The girl gave a cheerful wave of a sunburned hand, raced up the street in second, and stopped in front of The Pipe of Peace, the Dunhills of Nassau.
Fleming, Ian. Thunderball (James Bond) (p. 112).
In Thunderball, James Bond gets his first view of Domino Vitali as she enters the tobacconist’s shop The Pipe of Peace looking for a cigarette so disgusting it will make her stop smoking.
Bond introduces himself as “the world’s authority on giving up smoking” as he does it “constantly.”
After Bond purchases a carton of “Dukes, king-size with filter” for her, they step outside and agree to go have a drink together.
This was a real tobacconist shop at the time of the writing of the novel and for many years before and after. It appears to have closed sometime in the last decade. The photo from the header of this post is from 1962.
Every year, treasure hunts for these and other ships are carried out among the Southern Bahamas. No one can guess how much, if anything, has been recovered, but every-one in Nassau knows of the 72-lb. silver bar recovered by two Nassau businessmen off Gorda Cay in 1950, and since presented to the Nassau Development Board, in whose offices it is permanently on view.
Fleming, Ian. Thunderball (James Bond) (p. 107).
Treasure hunts are referenced several times in the James Bond novels. The incident described above is real.
As Fleming described, two Nassau businessmen, Howard Lightbourn and Roscoe Thompson recovered a 72-lb silver bar off of Gorda Cay in 1950. The bar was dated to 1652 and was the property of King Philip IV of Spain.
For many years the bar was indeed displayed at the offices of the Nassau Development Board.
The Development Board was replaced by the Tourism Board, and the current whereabouts of the bar is unknown. (I’ve made an inquiry with the Tourism Board about this.)
The Island is small, approximately 1000 acres in size. It was first inhabited in 1783, and has had a colorful history of pirates, bootleggers and drug runners.
Looking for Gorda Cay on a map today? You won’t find it. In 1997, The Walt Disney Company purchased a 99-year lease on the island and renamed it Castaway Cay. It is now a stop for the Disney Cruise Line.
‘National Airlines, “Airline of the Stars”, announces the departure of their flight NA 106 to La Guardia Field, New York. Will all passengers please proceed to gate number seven. All aboard, please.’
Goldfinger, Chapter one
James Bond is in Miami Airport awaiting his Transamerica flight to New York, when he hears the above announcement of a flight from a competing airline.
National Airlines was a major passenger airline which operated from 1934 until 1980 when it was taken over by Pan Am. The slogan “Airline of the Stars” appeared on the planes and was used throughout the 1950’s in reference to Hollywood movie stars flying on the airline. In 1964 they changed the slogan to “Coast to Coast to Coast.”
In 1958, National became the first Airline to fly jets domestically in the United States, first going from New York to Florida, using a Boeing 707.
We’re not told the time that Bond is in the airport, but a look at a 1958 National Airlines flight table tells us that NA Flight 106 left Miami at 10:00PM and arrived in New York at 2:55AM. But as you see, the flight did not go to La Guardia Field, but rather to Idlewild (now JFK).
And yet there had been something curiously impressive about the death of the Mexican. It wasn’t that he hadn’t deserved to die. He was an evil man, a man they call in Mexico a capungo. A capungo is a bandit who will kill for as little as forty pesos, which is about twenty-five shillings—though probably he had been paid more to attempt the killing of Bond—and, from the look of him, he had been an instrument of pain and misery all his life.
Goldfinger, Chapter One
Easy entry here, as Ian Fleming defines the term for us. In the context here, it simply means a cheap hitman or assassin.
FInding the actual term in use was a bit more difficult. I didn’t think Fleming just made it up, but I couldn’t find any references to it, other than it being the name given to a minor villain in a motion picture.
Searching Kapiangu brought me to the Portuguese term “Capiango” which is defined as “pessoa que rouba com destreza” – literally translated means “bad person who steals with dexterity.” In Spanish, it can be translated to “clever thief”, or simply thief.
“Bad person” fits with Fleming’s description that this was an “evil man.”
Could Ian Fleming have meant Capiango instead of Capungo? Or had he heard Capungo used in the context in which he uses it here in Goldfinger?
If anyone has further information, I’d love to hear from you.
As for the price of 40 pesos or 25 shillings, the current value of that would be 1.43 GBP or $2.03 USD. Adjusting for inflation from 1958 to to 2021, that would about 13.35 GBP or $18.91 USD.
JAMES BOND, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.
Goldfinger, Chapter One
Goldfinger begins with James Bond at the Miami Airport, drinking bourbon following an unpleasant assignment in Mexico.
There has been an airport on the current site of Miami International Airport since the 1920’s.
It is the largest connection in the United States south to the Caribbean and Latin America, which is how Bond found himself there. Some early airlines which were prominent there included Pan American, Eastern Airlines and National Airlines.
And if I may say so, sir, I submit that we should take steps to clear up Crab Key without waiting for approval from London. I can provide a platoon ready to embark by this evening. HMS Narvik came in yesterday. If the programme of receptions and cocktail parties for her could possibly be deferred for forty-eight hours or so…” The Brigadier let his sarcasm hang in the air.
