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.
Fleming apparently situated Bond’s flat in Wellington Square, off King’s Road in Chelsea, London. It’s the only such square that fits the description of a square off King’s rd. having plane trees.
I visited the square during a visit to London, and the description fits. Fleming must have made notes about it while strolling around the neighborhood. In my mind’s eye, I enjoyed imagining Bond leaving his ground floor flat, getting into his Bentley and roaring up the King’s Road and through Hyde Park up to work.