The Grunt Of The Shark

Live and Let Die Chapter 15

James Bond is determined to avenge his friend Felix Leiter. He packs up his bag and leaves The Everglades. They’re glad to see him go. After visiting a hardware store and picking up a few unspecified items, he has dinner.

Then he had the biggest steak, rare, with French fried, he had ever seen. It was a small grill called Pete’s, dark and friendly. He drank a quarter of a pint of Old Grandad with the steak and had two cups of very strong coffee. With all this under his belt he began to feel more sanguine. He spun out the meal and the drinks until nine o’clock.

Old Grandad? When I see that stuff in the store, it’s usually down on the bottom shelf. James Bond is drinking it? C’mon. Ian Fleming goofing on us Americans again…must be.

Bond then heads for the Ourobouros warehouse. He uses a glass cutter and hunk of putty that he had bought at the hardware store and gets into the warehouse. Fleming devotes nearly two and half pages to the meticulous work that Bond does to get in. Once inside, Bond looks around and sees many dangerous species scattered in tanks throughout the building. He also notices that all the poisonous fish are in tanks in which the mud or sand at the bottom occupies nearly half of the tank. He has a hunch and decides to act on it.

Spearing a Scorpion fish with his knife and taking it out of the tank, he reaches into the mud and finds rows of coins. He’s discovered how Mr Big is getting the coins into the country. What customs agent is going to stick his hand into a tank of poisonous fish? (This is the 1950’s, remember) Just about that same time however, all the lights in the warehouse come on. The Robber has returned. There is a very loud gun battle as tanks shatter and large conch shells are hurled. Bond realizes however, that he can’t win this battle. He’s got limited ammunition, while his opponent seems to have an endless supply.

He calls out to The Robber, telling him he gives up. He tosses his gun down, clenching in his hand a gold coin. The Robber has him move to the middle of the floor, where there is the outline of a trap door. He realizes what happened to Felix.

At that moment Bond dropped the gold coin out of his left hand. It clanged on the cement floor and started to roll.
In the fraction of a second that The Robber’s eyes flickered down, Bond’s right foot in its steel-capped shoe lashed out to its full length. It kicked the rifle almost out of The Robber’s hands. At the same moment that The Robber pulled the trigger and the bullet crashed harmlessly through the glass ceiling, Bond launched himself in a dive at the man’s stomach, his two arms flailing.

After a back and forth pitched battle, Bond connects with an uppercut which sends The Robber staggering towards the middle of the floor, where the bolt for the trapdoor has come completely out.

What happens next is startling. As The Robber lands in the middle of the trap door, it pivots and sends the man tumbling down. He manages to grab onto the edge and hang there.

He begs Bond to help him out, as there is a shark in the water below him.

Bond asks him first what happened to Solitaire. He assures Bond that she is ok, snatched by two men from Tampa. He tells Bond where he can find them. Bond then asks him about Leiter. The Robber tries to place the blame on Felix.
Called me out early this mornin’. Said the place was on fire. Seen it passing in his car. Held me up and brought me back in here. Wanted to search the place. Just fell through the trap. Accident. I swear it was his fault. We pulled him out before he was finished. He’ll be okay.’

Bond knows the man is lying. No doubt he led Felix right over the door just as he tried to do with Bond. He pictures the cruel smile on his face as they fished Felix out, half eaten.

This thought leads Bond to rage. He kicks The Robber’s hands off the ledge and the man falls into the pool, where the shark emits a great snuffling grunt before attacking him. Bond closes the trap door, bolts it closed and picks up the coin off the floor. As he leaves, he muses that a small payment had been made on account of Solitaire and Leiter.

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“He disagreed with something that ate him”

Live and Let Die Chapter 14

James Bond and Felix Leiter rush back to their rooms after being told by Mrs. Stuyvesant about the “delivery” of a huge radiogram in a packing case. As they feared, Solitaire is gone, but there is an old radiogram at the entrance to their rooms. It’s not hard to see how they got her out. Bond and Leiter quickly get on the phone with the FBI to have the ‘Airports, railroad terminals and the highways’ watched. Bond goes to Solitaire’s room to search for clues, and it seems he has an attack of sentiment. He gets a sniff of the scent she wore (Vent Vert) and finds her bag, which she apparently had kicked under her bed. He finds the five thousand dollars that she had sewed into the lining of the bag, and vows to either return it to her, or use it to avenge her.

