Botticelli’s Venus

The whole scene, the empty beach, the green and blue sea, the naked girl with the strands of fair hair, reminded Bond of something. He searched his mind. Yes, she was Botticelli's Venus, seen from behind.

Dr. No

After James Bond and Quarrel arrive on Crab Key, they catch a little bit of sleep. Bond chooses a spot behind a growth of sea-grape.

Sea-grape 

As Bond awakens, he is treated to a magnificent site – an (almost) nude woman standing about five yards away from where he is laying. After taking in the scene, Bond is reminded of Botticelli's Venus.

The Italian painter Sandro Botticelli, who lived about the years 1445 – 1510, is said to exemplify the artistic achievement of Renaissance Florence in the 15th century. His works include The Birth of Venus (c. 1486) and a follow up, Venus (c. 1490).

It seems likely that Bond was thinking of The Birth of Venus due to the water background of the painting. 

At a recent exhibition of Botticelli's work in London, co-curator Ana Debenedetti said part of its success is in the main subject: a woman with long blonde hair that fits the Western ideal of beauty. 

"She fits the image of perfect beauty celebrated since the Middle Ages in poetry, literature and which was embedded in our imagination: the Western woman, blonde, with a pale complexion and a large forehead, blue eyes and a proud bearing," she told AFP.

Sandro Botticelli's Venus was painted after his best known work depicting the goddess, The Birth of Venus. 

The Venus painting is a stand-alone. The life-size painting shows her in a similar in pose, but her torso's strong contours and pale skin are covered with a sheer top. Her red hair is tightly braided, not blown by the breath of angels, making her more earthly than godlike.

Classic art in a James Bond novel? To think, there are those who still dismiss them as trashy pulp! 

Canadian Club Blended Rye

When James Bond and Quarrel have finished their training period in Dr. No, Bond prepares for his visit to Crab Key. 

Bond went to the icebox and took a pint of Canadian Club Blended Rye and some ice and soda-water and went and sat in the garden and watched the last light flame and die. 

Dr. No

A whisky and soda was a favorite drink of Bond's. It seems natural he would turn to this simple highball when prepping to leave on a dangerous mission. 

Canadian Club is a classic whisky created by Hiram Walker and Sons. It derived its name from its popularity among gentlemen's clubs in the United States and Canada in the late 19th century. 

As with most whiskys from Canada, Canadian Club is known as "rye" whisky due to tradition rather than straight facts. Fleming was likely using Canadian Whisky's reputation as "rye" when describing the brand as "Canadian Club Blended Rye."

Bond apparently drank most of that pint in that sitting, as Fleming's description goes on: 

He picked up the bottle and looked at it. He had drunk a quarter of it. He poured another big slug into his glass and added some ice. What was he drinking for? Because of the thirty miles of black sea he had to cross tonight? Because he was going into the unknown? Because of Dr. No? 

Dr. No

Canadian Club has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, ironically in part to a television show based in the 1960's – where Canadian whisky is also referred to as "rye."

Devil’s Racecourse

After James Bond and Quarrel arrive at their training grounds on the north shore of Jamaica, Bond checks the paper for any news of a diversion he had set up in an attempt to shake off anyone who had been watching him since his arrival on the Island.

The Gleaner said that a Sunbeam Talbot, H. 2473, had been involved in a fatal accident on the Devil’s Racecourse, a stretch of winding road between Spanish Town and Ocho Rios — on the Kingston — Montego route.

DR NO
Devil’s Racecourse

Looking at the section of road above, one can easily envision an “accident” being arranged on such a precarious stretch.

Devil’s Racecourse is also the name of a geological formation in the Benbow Inlier in central Jamaica, right around the area of the road. The formation contains some of the oldest Cretaceous marine sediments and fauna fossils in the Caribbean.

Download the PDF file .

Castleton Gardens

In Dr No, James Bond and Quarrel are headed to their training grounds in the Austin A.30, near Stony Hill.

Bond changed up into top and dawdled through the cool beautiful glades of Castleton Gardens.

The Castleton Botanical Gardens are some of the oldest public gardens in the Western hemisphere, having been founded in 1862. The grounds had previously been a sugar plantation owned by an Englishman, Colonel Castle. Among the variety of plants present, there are around 200 species of palms and at least 400 specimens of other flora.

Located about 20km north of Kingston, the grounds are a popular spot for getting away from the city.

Austin A.30

In Dr No, James Bond and Quarrel are headed out of Kingston and toward their training ground at Morgan’s Harbour.

They were at the saddleback at Stony Hill where the Junction Road dives down through fifty S-bends towards the North Coast. Bond put the little Austin A.30 into second gear and let it coast. The sun was coming up over the Blue Mountain peak and dusty shafts of gold lanced into the plunging valley.

The Austin A.30 was a small car manufactured for only four years, from 1952 to 1956. According to reviews, “The car’s newly designed A-Series straight-4 engine was state of the art for the time and returned an average fuel consumption of 42 mpg / under 7L/100 km. With spirited driving the A30 was able to attain a top speed of 70 mph (110 km/h).”

