The Quickness Of The Hand

Moonraker Chapter Seven

I don’t know the first thing about playing Bridge, yet this chapter by Ian Fleming detailing how James Bond sets up and knocks out Sir Hugo Drax at the bridge table at Blades is absolutely riveting.

You’ll recall that we ended the last chapter with Bond appearing to be very drunk and enticing Drax to play at the highest stakes ever seen at Blades. we open chapter seven with Drax’s partner, Meyer expressing his nervousness about being involved in such a high stakes game. However Drax harshly orders him to play his game, and the match is on. We see a marked change in Bond at that moment.

Bond lit a cigarette with hands that had suddenly become quite steady. His mind was clear. He knew exactly what he had to do, and when, and he was glad that the moment of decision had come.

He feels good karma in the crowd around him, he reflects on all the card battles that have gone on in this room for over a hundred years, and then the game gets off to a good start, with Bond getting a strong hand.

Bond allows himself to appear emboldened by the hand, causing Drax to raise the stakes even higher. Then the signal appears.

Across the table, M saw a white handkerchief materialize in Bond’s right hand. M’s eyes narrowed. Bond seemed to wipe his face with it. M saw him glance sharply at Drax and Meyer, then the handkerchief was back in his pocket.

It is Bond’s deal now, and he hands out the cards. Drax can hardly believe the hand before him. Bond has set the trap and enjoys watching his prey come to the bait. He then goes back into his “drunk” act, causing Drax to raise the stakes on the game one final time. In addition to the 15 & 15, there is also a side bet of 400 pounds per trick. Bond knows what is in Drax’s hand.

Bond had dealt them to him – in the Secretary’s room before dinner.

Basildon has come back to observe the game, and is startled at the stakes and also by the hands that he sees. This is what he observes as he walks around the table:

Diamonds – Queen, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Clubs – Ace, queen, 10, 8, 4

Spades – Ace, king, queen, knave
Hearts – Ace, king, queen, knave
Diamonds – Ace, king
Clubs – King, knave, 9

Spades – 10, 9, 8, 7
Hearts – 6, 5, 4, 3
Clubs – 7, 6, 5, 3, 2

Spades – 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Hearts – 10, 9, 8, 7, 2
Diamonds – Knave, 10, 9

Basildon sees that Bond has arranged a lay down Grand Slam against any defense. His thought:

It was sheer murder.

Drax still has no clue and impatiently orders Meyer to put something down and get started. Basildon reflects that in 10 minutes Drax will wish that Meyer had died in his chair before he could put anything down. Piece by piece the game goes down just as Bond had planned out. Then a great section of the book follows.

Morphy, the great chess player, had a terrible habit. He would never raise his eyes from the game until he knew his opponent could not escape defeat. Then he would slowly lift his great head and gaze curiously at the man across the board. His opponent would feel the gaze and would slowly, humbly raise his eyes to meet Morphy’s. At that moment he would know it was no good continuing the game. The eyes of Morphy said so. There was nothing left but surrender.

Now, like Morphy, Bond lifted his head and looked straight into Drax’s eyes. Then he slowly drew out the queen of diamonds and placed it on the table. Without waiting for Meyer to play he followed it, deliberately, with the 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and the two winning clubs.

Then he spoke. ‘That’s all, Drax,’ he said quietly, and sat back slowly in his chair.

The rage wells up in Drax, as he starts to accuse Bond of cheating. Basildon stops him and orders him to settle up. He owes Bond over 15,000 pounds. Bond notes a look of “contemptuous triumph” in Drax’s good eye, which he finds curiously disturbing.

Before Drax departs, he advises Bond to spend the money quickly.

This is the end of Part I of Moonraker. Just a couple side notes from the reading:

Mahomet Ali Club = The Mohammed Ali club in Cairo.

“Morphy, the great chess player” = Paul Morphy.

Cards With A Stranger

Moonraker Chapter Six

It’s been six months since I’ve updated you on James’ adventure with Sir Hugo Drax and the Moonraker. A lot has happened here which has kept me from properly updating this page. To start with, I got married in May, and the preparation for that event and the adjustments afterwards ate up a lot of my free time. I hope to get back on a regular post schedule here soon.