Bond and Leiter then have dinner in The Everglades dining room. The food seems rather underwhelming:

What it came down to was tomato juice, boiled fish with a white sauce, a strip of frozen turkey with a dab of cranberry, and a wedge of lemon curd surmounted by a whorl of stiff cream substitute. They munched it down gloomily while the dining-room emptied of its oldster couples and the table lights went out one by one. Fingerbowls, in which floated one hibiscus petal, was the final gracious touch to their meal.

More Fleming rips on American cuisine? The meal doesn’t sound all that great, but it actually sounds like a meal you’d get in a dining room like that.

After dinner, the two of them go back to their sitting room, and drink, looking out to the sea. They go to their separate rooms and go to bed. Bond makes up his mind to go see The Robber as soon as day breaks and “strangle the truth out of him”. He then goes to sleep. He wakes up at 8:00 – much later than he had intended. Furious, he goes to find Leiter, who is gone. Eventually he finds a note from the CIA man, saying that he couldn’t sleep and decided to go pay The Robber a visit around 5:00 AM. The note instructs Bond to wait and if he’s not back by 10:00 to “call out the militia”.

Bond doesn’t wait. He calls for some “coffee and rolls” and is headed out when he gets a phone call. It’s a Doctor Roberts from Mound Park Hospital asking Bond to come down as there is a Mr Leiter asking for him. He says it’s nothing to worry about…minor concussion from a hit and run job. Bond is relieved and heads to the hospital. But when he gets there, they have no idea what he’s talking about – no Doctor Roberts, no Leiter. He starts to sweat, realizing that someone wanted to lead him away from The Everglades and away from Ourobouros.

He rushes back, and on the way he realizes that there has been a shift in momentum, “the initiative was back in the hands of Mr Big and his machine”. When he arrives, Mrs Stuyvesant tells him without sympathy that his friend should be more careful. She mentions a “nice coloured man” who was in charge of bringing Leiter in on the stretcher. Bond bolts through and into Leiter’s room.

There was the shape of a body on Leiter’s bed. It was covered with a sheet. Over the face, the sheet seemed to be motionless.
Bond gritted his teeth as he leant over the bed. Was there a tiny flutter of movement?
Bond snatched the shroud down from the face. There was no face. Just something wrapped round and round with dirty bandages, like a white wasps’ nest.
He softly pulled the sheet down further. More bandages, still more roughly wound, with wet blood seeping through. Then the top of a sack which covered the lower half of the body. Everything soaked in blood.

Bond telephones for help and notices a note on the body. It’s a very simple message.



Bond is shaken badly, as he waits for the police and surgeon to arrive, he notices that Leiter’s hair is wet. He tastes it and notices it is salty. The authorities arrive and the surgeon does his thing. He says that Leiter will likely live, though it is 50/50. Leiter’s arm is gone (doesn’t say which) and half his left leg. The damage to his face is superficial. He believes it was some sort of big fish that did it.

A car was sent to The Robber’s place, but there was no evidence there and his lawyer quickly springs him from custody. After everyone leaves, Bond gets a call from Leiter’s boss at the CIA. They’d like Bond to move on to Jamaica as quickly as possible. After hanging up, Bond makes a call to the Eastern Garden Aquarium in Miami (A place that did actually exist at that time, not sure if it does now, Google doesn’t bring up a current site) and inquires about where one might be able to buy a shark to put into a lagoon. The answer is clear – there’s only one place – Ourobouros.

