The Traveller’s Tree

When James Bond is preparing to take on the case of Mr Big in Live and Let Die, he refers to this book by Patrick Leigh Fermor for some background on voodoo and Baron Samedi.

travellers-tree

The Traveller’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands

The book is recommended to Bond by M, who says:

‘It’s by a chap who knows what he’s talking about,’ he said, ‘and don’t forget that he was writing about what was happening in Haiti in 1950. This isn’t medieval black-magic stuff. It’s being practised every day.’

Fleming then quotes several pages of the book, which detail various rituals.

A recent biography of Fermor – Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure – notes that Fermor, who live until the age of 96 and died in 2011, was at least an acquaintance of Ian Fleming having visited Goldeneye with Fleming and wife Ann on a couple of occasions.

While in Jamaica Paddy, Joan and Costa spent a day at Goldeneye, as guests of Commander Ian Fleming and his not-yet wife, Ann Rothermore, whom Paddy had met through Emerald Cunard. Although Ann and Fleming had been lovers for years and she was about to leave her husband Esmond Rothermore for him, the proprieties had to be observed. Ann was making her first visit to Goldeneye chaperoned by Loelia, Duchess of Westminster.

The house was modest, Spartan, surrounded by trees on all sides except where two great glassless windows looked out over the sea. Loelia was swimming languidly when they arrived, while according to Ann, Ian had not yet emerged from the study where he spent his mornings on the typewriter ‘bashing away at a thriller.’ This was his very first Bond book, Casino Royale. When he emerged from his study Paddy described Fleming as having ‘a strong sneering face, but not a sneering character.’ Much later Ian Fleming was to borrow heavily from Paddy’s description of Voodoo in The Traveller’s Tree for another Bond novel, Live and Let Die.

 

Blackbeard’s Treasure on Plum Point NC

One of the main plotlines of Live and Let Die is about treasure coins suddenly flooding the market, and being used to pay for criminal activities.

When James Bond is receiving his briefing from M on the case, the chief tells of a tale about some of the treasure of the Pirate Blackbeard:

‘This Blackbeard story would stand up to most investigations,’ continued M, ‘because there is reason to believe that part of his hoard was dug up around Christmas Day, 1928, at a place called Plum Point. It’s a narrow neck of land in Beaufort County, North Carolina, where a stream called Bath Creek flows into the Pamlico River. Don’t think I’m an expert,’ he smiled, ‘you can read all about this in the dossier. So, in theory, it would be quite reasonable for those lucky treasure-hunters to have hidden the loot until everyone had forgotten the story and then thrown it fast on the market.

Fleming obviously had read about this story and it stuck with him enough to include it in this novel. Notice the wording of this 1936 newspaper account:

This treasure was found buried in the sand at Plum Point, a narrow neck of land in North Carolina, U.S.A., where Bath Creek flows into the Pamlico River.

It seems plausible that Fleming read that very account!

For more on the location and legend of Blackbeard – Historic Bath: Blackbeard the Pirate

Here is Plum Point (The little point jutting out on the right side of the river.):


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Buick With Dynaflow Gears

In Live and Let Die, when Bond is collected at Idewild airport and shuttled to the St Regis, Agent Halloran takes him in a car which is described this way:

Directly outside a black Buick waited, its engine sighing quietly. They climbed in. Bond’s two light suitcases were in front next to the driver. Bond couldn’t imagine how they had been extracted from the mound of passenger’s luggage he had seen only minutes before being trolleyed over to Customs.

‘Okay Grady, let’s go.’

Bond sank back luxuriously as the big limousine surged forward, slipping quickly into top through the Dynaflow gears.

Like the Amherst-Villiers supercharger, Fleming enjoys referring to automobile technology of the day.

dynaflow

The Dynaflow was an automatic transmission that was in use by Buick from about 1947-1963.