Bond and M are set to start their Bridge match with Sir Hugo Drax and his playing partner Meyer at Blades. The stakes are set right off the bat as Drax asks M if Bond knows what he is in for, and then suggests stakes of One and One. Bond, feeling the effects of the Benzedrine reacts by suggesting Five and Five – Drax’s known limit, and an amount that could double Bond’s yearly income in just four rubbers.

The Moonraker was quickly forgotten as the game became a private affair between Bond and Drax. Bond settles in with his cheroot and strong black coffee, after which he has a fat measure of pale brandy. He smiles at the taste of it. M takes note of the smile.

‘Hope you like it,’ he said. ‘Comes from one of the Rothschild estates at Cognac. About a hundred years ago one of the family bequeathed us a barrel of it every year in perpetuity. During the war they hid a barrel for us every year and then sent us over the whole lot in 1945. Ever since then we’ve been drinking doubles. And,’ he gathered up his cards, ‘now we shall have to concentrate.’

Bond and M take the first rubber, Bond notes that Drax suggests that they don’t cut, but instead go straight on, meaning that he gets to deal again. Drax manages this time to pull off an improbable pair of finesses, which have his partner, Meyer asking in wonderment how he does it. Bond decides to start the needle. “Memory” he chimes in. It prickles Drax, until Bond placates him by adding “and card sense”. Still, Bond has planted a seed in Drax’s head.

M orders Bond another bottle of champagne, and Bond starts to play the role of the careless drunk, taking on Drax’s bet of an additional hundred on this hand. Bond suggests the do the same for the next as well. Bond loses the hand, takes another glass of champagne and bets another hundred on the next two hands, which he loses. He’s nearly 1500 pounds in the hole at this point, and acting very shaky. Bond and M make a little comeback, and then Bond announces that the next rubber will have to be his last.

Drax examines Bond:

He looked up from his score-sheet at Bond. He noticed the signs of intoxication. The moist forehead, the black comma of hair that hung untidily over the right eyebrow, the sheen of alcohol in the grey-blue eyes.

Drax figures that he can take advantage of Bond’s state and suggests they treble the stakes on the final rubber, making this one fifteen and fifteen. Bond may appear out of control, but we know better.

Bond looked up at him. He paused before answering. He wanted Drax to remember every detail of this last rubber, every word that had been spoken, every gesture.

He accepts Drax’s terms and we move onto the next chapter.

Some notes and additional research on things mentioned in the chapter:

Rothschild Estates – Family land of Philippe de Rothschild. Though I couldn’t find anything on Cognac or Brandy being produced there, this section of the entry corresponds with Fleming’s note about the effect the war had on the estate:

The outbreak of World War II had serious consequences for the entire Rothschild family, who were Jewish. Following the German occupation of France, Philippe de Rothschild’s parents fled to the safety of Lausanne, Switzerland and the Paris mansion where they lived became the headquarters for the German Naval Command.

Although he was called up to serve in the French Air Force, the quick fall of France resulted in Philippe being arrested by the Vichy government and the vineyard property seized. Escaping, Philippe de Rothschild made his way to England where he joined the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle, earning a Croix de Guerre medal.

Philippe’s wife Lili never believed any harm would come to her because she was from an old French family. On his return to France following the Allies liberation, Philippe de Rothschild learned that although his daughter was safe, the Gestapo had deported his estranged wife to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where on 23 March 1945, she was executed.

Devastated, Rothschild had to deal with problems at his vineyard as well. The departing German army had done considerable damage to Chateau Mouton Rothschild and the property was in need of considerable repair. Together with dedicated employees, he put his energy into restoring the vineyard and by the early 1950s was once again producing excellent wines.

“Dutch Courage” = “liquid courage”

More on Rubber Bridge

Battersea snuff-boxes (Meyer is a collector): Type of painted enamelware considered the finest of its kind to be produced in England during the mid-18th century. It is especially noted for the high quality of its transfer printing. Battersea ware was made at York House in Battersea, a district in London, by Stephen Theodore Janssen between 1753 and 1756.

Dinner At Blades

Moonraker Chapter Five

I call this “The food chapter”. Might be my favorite in the whole book.

At eight o’clock James Bond and M head into the “beautiful white and gold Regency dining-room of Blades.” They’re given menus, but M tells Bond that he can order anything he likes without having to consult the menu. M orders first.

‘Any of that Beluga caviar left, Porterfield?’

‘Yes sir. There was a new delivery last week.’