The Robber

Live and Let Die Chapter 13

Solitaire excuses herself to tidy up, and Leiter and James Bond have a drink (more Haig and Haig) and talk more in detail about what happened on the train. Leiter has many of the details about what how the attack on their vacated compartment was carried out. They discuss how Mr Big will have everything covered up and alibied and nothing will be traced back to him. Bond makes the remark that “Wooden truncheons wouldn’t make much of a dent in him.” What is a truncheon, you ask? A quick look at the dictionary reveals that it is simply a Billy Club. Bond remarks that this is three times he’s gotten away from Mr Big, who doesn’t make these sorts of mistakes.

They decide to go over and visit the dock where Mr Big’s boat docks every time it is in town, a place called “Ourobouros”. They’re going to go and take a look around. They can also make arrangements for Solitaire’s flight by stopping in at the airport on the way home. She does not want them to leave, saying she has a “feeling”. After Bond reassures her, she lets them go. Bond is still uneasy as he leaves, however.

They go to the car that Leiter has obtained for their use, and we’re treated to more of Bond/Fleming’s thoughts on America, and specifically the cars made in that country.

Most American cars bored him. They lacked personality and the patina of individual craftsmanship that European cars have. They were just Vehicles’, similar in shape and in colour, and even in the tone of their horns. Designed to serve for a year and then be turned in in part exchange for the next year’s model. All the fun of driving had been taken out of them with the abolition of a gear-change, with hydraulic-assisted steering and spongy suspension. All effort had been smoothed away and all of that close contact with the machine and the road that extracts skill and nerve from the European driver. To Bond, American cars were just beetle-shaped Dodgems in which you motored along with one hand on the wheel, the radio full on, and the power-operated windows closed to keep out the draughts.

The car that Leiter has gotten however, is different. It’s an “old Cord”, Bond reflects that it is one of the few American cars with a personality. The car is 15 years old. Live and Let Die was published in 1954, and written in 1953. So the car would have been a 1938 Cord, which is pictured to the right here. Despite it’s age, Bond feels that it is still one of the most modern looking cars in the world.

As they drive, James Bond observes all the old-timers milling about in the town. It depresses him. Once they get down to the waterfront, they are free of the “oldsters”. They find the wharf they are looking for and see a man sitting out front cleaning a rifle. He is not a pleasant man, either in appearance nor in manners. They threaten him, he threatens them, and finally Bond and Leiter leave, having gained nothing. They are fairly certain however, that this is Mr Big’s man down here known as “The Robber”.

On they way back, Bond and Leiter engage in some sophomoric joking about Solitaire and the relationship between her and Bond. He had given Solitaire her own room, while he and Bond would share the other.

On their way home Leiter asked a string of questions about Solitaire. Finally he said casually: ‘By the way, hope I fixed the rooms like you want them.’

‘Couldn’t be better,’ said Bond cheerfully.

‘Fine,’ said Leiter. ‘Just occurred to me you two might be hyphenating.’

‘You read too much Winchell,’ said Bond.

‘It’s just a delicate way of putting it,’ said Leiter. ‘Don’t forget the walls of those cottages are pretty thin. I use my ears for hearing with – not for collecting lip-stick.’

Bond grabbed for a handkerchief. ‘You lousy, goddam sleuth,’ he said furiously.

Leiter watched him scrubbing at himself out of the corner of his eye. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked innocently. ‘I wasn’t for a moment suggesting the colour of your ears was anything but a natural red.

Hyphenating, huh? Interesting. The Winchell reference is of course to Walter Winchell, the famous American gossip columnist who must’ve used that phrase in describing various trysts about celebrities.

They are still laughing when they go into The Everglades, but the laughter quickly ends when they are told that the radio in the huge packing case that “could hardly fit through the door” is not allowed.


Live and Let Die Chapters 10 & 11

Bond is not spotted as he leaves the St Regis and heads to Penn Station to take the train to St Petersburg. However, as soon as he gets out of his cab and enters the station, he is seen and the incident reported. Fleming informs us that there is a last minute replacement of a waiter on the train, with the new man being given specific instructions. Bond is greeted by his Pullman Attendant, Samuel D Baldwin and is shown his compartment. Solitaire is already in the compartment.

