Harlem Night

Live and Let Die Chapter 5

Bond and Leiter head into Harlem in the next chapter, which has the unfortunate title of “Nigger Heaven”.

They get on a bus into the city and are immediately spotted by the “Eyes” and reported back to “Whisper”. Bond is the one they identify by virtue of his scar. Leiter, who had dyed his hair is not recongnized right away.

The two of them head into Sugar Ray’s – A nightclub owned by the former world welterweight and middleweightboxing champion. They each have a “Scotch-and-soda – Haig and Haig Pinch-bottle” and examine their surroundings. Next comes a rather uncomfortable section of the book in which Bond and Leiter listen in to the conversation of a couple behind them, trying to understand what they’re saying. Bond gets a “whiff of expensive hair-straightener” and Leiter encourages him to listen and see if he can understand what they are saying. Fleming attempts to capture the dialect of the 1950’s African American by writing their conversation as follows:

‘Cmon, honey,’ wheedled the girl. ‘How come yuh-all’s actin’ so tahd tonight?’

‘Guess ah jist nacherlly gits tahd listenin’ at yuh,’ said the man languidly. ‘Why’nt yuh hush yo’ mouff’n let me ‘joy mahself ‘n peace ‘n qui-yet.’

‘Is yuh wan’ me tuh go ‘way, honey?’

‘Yuh kin suit yo sweet self.’

‘Aw, honey,’ pleaded the girl. ‘Don’ ack mad at me, honey. Ah was fixin’ tuh treat yuh tonight. Take yuh tuh Smalls Par’dise, mebbe. See dem high-yallers shakin’ ‘n truckin’. Dat Birdie Johnson, da maitre d’, he permis me a ringside whenebber Ah come nex’.

The man’s voice suddenly sharpened. ‘Wha’ dat Birdie he mean tuh yuh, hey?’ he asked suspiciously. Terzackly,’ he paused to let the big word sink in, ‘perzackly wha’ goes’tween yuh ‘n dat lowdown ornery wuthless Nigguh? Yuh sleepin’ wid him mebbe? Guess Ah gotta study ’bout dat little situayshun’tween yuh an’ Birdie Johnson. Mebbe git mahself a betterer gal. Ah jist don’ lak gals which runs off ever’ which way when Ah jist happen be busticated tem-poraneously. Yesmam. Ah gotta study ’bout dat little situayshun.’ He paused threateningly. ‘Sure have,’ he added.

‘Aw, honey,’ the girl was anxious. ‘ ‘dey ain’t no use tryin’ tuh git mad at me. Ah done nuthen tuh give yuh recasion tuh ack dat way. Ah jist thunk you mebbe preshiate a ringside at da Par’disc ‘nstead of settin’ hyah countin’ yo troubles. Why, honey, yuh all knows Ah wudden fall fo’ dat richcrat ack’ of Birdie Johnson. No sir. He don’ mean nuthen tuh me. Him duh wusstes’ man ‘n Harlem, dawg bite me effn he ain’t. All da same, he permis me da bestess seats ‘nda house ‘n Ah sez let’s us go set ‘n dem, ‘n have us a beer ‘n a good time. Gmon, honey. Let’s git out of hyah. Yuh done look so swell ‘n Ah jist wan’ mah frens tuh see usn together.’

‘Yuh done look okay yoself, honeychile,’ said the man, mollified by the tribute to his elegance, ‘an’ dat’s da troof. But Ah mus’ spressify dat yuh stays close up tuh me an keeps yo eyes offn dat lowdown trash ‘n his hot pants. ‘N Ah may say,’ he added threateningly,’ dat ef Ah ketches yuh makin’ up tuh dat dope Ah’ll jist nachrally whup da hide off’n yo sweet ass.’

‘Shoh ting, honey,’ whispered the girl excitedly.

Bond heard the man’s foot scrape off the seat to the ground.

‘Cmon, baby, lessgo. Waiduh!’

Just seeing that in print makes me wince, though I don’t believe Fleming was in any way being racist or saying that the blacks were less intelligent. In fact, Leiter remarks to Bond that they are just the same as everyone else, some interests and concerns. They then try to get a handle on where Mr Big might be operating that night, and the waiter simply says ‘I’ve got a wife’n kids, Boss’ – ending the conversation.

They move on soon after, heading down to Ma Fraizer’s for the best food in Harlem. As they walk, Bond observes the surroundings, noting the amount of attention given to “lucky charms and various occultisms”, noting that in Voodoo, Mr Big has harnessed the best possible vehicle for enducing fear among his constituents. They get to Ma Fraziers and have want Leiter terms “the national dish” a meal consisting of ” Little Neck Clams and Fried Chicken Maryland with bacon and sweet corn.” They move on to the Savoy, and while there Leiter goes to the mens room and for $20 learns that Mr Big will be at The Boneyard later that night. They hit a few other spots, with the “Eyes” following them all the way until their final destination. When it is determined that they are on their way, preparations are made for their arrival. Table “Z” is to be theirs, and although there is already people at that table, they are whisked away and the table cleaned off.

Meanwhile Mr. Big had made two more calls on the house-phone. One to the Master of Ceremonies. ‘Lights out at the end of G-G’s act.’ ‘Yes, Sir, Boss,’ said the MC with alacrity. The other call was to four men who were playing craps in the basement. It was a long call, and very detailed.

One comment

  1. Johmss · July 18, 2006

    I´ve remember the part that Bond and Leiter listen to the couple talking… you can guess, isn´t pretty hard (probably a not so proper translation) but, trying to read it in english… that´s very tough.

    Anyhow, about this chapter, i like the chase between someone carefull, a deep thinker with resourses and two friends, drifting away… ready to make a mistake.

    And just think, in the morning, Bond is gonna “salute” Mr Big´s organization but now you don´t see how


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