From Wikipedia:

The Dynaflow initially used a five-element torque converter, with two turbines and two stators, as well as a planetary gearset that provided two forward speeds plus reverse. In normal driving, Dynaflow started in high gear (direct drive), relying on the converter’s 2.1:1 torque multiplication to accelerate the vehicle. Low gear, obtained via the planetary gearset, could be manually engaged and held up to approximately 60 mph (97 km/h), improving acceleration. The transmission was incapable of automatic shifting, requiring the driver to move the shift lever from low to drive to cause an upshift. Buicks equipped with the Dynaflow transmissions were unique among American automobiles of the time in that the driver or his/her passengers would not detect the tell-tale interruption in acceleration that resulted when other automatic transmissions of the time shifted through their gears. Acceleration through a Dynaflow was one smooth (if inefficient and slow experience. It was because of this slow acceleration that the Dynaflow transmission was nicknamed “Dynaslush.”

The car in which Halloran picked up James Bond at the airport may have looked similar to this 1952 Buick Series 40 Special Deluxe:

1952-buick-special-4-door-tourback-sedan

 

This 1951 Buick Eight is another possibility:

Buick_Eight_1951

St Regis Hotel

In the New York portion of Live and Let Die, James Bond spends his nights at the St Regis, a hotel built by John Jacob Astor IV as a companion to the Waldorf-Astoria. The hotel opened in 1904.

They drew up at the best hotel in New York, the St Regis, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street.

st-regis-new-york-exterior

 Dexter unlocked the door of No. 2100 and shut it behind them. They were in a small lighted lobby. They left their hats and coats on a chair and Dexter opened the door in front of them and held it for Bond to go through.

He walked into an attractive sitting-room decorated in Third Avenue ‘Empire’ – comfortable chairs and a broad sofa in pale yellow silk, a fair copy of an Aubusson on the floor, pale grey walls and ceiling, a bow-fronted French sideboard with bottles and glasses and a plated ice-bucket, a wide window through which the winter sun poured out of a Swiss-clear sky. The central heating was just bearable.

The communicating door with the bedroom opened.

As noted by John Griswold, the St Regis only has 20 floors. (So his room should’ve been 2000) He notes that Fleming meant to place Bond on the top floor of the hotel, and the confusion may have arisen in the different between the British and American methods of floor counting. The second story is considered to be the first floor for buildings in England.

Bond is then reunited with Felix Leiter.

Before their trek out to Harlem, Bond and Leiter arrange to meet in the King Cole Bar on the ground floor. This LIFE magazine ad from the 1950’s captures how the bar looked at that time:

kc-st-regis

When Bond leaves the hotel for the last time in the story, he does not go out the main entrance. Seeking to avoid being spotted, Bond “came out of the entrance of the St Regis drugstore, on 55th street which has a connecting door to the hotel.”

In the short story 007 In New York, (1963) the St Regis casually mentioned – As for the hotels, they too had gone – the Ritz Carlton, the St Regis that had died with Michael Arlen.

Arlen was an acquaintance and influence on Fleming – he mentioned him in a Author’s note on Live and Let Die that “Michael Arlen told me to write my second book before I had seen the reviews of the first & this was written in January & February 1953 at Goldeneye, Jamaica.”

Arlen was practically a full-time resident of the St Regis, and had died in 1956. It appears that to Fleming, a large part of the St Regis died with him.

An ad for the hotel from 1953 – the year Live and Let Die was written:

st-regis-ad

 

Old Grandad Bourbon

On several occasions during Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming has James Bond drinking “Old Grandad” bourbon.

On the train with Solitaire:

Bond ordered Old Fashioneds, and stipulated ‘Old Grandad’ Bourbon, chicken sandwiches, and decaffeined ‘Sanka’ coffee so that their sleep would not be spoilt.

Before his encounter with The Robber:

He drank a quarter of a pint of Old Grandad with the steak and had two cups of very strong coffee.

After his encounter with The Robber:

He stopped at the ‘Gulf Wind Bar and Snacks’ and ordered a double Old Grandad on the rocks.

(He then has another.)

In Diamonds Are Forever, when Bond is in Las Vegas, and orders a Bourbon and Branch Water, he has Old Grandad as the whisky.