She was in a black tailor-made. A wide-mesh veil came down from the rim of a small black straw hat. One gloved hand was up to her throat and through the veil Bond could see that her face was pale and her eyes were wide with fear. She looked rather French and very beautiful.

After a moment of awkwardness, (She kisses his good hand, causing him to frown) she wins him over by taking his pack of Chesterfields cigarettes, opening it, lighting a cigarette and placing it between his lips. He tells her that if she’s going to do that, she’ll be quite busy as he smokes three packs a day! She tells him that Mr Big knows he’s headed for Florida, and has called an operative there called “The Robber” to watch out for him. She explains how she got away from Mr Big that morning…she said she had a singing lesson. Bond orders them some lunch.

Bond ordered Old Fashioneds, and stipulated ‘Old Grandad’ Bourbon, chicken sandwiches, and decaffeined ‘Sanka’ coffee so that their sleep would not be spoilt.

Notice the “decaffeined” rather than “decaffeinated” I’ve seen ads for Sanka coffee from that time period which boast about having all the aroma, but not the “caffein”. They tease and flirt at little bit more throughout the afternoon, until Baldwin comes back and hints that he would like a moment with Bond alone. They get Solitaire next door, and Baldwin confides to Bond that he’s heard that there is someone on board the tree looking to do him in. He gives Bond some wedges to put under the door as a protection. After he leaves, Bond doesn’t reveal to Solitaire the nature of the comments, and they take a nap for the afternoon. Fleming ends the chapter telling us about a negro waiter making a report via Telegraph and sending it back during a 10 minute stop in Philadelphia.

As they approach North Carolina, it is nearing dinner time, and Bond orders several Dry Martinis. He looks at the menu, and decides nothing on there is suitable.

They argued over the menu. The fish was described as being ‘Made From Flaky Tender Boneless Filets’ and the chicken as ‘Delicious French Fried to a Golden Brown, Served Disjointed’. ‘Eyewash,’ said Bond, and they finally ordered scrambled eggs and bacon and sausages, a salad, and some of the domestic Camembert that is one of the most welcome surprises on American menus.

More scrambled eggs for Bond/Fleming. I learned something on this reading of the novel. I had always assumed that the “domestic Camembert” referred to some wine. However, it appears that Bond is referring to some cheese. I found a description of one such cheese made in Michigan: “This domestic camembert is a jewel of a cheese crafted in Michigan by a French cheesemaker. Its flavor is smooth and mushroomy with notes of garlic, and it beats the pants of the mediocre French camemberts now available for import to the U.S. Pair with a pinot noir or a bottle with gamay grapes. ”

I had no idea Bond enjoyed a good cheese in addition to his martini’s, cigarettes and wine.

Bond and Solitaire then have a talk about the power the Mr Big holds over the Negro people. She recalls some of her own history…Fleming’s vehicle for us to gain some insight into her…and how as a child she was given an awful drink that was supposed to protect her for the rest of her life.

Years later, she had found out about the Voodoo drink -a concoction of rum, gunpowder, grave-dirt and human blood. She almost retched as the taste came back to her mouth.

Yuck, indeed. She explains that Mr Big is considered Baron Samedi…the most dreadful spirit in the whole of voodooism. He is a zombie, but the only zombie that has control of his entire spirit. Bond asks why someone doesn’t kill him. Solitaire replies that you can’t kill him…he’s already dead.

After a few more minutes in this discussion, they face each other and begin to kiss. Passionately. Bond’s hand and the situation in which they are in prevent them from going any further, but it appears that they have an understanding that it is going to happen…eventually. She teases him a little more, knowing he can’t have her. He looks for a word to describe it, and she fills in with “Allumeuse”, which as far as I can tell means a sexual tease, or “alluring” tease in French. He puts her to bed in the top bunk, and he sits up, knowing that an attempt on them is likely to happen. He has made arrangements with Baldwin to secretly get off the train at 5:00 AM in Jacksonville. He’s going to stay awake until then. Around 1:00 he hears the door being tried. He sneaks around through the other compartment, hoping to catch the man, but he is to late. The person left them a note, however.