‘Well,’ said M. ‘Caviar for me. Devilled kidney and a slice of your excellent bacon. Peas and new potatoes. Strawberries in kirsch. What about you, James?’

‘I’ve got a mania for really good smoked salmon,’ said Bond.
Then he pointed down the menu. ‘Lamb cutlets. The same vegetables as you, as it’s May. Asparagus with Béarnaise sauce sounds wonderful. And perhaps a slice of pineapple.’

In between all that food, we learn that it is May. If we’re in 1952 as some sources claim, then the calendar looks like what we see to the left. Today is Monday, so it’s either the 5th, 12th, 19th or 26th. A site referenced in an earlier entry places today as the 26th. As we go along further, we’ll try to pick up further clues.

But the food…Devilled Kidney? The steward, who obviously knows M, makes a further suggestion.

‘You wouldn’t care for a marrow bone after the strawberries, sir? We got half a dozen in today from the country and I ‘d specially kept one in case you came in.’

Marrow bone…I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, though they are supposed to be a delicacy.

Now for the drinks. The steward turns to the wine-waiter.

‘Ah Grimley, some vodka, please.’ He turned to Bond. ‘Not the stuff you had in your cocktail. This is real pre-war Wolfschmidt from Riga. Like some with your smoked salmon?’

‘Very much,’ said Bond.

‘Then what?’ asked M. ‘Champagne? Personally I’m going to have a half-bottle of claret. The Mouton Rothschild ‘34, please Grimley. But don’t pay any attention to me, James. I’m an old man. Champagne’s no good for me. We’ve got some good champagnes, haven’t we Grimley? None of that stuff you’re always telling me about I’m afraid, James. Don’t often see it in England. Taittinger, wasn’t it?’

Bond agrees that he would like champagne tonight. He asks for a suggestion, and is pointed towards the Dom Perignon ‘46.

After the champagne;

A waitress appeared and put racks of fresh toast on the table and silver dish of Jersey butter. As she bent over the table, her black skirt brushed Bond’s arm and he looked up into two pert, sparkling eyes under a soft fringe of hair. The eyes held his for a fraction of a second and then she whisked away.

There’s our James.

‘It’s a trick the Russians taught me that time you attached me to the Embassy in Moscow,’ apologized Bond. ‘There’s often quite a lot of fusel oil on the surface of this stuff –at least there used to be when it was badly distilled. Poisonous. In Russia, where you get a lot of bath-tub liquor, it’s an understood thing to sprinkle a little pepper in your glass. It takes the fusel oil to the bottom. I got to like the taste and now it’s a habit. But I shouldn’t have insulted the club Wolfschmidt,’ he added with a grin.

As they are talking they hear the bray of Drax’s laughter from the far end of the room. M asks Bond what he thinks of Drax. Before answering, Bond has some more of their meal.

Bond helped himself to another slice of smoked salmon from the silver dish beside him. It had the delicate glutinous texture only achieved by Highland curers — very different from the desiccated products of Scandinavia. He rolled a wafer-thin slice of brown bread-and-butter into a cylinder and contemplated it thoughtfully.

Bond believes Drax to be a bit of a bully with a crooked streak in him, regardless of what he is going for England at the moment. Bond then tips some Benzedrine into his champagne, as he explains to M, it will help him keep his wits about him that night, and perhaps make him a bit overconfident, which he thinks will help with his plan.

Bond looks around the room, observing the paintings and other details. As he does so, Drax approaches the table along with Meyer, talking a little trash. M gets a good line in response to Drax: ‘You go along and stack the cards.’ After leave, M asks Bond if there is a need for any final plans. Bond explains that they will be trying to play a normal game, but requests to sit on Drax’s left. He then gives this final word:

‘When the time comes, I shall take a white handkerchief out of my coat pocket. That will mean you are about to be dealt a Yarborough. Would you please leave the bidding of that hand to me?’

Terms and references from the reading:

Beluga Caviar

Strawberries with kirsch

Béarnaise Sauce – with recipe!

Pics of Roasted Marrow Bones

Mouton Rothschild claret wine

Taittinger Champagne

Desiccated= Dried

Benzedrine – A drug with a euphoric stimulant effect.

Mrs Fitzherbert by Romney.

Yarborough, a hand in the game of Contract bridge which contains no ten, jack, queen, king, or ace cards.

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)

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.