The Columbite King

Moonraker Chapter Two

James Bond heads up to the ninth floor of the building, where M’s offices are. He goes into the last room down the hall and is greeted by Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny, M’s private secretary, looked up from her typewriter and smiled at him. They liked each other and she knew that Bond admired her looks. She was wearing the same model shirt as his own secretary, but with blue stripes.

The Chief of Staff comes out of M’s office, and arranges to have lunch with Bond after his meeting with M. After Bond goes in, the Chief of Staff tells Moneypenny that he doesn’t believe that the summons is business – an assignment.

As Bond enters the office, M is lighting his pipe…a ritual that seems to be taking place whenever Bond is in there. Bond is questioned about the leave he just recently returned from – rest and recovery after the adventures of Live and Let Die. M notes that Bond still has his sunburn, adding that he always distrusts sunburned men in England. They either don’t have a job, or use a lamp. He mentions that it looks like they will end up with at least some of the gold recovered from Mr Big’s operation, they may still have to go to Hague court (see below) but M seems confident.

There is a short period of silence in the room, and Bond feels it. He actually gets the impression that M is embarrassed about something. After calling him “James” – something he rarely does – the old man finally breaks the silence by telling Bond he’s got something on a personal level he’d like him to help with.

‘Of course, sir,’ said Bond. He was relieved for M’s sake that the ice had been broken. Probably one of the old man’s relations had gotten in trouble and M didn’t want to ask a favour of Scotland Yard. Blackmail, perhaps. Or drugs. He was pleased that M should have chosen him. Of course he would take care of it. M was such a stickler about Government property and personnel. Using Bond on a personal matter must have seemed to him like stealing the Government’s money.

Bond is thus surprised when M next asks him what he knows about Sir Hugo Drax. Bond thinks for a moment and starts to tell what he knows. The man has become a national hero “much the same class as Jack Hobbs or Gordon Richards” (see below) he’s “sort of a Lonsdale figure”. As Bond is gushing about this man, he notices M’s eyes getting chillier. He continues. He relates what is known about Drax’s background.

Hugo Drax was apparently involved in the fighting in the Ardennes (see below) during the war, and was injured. was disfigured and lost his memory. In the weeks following his injury, officials were unable to identify him. They across the name of Hugo Drax, an orphan who was in the fighting, and the description seems to fit. After some more time, he is given the identity of Drax and a full pension.

After the way, he disappeared for some time, but started making a name for himself while making huge investments and trades in various precious metals, including basically cornering the market on Columbite. (see below) Drax suddenly burst onto the national scene when he offered to pay out of his own pocket for a rocket defense system which would keep London safe from any further conflicts. The offer went through the House and was approved by the Prime Minister. Newspaper headlines lauded Drax, noting that he could be responsible for “Peace in our Time – This Time”.

M then comments.

‘That’s about it,’ he said slowly. “I don’t know much more than you do. A wonderful story. Extraordinary man.’ He paused, reflecting. ‘There’s only one thing…” M tapped the stem of his pipe against his teeth.

‘What’s that, sir?’ asked Bond.

M seemed to make up his mind. He looked mildly across at Bond.

‘Sir Hugo Drax cheats at cards.

Terms and references from this chapter of Moonraker:

Hague Court – International Court of Justice

Sir Jack Hobbs – One of the greatest cricketers in England’s history.

Sir Gordon Richards – Racing’s greatest jockey?

Drax referred to as “sort of a Lonsdale figure” What does this mean? The “5th Earl of Lonsdale, was a wealthy British aristocrat and a colorful sporting figure in Victorian England”. Interestingly, when “Moonraker” was made in a motion picture in 1979, Drax was played by actor Michael Lonsdale.

“German breakthrough in the Ardennes” AKA The Battle of the Bulge.


Woomera Range – South Australia

Secret Paper-Work

Moonraker Chapter One

The two thirty-eights roared simultaneously.

The walls of the underground room took the crash of sound and batted it to and fro between them until there was silence. James Bond watched the smoke being sucked from each end of the room towards the central Ventaxia fan. The memory in his right hand of how he had drawn and fired with one sweep from the left made him confident. He broke the chamber sideways out of the Colt Detective Special and waited, his gun pointing at the floor, while the Instructor walked the twenty yards towards him through the half-light of the gallery.