Oh Witch [he read] do not slay me,
Spare me. His is the body.
The divine drummer declares that
When he rises with the dawn
He will sound his drums for YOU in the morning
Very early, very early, very early, very early.
Oh Witch that slays the children of men before they are fully matured
Oh Witch that slays the children of men before they are fully matured
The divine drummer declares that
When he rises with the dawn
He will sound his drums for YOU in the morning
Very early, very early, very early, very early.
We are addressing YOU
And YOU will understand.

Bond lays down on his bed, waiting for daylight.

Heading South

Live and Let Die Chapter 9

Back in his hotel room, Bond pours himself a stiff drink of Haig and Haig with some ice. His finger is nearly black by this point. He picks up the phone and calls Leiter. They exchange details of their experiences, turns out Leiter actually made friends with one of his guardians by talking Jazz with him. They make preparations for dealing with the inevitable flak that will ensue from Bond’s adventures. Already Mr Big has complained to the police, claiming Bond went nuts and killed two chauffeurs and a waiter.

Bond needs to make a call back to London and in the 1950’s, an overseas call was a bit more complicated that it is today. He calls the Overseas Operator, and waits for the call back with the connection. After ten minutes, it rings.

He listened to the zing and echo on the line, the chatter of distant operators, the patches of Morse from aircraft and ships at sea, quickly suppressed. He could see the big, grey building near Regents Park and imagine the busy switchboard and the cups of tea and a girl saying, ‘Yes, this is Universal Export,’ the address Bond had asked for, one of the covers used by agents for emergency calls on open lines from abroad.

He finally gets through to “M” and they have a pretty amusing exchange in “code speak”. Bond acts like a salesman on assignment, noting that three of the customer’s men went sick, he got a little flu, that he and his secretary “Felicia” will be heading to “San Pedro” tomorrow. He pictures “M” translating the call on the other end to the Chief of Staff. This is Fleming’s way of telling us what Bond actually said.

Leiter calls back and gives Bond the arrangements for tomorrow.

Bond is to leave via Pennsylvania Station on “The Silver Phantom” to St. Petersburg. He’s been given a very luxurious compartment, and will leave at 10:30 in the morning. He’ll be in Florida by midday the next day. Leiter will be flying down via Eastern Airlines. (Remember them?) Bond is then attended to by the Police surgeon, who tells him his finger was a clean fracture and that it should heal in a few days. Huh? He had it snapped all the way back…a few days?

Bond then receives another phone call. He was expecting a rebuke from the police or FBI, but instead, the voice belongs to Solitaire. She is calling from a drugstore and begs Bond to help her get away from Mr Big. Bond is understandably suspicious, but decides to take a chance. He tells her to meet him at Pennsylvania Station and not to be seen. He wonders afterward if he has been foolish. He then orders a hearty breakfast.

‘Room Service, good morning,’ said the golden voice. ‘Breakfast, please,’ said Bond. ‘Pineapple juice, double. Cornflakes and cream. Shirred eggs with bacon. Double portion of Cafe Espresso. Toast and marmalade.’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ said the girl. She repeated the order. ‘Right away.’ ‘Thank you.’ ‘You’re welcome.’ Bond grinned to himself. ‘The condemned man made a hearty breakfast,’ he reflected.

Shirred eggs are eggs which are baked in individual dishes with a little bit of cream:

1) For each serving, lightly butter individual baking dish.

2) Break one or two eggs into each dish. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon milk or cream over eggs (spooning a liquid over the eggs can help prevent drying out).

3) Bake in a preheated 325° F oven approximately 12 to 14 minutes, depending on number of servings being baked. Check the eggs after about 10 minutes baking time. When done, the whites should be completely set and the yolks beginning to thicken but not hard.

So there you go. You can eat the same breakfast as James Bond.

The chapter ends back at Mr Big’s communications centre, where “Whisper” is giving out Bond’s description to all the “eyes” once again. Telling them to watch particularly the highways, airports and railroads.