Salt Fish and Ackee

In Dr. No, in the morning following their night at The Joy Boat, James Bond and Quarrel reconvene at Bond’s hotel, the Blue Hills.

‘Yes, come on in, Quarrel. We’ve got a busy day. Had some breakfast?’
‘Yes, tank you, cap’n. Salt fish an’ ackee an’ a tot of rum.’
‘Good God,’ said Bond. ‘That’s tough stuff to start the day on.’
‘Mos’ refreshin’,’ said Quarrel stolidly.

SaltFish and Ackee is Jamaica’s National Dish.

The Ackee fruit was originally native to West Africa, and was introduced to Jamaica where it has become the national fruit of the country. The fruit grows on evergreen trees, in pods which ripen from green to red, and then split open when completely ripe. Even then, care must be taken to separate the yellow aril from the black seeds.

The Salt Fish and Ackee dish is a common breakfast meal, as the edible part of the Ackee fruit when cooked, has the texture and even the taste, of scrambled eggs.

In addition to the Salt fish, onion and various colorful peppers are usually a part of the dish.

During my trip to Goldeneye, I was sure to eat Salt fish and Ackee each morning for breakfast.

It is traditionally served with those fried dumplings, which complement the dish very well.

I did not have the “tot of rum” with breakfast, however. Instead I stuck with the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Leica With Flash Attachment

After arriving in Jamaica in Dr No, and settling into his hotel, James Bond goes with his friend Quarrel for dinner at the Joy Boat restaurant.

A glint of light caught the corner of Bond’s eye. He turned quickly. The Chinese girl from the airport was standing in the nearby shadows. Now she was dressed in a tight-fitting sheath of black satin slashed up one side almost to her hip. She had a Leica with a flash attachment in one hand. The other was in a leather case at her side. The hand came out holding a flashbulb. The girl slipped the base into her mouth to wet it and improve the contact and made to screw it into the reflector.

This photographer was previously using the Speed Graphic Press Camera but has switched up to a smaller, more mobile camera for the restaurant. She was likely using either a Leica III or M3, two of the most popular Leica cameras during the 1950’s, along with a flash attachment.

Leica M3 Camera
Leica III Camera

The flash attachment could’ve been one such as this:

Or perhaps another brand such as Minox.

In Goldfinger, Bond uses a Leica M3 when going to Auric Goldfinger’s suite to photograph Jill Masterton assisting her employer in cheating Mr Du Pont.

Bond took the elevator up to his suite. He went to his suitcase and extracted an M3 Leica, an MC exposure meter, a K2 filter and a flash-holder. He put a bulb in the holder and checked the camera. He went to his balcony, glanced at the sun to estimate where it would be at about three-thirty and went back into the sitting-room, leaving the door to the balcony open. He stood at the balcony door and aimed the exposure meter. The exposure was one-hundredth of a second. He set this on the Leica, put the shutter at f 11, and the distance at twelve feet. He clipped on a lens hood and took one picture to see that all was working. Then he wound on the film, slipped in the flash-holder and put the camera aside.

He then startles her with the flash when photographing the scene.

Gin and Tonic

In Dr No, James Bond arrives in Jamaica and is brought to The Blue Hills Hotel (Not Myrtle Bank, as, in an effort to protect his cover, he told the eager photographer)  by Quarrel, Bond settles into his room, showering off “the last dirt of big-city life: and pulling on his favorite Sea Island cotton shorts. He then sets about relaxing with a drink.

Bond ordered a double gin and tonic and one whole green lime. When the drink came he cut the lime in half, dropped the two squeezed halves into the long glass, almost filled the glass with ice cubes and then poured in the tonic. He took the drink out on to the balcony, and sat and looked out across the spectacular view.

It’s a fairly straightforward drink. A couple of items which I find worthy of mentioning here.

The Limes

First, the whole green lime. In the past when making this drink following the instructions above, I found it a bit of a challenge to fit both halves of the squeezed lime into the glass, along with the ice cubes, a double portion of gin (4 oz, at least) and the tonic.

When I went to Jamaica in 2106 and stayed at GoldenEye, there were limes provided in my bungalow as part of the mini-bar. I noted these limes were much smaller, paler, rounder and firmer than I was used to purchasing in the U.S, perhaps 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a supermarket lime. At first I thought maybe I had been provided some old shriveled limes, but upon cutting them, they were very juicy inside. They were also seedless. (No, they weren’t Key Limes.) When in the local markets, I saw all the limes for sale were also of this size and type. I’m fairly sure they were Persian Bearss limes, which are a variety grown on the island.

I remember it striking me then – this was probably the size of the lime Bond used to make his gin and tonic – it made sense; it fit into the glass better, leaving plenty of room for the rest of the ingredients, and it still contained plenty of juice. A small detail, and perhaps obvious to others, but something that clicked in and felt like a revelation to me at the time.

