The Undertaker’s Wind

Live and Let Die Chapter 17

Paw-paw with a slice of green lime, a dish piled with red bananas, purple star-apples and tangerines, scrambled eggs and bacon, Blue Mountain coffee – the most delicious in the world – Jamaican marmalade, almost black, and guava jelly.

As Bond, wearing shorts and sandals, had his breakfast on the veranda and gazed down on the sunlit panorama of Kingston and Port Royal, he thought how lucky he was and what wonderful moments of consolation there were for the darkness and danger of his profession.

James Bond is in Jamaica to put an end to the activities of Mr Big. He has a week or so to wait until the Secatur comes back to the island, so he is going to get in some serious training, while at the same time allowing his hand to heal. Bond is introduced to Quarell, who will be his guide and fitness trainer on this mission. The Quarell of this novel and of Dr No bears little resemblance to the Quarell as portrayed by John Kitzmiller in the movie version of the latter book. This Quarell has “the blood of Cronwellian soldiers and buccaneers in him and his face was strong and angular and his mouth was almost severe. His eyes were grey. It was only the spatulate nose and pale palms of his hands that were negroid.” He refers to Bond as “Cap’n” – the highest title he knows.

As they drive to the other end of Jamaica, Quarrel points out the sights of the Island. I tried to use Google Maps to follow the path they took, and could, for the most part, but my efforts to get an outline to post on here was unsuccessful. They go through Castleton, Agualta Vale, Port Maria, Shark Bay, Oracabessa, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay before arriving at their secret destination. Once there, Quarrel makes preparations while Bond goes for a swim. As the sun sets, Quarrel makes reference to the “Undertaker’s Wind”

‘On-and-off shore breeze de sailors call it,’ said Quarrel. ‘De Undertaker blow de bad air out of de Island nighttimes from six. till six. Then every morning de “Doctor’s Wind” come and blow de sweet air in from de sea. Leastwise dat’s what we calls dem in Jamaica.’

Quarrel looked quizzically at Bond.

‘Guess you and de Undertaker’s Wind got much de same job, Cap’n,’ he said half-seriously.

Bond laughed shortly. ‘Glad I don’t have to keep the same hours,’ he said.

Quarrel makes dinner while Bond starts his reading of books on the tropical seas, works by Jacques Cousteau among others. He wants to learn up on all that he might encounter in these waters while completing his mission. What he reads gives him nightmares.

The next day his training routine begins, it consists of running, swimming, rowing a canoe and underwater hunting. They shoot a barracuda that is hanging around, and it comes after them, Bond swings his spear just as the fish is about get Quarrel. The spear ends up between the jaws of the fish, and after killing it, they have to twist the spear out of its jaws and find bright deep scratches in the metal of the spear. That was about the extent of the excitement of the week, and by the time the end of the weeks arrives, Bond is suntanned, in shape, and down to 10 cigarettes a day and hasn’t had a drink in a week.

He gets an update on Leiter from Strangways after they return to their rest-house. The CIA man has lost and arm and a leg, and has been having plastic surgery to rebuild his face. Bond also receives the news that the Secatur will be at the Isle of Surprise tomorrow, and that Solitaire is on board.

Never before in his life had there been so much to play for. The secret of the treasure, the defeat of a great criminal, the smashing of a Communist spy ring, and the destruction of a tentacle of SMERSH, the cruel machine that was his own private target. And now Solitaire, the ultimate personal prize.

One comment

  1. John D · July 29, 2005

    Another great description of the pleasures of breakfast, this time a Jamaican one. I always enjoyed that Fleming touch.


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