A Friendly Calling Card

Live and Let Die Chapter 3

It is now 10 days later, and Bond awakens in his hotel room in New York. He reflects on his briefings with M, Dexter and Leiter, and thinks about the man who will be his opposition in this case. Buonaparte Ignace Gallia, or Mr BIG. Long before the Notorious B.I.G. or the “Mr Big” of the HBO series Sex and the City, there was the original BIG, Ian Fleming’s gangster. Mr Big has an interesting background, having been initiated into Voodoo as a child, starting his life of crime with a string of call-girls in Harlem, but then serving with the Office of Strategic Services, who game him special training during WWII. While on assignment in Marseilles, he came into contact with a Soviet spy, who apparently recruited him to Moscow. When he returned to America, his crime empire grew, and he attained great power among the “lower strata of the negro world” by his reputation as Baron Semedi himself….Prince of Darkness. The connection between Mr BIG and SMERSH appears to be very clear. Bond also reflects at the genius behind his operation.

And what a brilliant set-up for dealing with the smaller fry of the negro underworld and for keeping a colored information network well up to the mark! — the fear of Voodoo and the supernatural, still deeply, primevally ingrained in the negro subconscious! And what genius to have, as a beginning, the whole transport system of America under surveillance, the trains, the porters, the truck-drivers, the stevedores!

Bond fears and admires the “cold, brilliant efficiency of the Soviet Machine.” He also is eager for a chance to strike back at them, and leaps out of bed, ready to strike a blow. First though, he needs breakfast. “Half a pint of orange juice, three eggs, lightly scrambled, with bacon, a double portion of café Espresso with cream. Toast. Marmalade.” While he waits for his food, he reflects on the changes that the Americans made to his appearance in order to allow him to blend in more while in the country. He is fitting for two single breasted suits, “chilly white nylon shirts with long points to the collars” as well as a number of “unusually patterned foulard ties, dark socks with fancy clocks” and other essentials. They give him a Grey Fedora with a black ribbon, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, and give him a military haircut. I hadn’t known what the word “Foulard” meant before, a quick search tells me that is signifies “A lightweight twill or plain-woven fabric of silk or silk and cotton, usually having a small printed design” I have a hard time picturing James Bond with a buzz cut and horn-rimmed glasses… He is also given a lesson in American speech patterns.

He was reminded to ask for the ‘check’ rather than the ‘bill’, to say ‘cab’ instead of ‘taxi’ and (this from Leiter) to avoid words of more than two syllables. (’You can get through any American conversation,’ advised Leiter, ‘with “Yeah”. “Nope” and “Sure”.’) The English word to be avoided at all costs, added Leiter, was ‘Ectually’. Bond had said that this word was not part of his vocabulary.

Hmmm. I have a feeling this is more Fleming taking shots at the stupid slug-like Americans, who are not capable of real conversations. Bond showers, and then walks naked into the lobby…I’m assuming the lobby of his hotel suite…to retrieve some packages.

He then spends some time reading The Travellers Tree by Patrick Leigh Fermor. There is an extensive passage quoted in Live and Let Die from the book, dealing with Haiti and Voodoo practices and terrible rites involved as well as Baron Samedi. The book was recommended to him by M. Interestingly as of this writing, Patrick Leigh Fermor is still alive, and even had written a book as recently as 2003. The book The Travellers Tree can still be found at certain resellers as well. I just think that’s pretty neat…a guy referenced in a Fleming book, whose book is being read by Bond, is still around.

Breakfast comes, and Bond is interrupted from his reading. Another package has come along with the breakfast and Bond doesn’t pay much attention to it until he hears a tiny ‘tick-tock…tick-tock…tick-tock.’ He dives behind a table, wondering if the book has put his nerves on edge. It keeps ticking…and then the alarm goes off. Since nothing happens with the package when the alarm starts, Bond relaxes. He knows that bombs with clocks are triggered when the alarm goes off. It rings for 30 seconds or so, slows down, and suddenly there is small explosion. Bond is unhurt, though some glasses are broken in the room. He calls Dexter, who calls in Trippe, from the sabotage unit. They go through the debris, and see that the bomb had an acid trigger which was activated by the alarm, but takes 30 seconds to shoot a blank 4-bore elephant gun cartridge. They also find a message in a cylinder in the rubble.


Bond is concerned because there has obviously been a leak somewhere. He dismisses Dexter by referring to the bomb as a calling card, which he must return.