The ‘Shiner’

Moonraker Chapter Four

James Bond enters Blades, and is greeted by Brevett, who is described by Fleming as “the guardian of Blades and the counsellor and family friend of half the members.” Bond is escorted indoors to where M is waiting. M is playing patience (see below) when Bond comes in, and the agent sits down to watch his boss finish up. While he is watching, he reflects.

‘Admiral Sir M—M—-: something at the Ministry of Defense.’ M looked like any member of any of the clubs in St James’s Street. Dark grey suit, stiff white collar, the favourite dark blue bow-tie with spots, rather loosely tied, the thin black cord of the rimless eyeglass that M seemed only to use to read menus, the keen sailor’s face with the clear, sharp sailor’s eyes. It was difficult to believe that an hour before he had been playing with a thousand live chessmen against the enemies of England; that there might be, this evening, fresh blood on his hands, or a successful burglary or the hideous knowledge of a disgusting blackmail case.

Hmmm…a clue to M’s real name. (Which isn’t revealed until much later in the series. At this rate we’ll get to it in…oh, 2011) Bond then reflects on what people might think of him, and references several 1950’s British military incidents (see below). Bond accepts that there is something un-English about himself.

Bond and M play a little piquet, and M wins three pounds off of Bond. They have a drink while playing, M opting for the whiskey and soda, while Bond has “a dry martini…made with Vodka. Large slice of lemon peel”. Afterwards, they decide to go look for Basildon, Chairman of Blades, who is playing Sir Hugo Drax at Bridge. They find them at “the last table beneath the fine Lawrence of Beau Brummel over the wide Adam fireplace”.

James Bond watches the game for a while, taking in as many details as he can, both about Drax and his style of play. The details that Bond/Fleming provide us about Drax and his appearance are not pretty. In many ways the man is hideous, after having had his face rebuilt, and Drax covers up as much as he can with facial hair and by being boisterous. Bond concludes:

A bullying, boorish loud-mouthed vulgarian. That wouldhave been Bond’s verdict if he had not known something of Drax’s abilities. As it was, it crossed his mind that much of the effect might be Drax’s idea of a latter-day Regency buck — the harmless disguise of a man with a smashed face who was also a snob.

Bond continues to watch the game as it again becomes Drax’s turn to deal.

Bond’s eyes were glued to the bent head and slowly moving hands of the dealer. Yes, that was it! Got you, you bastard. A Shiner. A simple, bloody Shiner that wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a pro’s game. M saw the glint of assurance in Bond’s eye as they met across the table.

They make arrangements to play after dinner and M and Bond take their leave. When they leave the room Bond explains that Drax is using his shiny steel cigarette case as a mirror, viewing the cards as he deals them out. Basildon joins them, and Bond explains it to him, as well. Basildon is angered, but also chilled by his responsibility. Drax has cheated many out of thousands of pounds, but is also a public figure and a scandal could damage the Moonraker project.

Bond suggests another solution. Playing Drax and showing him that he has been spotted, and then to “flay the hide off him at his own game”. Basildon and M give their approval. M only consents as long as Bond doesn’t ask him to “palm any cards or anything of that sort.”

‘No,’ said Bond. He put his hands in his coat pockets and touched the two silk handkerchiefs. ‘And I think it should work. All I need is a couple of packs of used cards, one of each colour, and ten minutes in here alone.’

Notes from the reading:

M sitting by himself playing patience” M is playing the game known in the USA as Solitaire.

I haven’t cracked this man Canfield for months“. – Richard Canfield is credited with inventing the game of Solitaire, or Patience. He was a casino owner in Saratoga Springs around the turn of the 20th century.

May have been attached to Templer in Malaya.” – Gerald Templer

Mau Mau


“the fine Lawrence of Beau Brummel over the wide Adam fireplace”

“plain gold Patek Philippe watch with a black leather strap” (worn by Drax)

‘Belly Strippers’, etc

Moonraker Chapter Three

M has just dropped the bombshell that the man considered the savior of England, Sir Hugo Drax, cheats at cards. James Bond is momentarily quizzical, but then says it really isn’t all that uncommon. He just doesn’t understand why he’s doing it. M says that that is the very point. Why does he do it? He explains that no one is on to him yet except the Chairman of Blades, M’s club He’s not even 100% sure, but Drax has won so much that it’s starting to garner attention

Bond has experience with card playing…his assignment in Casino Royale revolved around a card game, and has received training in cardsharping. He asks Bond if he will come to the club for dinner tonight and take a look at Drax. They agree on a time, and Bond leaves M’s office. He’s missed his lunch with the Chief of Staff and heads down to the officers’ canteen.

Bond sat by himself and ate a grilled sole, a large mixed salad with his own dressing laced with mustard, some Brie cheese and toast, and half a carafe of white Bordeaux. He had two cups of black coffee and was back in his office by three.

Pretty nice lunch…especially for the company cafeteria. Where does he work, Google? Half a carafe of wine…at lunch…on a government job. Times certainly have changed. By 4:30, Bond is collecting his car from the staff garage (their own mechanics there too! Another perk.) and heading home to prepare for his night.

With the help of Scarne on Cards (see below) He spends some time going over card methods.

For half an hour as he ran quickly through the section on Methods, he practised the vital Mechanic’s Grip (three fingers curled round the long edge of the cards, and the index finger at the short upper edge away from him), Palming and Nullifying the Cut. His hands worked automatically at these basic manoeuvres , while his eyes read, and he was glad to find that his fingers were supple and assured and that there was no noise from the cards even with the very difficult singlehanded Annulment.

He is done by 5:30, when he puts the book down, grabs a couple handkerchiefs, puts them in his pockets and sits down to smoke a cigarette before heading to Blades.

He reflects on the history of Blades, and in this section Fleming does a good job mixing real history with fiction. He uses real historical figures, and attributes to them references to the club. Fleming was really describing the St James street private club Boodles here. (Pictured in this post) Of Boodles, the Regency Collection (see below) says

28 St James’s Street, est 1762 The club-house was designed by Holland and frequented by Charles Fox and the 5th Duke of Devonshire. It was first known as the Savoir Faire

Fleming says Blades had its start with a club by the name of Scavoir Vivre. He tells us that the waitresses are unmatched in their beauty and even know to be “persuaded to stray into one of the twelve members’ bedrooms at the back of the club”. Still, the club is extremely exclusive (200 members) and expensive.

As Bond/Fleming is going over all of this, his attention is drawn to a flashing neon sign. He actually has to stop his car, and get out and take another look. It’s simply a gas station sign, (SUMMER SHELL IS HERE) but in the view Bond had, he saw, flashing…’HELL IS HERE…HELL IS HERE…HELL IS HERE.’

And the chapter ends.

References and notes from the reading:

Tranby Croft all over again. – Card cheating scandal from 1890 involving William Gordon-Cumming – a friend of the future King of England, Edward VII.

Scarne on Cards

Belly Strippers – A deck marked by shaving the sides of some cards (making the middles narrower than the ends) so that a thief can tell by feel the values of certain cards, usually certain high or low cards, such as the aces.

“white and gold Cole wallpaper (In Bond’s flat)

Boodles – the real Blades.

“in 1778 ‘Blades’ first occurs in a letter from Gibbon, the historian

The Jockey Club at Newmarket

Boris – soaps and lotions in the lavatories and bedrooms of Blades.

Ladbroke’s – An off-track betting shop with multiple locations around London.

Regency Collection site. (reference to Boodles)