Supermarket (Mexican) lime on left. Persian lime on right.

The Tonic

As for tonic, I’d grown disillusioned with modern-day tonic water, the major brands are all sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. This ingredient did not exist in Fleming’s day, so I always felt I wasn’t getting an authentic taste for what they were drinking. (The same with other mixers such as ginger ale.) A few years ago I began seeking out smaller brands which were using pure cane sugar to sweeten the tonic water, brands like Fever Tree. I can honestly say that it does make a difference, so now, even though I don’t drink much soda or tonic, the ones that I do use when mixing these Bond drinks are sweetened with sugar. I’ve been using a small bottling works located in my area called Squamscot Beverages. Their motto is even – “Experience the Past… One Sip at a Time”!

The Gin

I’ve recently discovered Diplôme Dry Gin Original 1945 Recipe which seems a natural fit for this drink.

Speed Graphic Press Camera

In Dr No, As James Bond arrives at Palisadoes Airport, he is greeted by Quarrel, and they start to head out to the car.

They were moving towards the exit when there came the sharp crack and flash of a Press camera. A pretty Chinese girl in Jamaican dress was lowering her Speed Graphic. She came up to them. She said with synthetic charm, “Thank you, gentlemen. I am from the Daily Gleaner.” She glanced down at a list in her hand. “Mister Bond, isn’t it? And how long will you be with us, Mister Bond?”

The Graflex Speed Graphic camera is perhaps the quintessential press camera. It was in production for 60 years, and many of the most famous photographs of the 20th century were taken with it.

The company began in the late 19th century as Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company. It was acquired by George Eastman and became a division of Eastman Kodak until the company was forced divest itself of the division. It was spun back off into its own company, becoming Folmer Graflex Corporation and then in 1946, Graflex, Inc. The last Speed Graphic cameras were produced in 1973.

 

In their next encounter with this photographer, she is using a different camera.

 

Palisadoes Airport

This entryway into Jamaica (now known as Norman Manley International Airport) is featured in three Ian Fleming novels – Live and Let Die, Dr No and The Man With The Golden Gun.

In Live and Let Die, Bond is met at the airport by Strangways following his departure from the United States via Tampa, a brief stop in Nassau, and a bit of a rough approach and landing in Jamaica.

This happy landing at Palisadoes Airport comes to you by courtesy of your stars. Better thank them.

Bond unfastened his seat-belt and wiped the sweat off his face.

To hell with it, he thought, as he stepped down out of the huge strong plane.

Strangways, the chief Secret Service agent for the Caribbean, was at the airport to meet him and he was quickly through the Customs and Immigration and Finance Control.

In Dr No, Bond is met by Quarrel.

Slowly the great aircraft turned in again towards the land and for a moment the setting sun poured gold into the cabin. Then, the plane had dipped below the level of the Blue Mountains and was skimming down towards the single north–south runway. There was a glimpse of a road and telephone wires. Then the concrete, scarred with black skid-marks, was under the belly of the plane and there was the soft double thump of a perfect landing and the roar of reversing props as they taxied in towards the low white airport buildings.

The sticky fingers of the tropics brushed Bond’s face as he left the aircraft and walked over to Health and Immigration. He knew that by the time he had got through Customs he would be sweating. He didn’t mind.

In The Man With The Golden Gun, Bond is killing time at “Kingston International Airport” before a connecting flight to Havana when he stumbles across a lead which changes his plans and keeps him in Jamaica.

There are few less prepossessing places to spend a hot afternoon than Kingston International Airport in Jamaica. All the money has been spent on lengthening the runway out into the harbour to take the big jets, and little was left over for the comfort of transit passengers. James Bond had come in an hour before on a B.W.I.A. flight from Trinidad, and there were two hours to go before he could continue the roundabout journey to Havana. He had taken off his coat and tie and now sat on a hard bench gloomily surveying the contents of the In-Bound shop with its expensive scents, liquor, and piles of overdecorated native ware He had had luncheon on the plane, it was the wrong time for a drink, and it was too hot and too far to take a taxi into Kingston even had he wanted to. He wiped his already soaking handkerchief over his face and neck and cursed softly and fluently.

 

palisadoes-customs
Immigration and Customs at Palisadoes Airport, late 1950’s – early 1960’s.

The airfield was constructed in the late 1930’s, the location was selected because it was close to Kingston (10 miles), and Port Royal (5 1/2 miles), could handle land and sea planes and there were good roads in the area.

When World War II broke out, the civilian airfield became a Royal Navy Air Station, commissioned on 21 Jan 1941 as HMS Buzzard. It was closed on December 31st 1944, and returned to civilian use.

In 1948 the Palisadoes Airport opened. This aerial shows the site in the late 1940’s:

In these 1962 stills, you can see the view exiting the terminal and curbside of the Palisadoes Airport, as well as the view from across the road. Interestingly these are before Ian Fleming wrote The Man With The Golden Gun.