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.