Whispers In The Dark

Live and Let Die Chapter 4

Bond spends the next morning on Fifth Avenue and Broadway, checking out various shops, watching crowds and trying to assimilate himself into the American culture. He then goes to police headquarters (NYPD?) and talks with a Lieutenant Binswanger of Homicide about Mr Big’s police record. He gets details from the Coast Guard on the movements of Mr Big’s yacht, the Secatur and its regular trips into St Petersburg to the wharf of the ‘Ourobourous Worm and Bait Shippers Inc’ a company with an unusual sideline in rare poisonous species of aquarium fish for research departments. They look at FBI records of attempted taps of the Secatur’s wireless transmission, which were fruitless because the messages are short and always spoken in a secret Voodoo speech. Despite all the surveillance, about a hundred of the coins are still showing up on the streets of New York each week.

After some complaints from Binswanger about “Mr Hoover” not taking any action, Bond rejoins Dexter and is told that he is headed to St Petersburg with Leiter tomorrow. Bond remarks that he’d like to go and take a look around Harlem that night. Dexter agrees, with the condition that they not show themselves too much.

‘This case isn’t ripe yet. Until it is, our policy with Mr Big is “live and let live”.’
Bond looked quizzically at Captain Dexter.
‘In my job,’ he said, ‘when I come up against a man like this one, I have another motto. It’s “live and let die.”.’

So there you have the title of the book. With the encouraging words “Stay alive” Dexter departs from Bond and Leiter, who then go about making their plans for the night. They take an amusing cab ride back to the hotel:

Leiter wound down a window.
‘Whaddya want ter do?’ asked the driver over his shoulder. ‘Gimme pneumony?’

They get back to the hotel, where Bond goes and takes a nap before the big night on the town. Before going to sleep, Bond yearns for London. Meanwhile, a neat, efficient machine is in motion. At a big switchboard, ‘The Whisper’ is startled into action by a blinking light…Mr Big himself.

‘Tell all “Eyes”,’ said a slow , deep voice, ‘to watch out from now on. Three men.’ A brief description of Leiter, Bond and Dexter followed. ‘May be coming in this evening or tomorrow. Tell them to watch particularly on First to Eight and the other Avenues. The night spots too, in case they’re missed coming in. They’re not to be molested. Call me when you get a sure fix. Got it?”

“Whisper” immediately springs into action, sending the command to all corners of the network.

Bond awakens, prepares for the night, including putting on a pair of steel toed shoes he had hidden from the Americans who had taken his “British” clothes, and goes to meet Leiter in the bar for a drink.

Leiter orders them Martini’s made with “House of Lords” gin, saying that this “American” gin had a higher proof than English gin. However, as you can see from the ad to the right, “House of Lords” is distilled by Booth’s and imported from England. (Not to mention you can’t get much more British than having Rex Harrison as the endorser. Harrison, by the way, was being considered for the role of James Bond right around the time this ad was on the market.) A mistake by Fleming? It appears that way. While they drink, Leiter talks about Harlem, how it has changed, how they will have to watch out, simply because they are white. He assures Bond however, “I like the negroes and they know it somehow.” He speaks of articles he’s written for local papers about jazz and the local negro theatre. The chapter finishes with the two of them eager to start into Harlem for the evening, and Bond itching for some action.

He’ll get it.

One comment

  1. John D · May 10, 2005

    Great Rex Harrison ad! Bravo for all your well-chosen graphic inserts to complement your commentaries.


Comments are closed.