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.
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”
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)