The bourbon that Fleming is referring to is Old Grand-Dad bourbon, which is shown here in this 1955 ad:
55oldgranddadwhiskey

This ad is from 1950:

old-grand-dad-1950

The brand is now owned and distributed by the Beam Inc and distilled at the Jim Beam Plant in Clermont, Kentucky.

Interestingly, it is the only brand acquired by Beam which still uses the original recipe. Other brands that Beam has bought have been changed to Beam’s own, but Old Grand-Dad should be the same as when Bond was drinking it.

That link also indicates to me that it was the “Bonded” (no pun intended) version of Old-Grand-Dad that James Bond was drinking, as it notes Historically, Old Grand-Dad Bonded was the #1 bonded bourbon when bottled-in-bond meant something to bourbon drinkers.

B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser

Boeing Stratocruiser.series one

From the moment the B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser taxied up to the International Air Terminal at Idlewild, James Bond was treated like royalty.

Live and Let Die.

This is one case where the old days were definitely better. More comfortable at a minimum.

Bond enjoys the luxury of the stratocruiser, flying it also in Diamonds Are Forever.

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond laments that he isn’t able to take the Stratocruiser:

Two days later, Bond took the Friday Comet to Montreal. He did not care for it. It flew too high and too fast and there were too many passengers. He regretted the days of the old Stratocruiser — that fine lumbering old plane that took ten hours to cross the Atlantic. Then one had been able to have dinner in peace, sleep for seven hours in a comfortable bunk, and get up in time to wander down to the lower deck and have that ridiculous BOAC ‘country house’ breakfast while the dawn came up and flooded the cabin with the first bright gold of the Western hemisphere.

Bond feels everything is too rushed on the Comet.

At the end of Goldfinger, Bond is a captive aboard a Stratocruiser hijacked by Goldfinger and his crew.

boac-ad-1952

This 1952 ad gives you a feel for the experience.

My feeling is that Bond would eschew the downstairs cocktail lounge:

boacBar

Preferring instead to have a drink in his seat, or sleep in a private berth. (Though in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond notes that he booked too late to get a sleeping berth.) Young lady presumably not included.

b4

On all three occasions above in which Bond flew the Stratocruiser, the airport involved on the United States end of things was Idlewild, which is now John F. Kennedy International Airport. Here’s a peek at it back in the 1950’s:

boacNY2

 

For much, much more on this plane and wonderful era in airplane travel, check out this page.

4 ½-litre Bentley With Supercharger

We’re introduced to this car in Casino Royale. He also drives this car in Live and Let Die and Moonraker.

Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last of the 4½-litre Bentleys with the supercharger by Amherst Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and had kept it in careful storage through the war. It was still serviced every year and, in London, a former Bentley mechanic, who worked in a garage near Bond’s Chelsea flat, tended it with jealous care. Bond drove it hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure. It was a battleship-grey convertible coupé, and it was capable of touring at ninety with thirty miles an hour in reserve.

As mentioned in Live and Let Die:

The Grey Bentley convertible, the 1933 4 ½-litre with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger, had been brought round a few minutes earlier from the garage where he kept it and the engine had kicked directly he pressed the self-starter.

And in Moonraker:

He had a small but comfortable flat off the King’s Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper – a treasure called May – and a 1930 4½-litre Bentley coupé, supercharged, which he kept expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.

We’ll use the year on the last entry, as by 1933, the 4½-litre was no longer being made. In Casino Royale, it is merely stated that Bond bought the car in 1933, not that it was a 1933 model.

Only about 720 4½-litre Bentleys were produced, and only around 50 of those had the supercharger or “blower.”

Blower_Bentley_Profile

This appears to be the 1930 coupe. I don’t think James Bond had the Union Jack on his car though. The grey device directly above the number plate is the Amherst-Villiers supercharger.

640px-Bentley_4½_Litre_Blower

Here is a look inside at the dash:

30_Bentley-4-5Liter-DV-12-GCA_i03

Here’s another interesting look inside the cab.

inside-bentley

There is a website – Vintage Bentleys – which is dedicated to finding and tracking all of remaining cars of this type in the world. They’ve done a stunning job at cataloging the cars.

For more information and photos on this model, check this page.