne automatically assumes he is a partner to the thugs menacing her because of his looks.
- Fear of Thunder: Vivienne evidently is. When a thunderstorm breaks outside, she freaks out, and is unable to think clearly. She then tries to turn on the motel's vacancy-light, and gets an electric shock from it.
- Greater-Scope Villain: While the thugs "Horror" and Sluggsy are the heavies of the story, they are just working on the orders from their boss, Mr. Sanguinetti.
- The Gunslinger: Sluggsy is an expert Quick Draw with a pistol, hence why he's called Sluggsy.
- The Immodest Orgasm: After having sex, Bond tells Vivienne that she was screaming. She doesn't remember it.
- Insurance Fraud: Sluggsy and Horror have come to the motel to burn it down, so that its owner Mr. Sanguinetti can claim the insurance money out of it.
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Bond introduces himself this way to Sluggsy. Sluggsy then says that it's "a pretty chump name".
- The Noun Who Verbed: Used as novel's title.
- Pillow Pistol: Before everyone goes to sleep, Bond advises Vivienne to not sleep on her bed and gives a revolver to her, which she is supposed to keep under her pillow. Later she finds out that he sleeps with a gun under a pillow.
- Powerful Pick: Vivienne arms herself with an icepick after the two thugs enter the motel. She later tries to stab Horror with it, but only manages to graze him.
- Quiet Cry for Help: When Bond is at the door asking for help with a flat tire, Vivienne tells him they're closed and to go away — while making the hand gesture for "come here."
- Red Right Hand: Horror has steel-capped teeth, and Sluggsy has no hair on his head due to a condition called alopecia totalis.
- Revolvers Are for Amateurs: Bond gives Vivienne a Police Positive to defend herself with. She's not very good with it and only succeeds in shooting the antagonists' car.
- Second-Hand Storytelling: One of the chapters relates to Bond's (failed, at this point) mission of tracking down Blofeld, from which he was coming back.
- Shower of Love: After seemingly getting rid of the two thugs, Vivienne and Bond go to one of the cabins that survived the fire, and share romantic time in the shower.
- Sleeping Dummy: Before going to sleep in his cabin, Bond arranges a dummy under his sheets since he (rightfully) suspects that the thugs will try to kill him first.
- Vice City: The two thugs frequently refer to Mr. Sanguinetti as a big shot in Troy. Once Bond hears it, he tells Vivienne that Troy is a "bad town - sort of a gangster suburb to Albany".