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)