Thusly, we’re launched into Moonraker, the third James Bond novel from Ian Fleming. Bond is in London, in the basement of his headquarters building in London. Bond is getting his weekly shooting workout under the eye of the range instructor. The setup there has a target that “shoots” back a beam of light onto a photo of the shooter, thus showing what would have happened in a gun battle. The instructor secretly knows that Bond is the best shot in the service, but of course isn’t allowed to tell Bond that. He does encourage him to enter the competition for the Dewar Trophy (see below).

Once Bond is done, he heads up to the eighth floor of the building which houses his office. We saw a very little glimpse of office life back in Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, but now we’re getting a much better view. I can picture the color of the 1950’s “Ministry-of-Works-green corridor” and the girls carrying files and phones ringing. We also get our first view of his secretary – Loelia Ponsonby. She is actually the shared secretary among the three members of the OO Section. She is “tall and dark with a reserved, unbroken beauty”, “dressed in a sugar-pink and white striped shirt and plain dark blue skirt.” Bond reflects that she needs to get married soon, or else risk becoming a spinster, married to the Service. We also learn that there are two other OO agents. 008, called Bill by Bond, and 0011, who is not named. Both of the others are out on missions. Once Bond gets the updates, he settles into his desk, lighting up one of his special cigarettes “one of the Macedonian blend with three gold rings round the butt that Morlands of Grosvenor Street made for him” and begins to read.

It was the beginning of a typical routine day for Bond. It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring his particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going senior civil servant – elastic office hours from around ten to six; lunch, generally in the canteen; evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends, or at Crockford’s; or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women; week-ends playing golf for high stakes at one of the clubs near London.

We learn of Bond’s financial situation, he clears about 2000 pounds at year net between his salary and his own money. He has a flat, off of King’s road, with a housekeeper, May, and his 19304 1/2-litre Bentley coupe.

On these things he spent all his money and it was his ambition to have as little as possible in his banking account when he was killed, as, when he was depressed, he knew he would be, before the statutory age of forty-five.

Eight years to go before he was automatically taken off the 00 list and given a staff job at Headquarters. At least eight tough assignments. Probably sixteen. Perhaps twenty-four. Too many.

A little bit of reflection here from Bond, as he comtemplates his future, fate, life and death. I find it interesting that Bond will be taken off the list at the age of 45. He then notes that he has eight years to go. This would make him currently 37 years old. If the events in the book take place in 1952, as Walter von Tagen III asserts, then this would place Bond’s year of birth as 1915. (That same Tagen page puts Bond’s birth as being in 1924 – by that calculation, James Bond is 28 during the events of Moonraker) So what are we to believe? Casino Royale tells us that Bond bought his Bentley in 1933, which if he was born in 1915 would have made him 18 at that time, if he was born in 1924, he’d only be 9. However, I think a later Fleming book further confuses the issue of Bond’s age, so this is probably all moot. As Bond is reflecting…

While he waited for it, he thought of those other times, when, in the middle of an empty day, the red telephone had suddenly broken the silence and taken him out of one world and set him down in another. He shrugged his shoulders – Monday! He might have expected trouble.

…and he is off to M’s office.

Terms used:


Dewar Trophy



I expect to start the chapter by chapter review and analysis of Moonraker very soon.

I really enjoy this novel, as I believe it contains some of Ian Fleming’s finest descriptive scenes when it comes to food, action, and life in 1950’s England. Yes, James Bond stays at home in this adventure, which takes place in the course of one week.

The book was published in 1955, however it appears the events of the book take place a mere three months following the adventures of Live and Let Die. It is now the month of May of that same year. Walter von Tagen III puts the year as 1952. I had previously listed the events of Casino Royale as having taken place in 1953, so apparently I’m a bit off in my timetable. I’ll try to be more specific of the dates as I go in detail through the book.

James Bond has been in the news quite a bit as of late, and I’ve provided the headlines in the post below as a tool for you to be able to keep up with the latest surrounding the film version of Casino Royale, which is due out a year from now. The headlines automatically update as new stories are being published, so they’re always up to date. I think I’m going to try to keep them at the end of each new post until I can figure out a way to have nice, neat headlines publish either in the sidebar or perhaps up above.