DR. NO Chapter 20
DR. No has met his demise and James Bond is back in Jamaica where an emergency meeting is underway in King’s House. The Brigadier in command of the Caribbean Defence Force suggests a plan of action.
There appears that there was a ship by the name of H.M.S. Narvik. There isn’t a whole lot of information that is readily available. The real ship was a submarine support ship, which apparently supplied and supported a fleet of submarines.
There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that the vessel ever came to Jamaica, it appears most of its time during that period was in the South Pacific. I’d be interested to know how Fleming came to choose this ship to be the cited for this adventure.
The long garage was empty. Under the neon lights the black and gold painted dragon on wheels looked like a float waiting for the Lord Mayor’s Show. It was pointing towards the sliding doors and the hatch of the armoured cabin stood open.
DR. NO Chapter 19
James Bond has just finished Dr. No’s obstacle course and disposed of the Dr, and is now, along with Honeychile Rider looking for a means to get away from the compound, which is in pure chaos at the moment. He spots Dr. No’s “dragon” and it reminds him of a float for the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest annual events in London, being 802 years old as of 2020. In 1215, King John attempted to win over the city of London to his side by appointing a mayor who would be loyal to him. According to the event’s website:
The King added a careful condition: every year the newly elected Mayor must leave the safety of the City, travel upriver to Westminster and swear loyalty to him. The Mayor has now made that journey nearly 700 times, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged his or her loyalty to 34 kings and queens of England.
As the procession went up to Westminster by river, this is why to this day, vehicles used in processions are referred to as “floats.” In 1757 a magnificent State Coach was commissioned. The coach had “gilded coachwork and painted panels depicting London’s majesty, piety and global reach.” The Black and Gold dragon of Dr No brought the State Coach to Bond’s mind.
“Doubtless you know that Turks Island, about three hundred miles from here through the Windward Passage, is the most important centre for testing the guided missiles of the United States?”
DR NO, Chapter 16
Dinner has just been completed between Doctor No, James Bond and Honeychile Rider. They have moved on to their “after-dinner entertainment.” Bond has asked what is next for Doctor No, and the reply is noted above.
The Grand Turk Auxiliary Air Force Base was a missile tracking station built as a joint agreement between the United States and Great Britain which went into operation in 1953. The purpose of the base, and other tracking sites, was to track the long-range missiles launched from the United States as well as the satellites and manned flights launched from Cape Canaveral.
The first missile tracked from the station was in November, 1955 when it tracked a SNARK missile. (more on that later!) The station was an early member of the Atlantic Missile Range and was operated by the Pan American Airways Guided Missile Range Division. It wasn’t quite the most important base, as Doctor No claimed, but it was an important installation during that time period.
Grand Turk, along with several other bases, was used to track all of the space launches from Explore 1 to the last of the Mercury flights and was the first place that John Glenn was taken to on Feb 20, 1962. It continued through the Gemini and Apollo as a “satellite” station of Cape Canaveral. The base was closed in 1984.
The Windward Passage refers to the strait between Cuba and Haiti.
Then I went to Milwaukee, where there are no Chinamen, and enrolled myself in the faculty of medicine. I hid myself in the academic world, the world of libraries and laboratories and classrooms and campuses. And there, Mister Bond, I lost myself in the study of the human body and the human mind.
DR NO. Chapter 15
Doctor No is continuing to tell his life story to his captive audience of James Bond and Honeychile Rider. He has just finished the talking about his escape with the funds of the Hip Sings (his New York Tong gang) and for his next move he heads to Milwaukee.
Well, he did say he wanted to lose himself. At the time that Doctor No would’ve been enrolled he likely went to the Marquette University School of Medicine, which is now Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW)
It was one of the top medical schools in the country at the time, while remaining out of the spotlight that Ivy League schools would’ve garnered. It was really the perfect spot for the young fugitive to hide himself for a few years.
The medical school gave Doctor No a few years to disappear from anyone who may have been hunting for him, before he was ready to begin the next phase of his life.
So, if you recall, there I was, in Milwaukee. In due course, I completed my studies and I left America and went by easy stages round the world. I called myself ‘doctor’ because doctors receive confidences and they can ask questions without arousing suspicion. I was looking for my headquarters.
When they let me out of the hospital I went to Silberstein, the greatest stamp dealer in New York. I bought an envelope, just one envelope, full of the rarest postage stamps in the world. I took weeks to get them together. But I didn’t mind what I paid–in New York, London, Paris, Zurich. I wanted my gold to be mobile. I invested it all in these stamps. I had foreseen the World War. I knew there would be inflation. I knew the best would appreciate, or at least hold its value.
Dr. No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining with Dr. No, listening to their host tell the story of his life. Having escaped death at the hands of the Tongs whom he betrayed, he recounts his next steps.
Nassau Street in Manhattan was the center of New York City’s “Stamp District” from around 1915 up until the 1970’s. Philately probably hit its peak during the 1950’s. Fleming, with his love of New York was likely aware of the Stamp District and perhaps even had been there during one of his trips through the city.
I was unable to find any reference to a Silberstein as a famous stamp collector. The most famous character of that time in New York Philately appears to have been a fellow named Herman (Pat) Herst Jr. Herst was ubiquitous in the stamp world, constantly making speaking appearances, publishing a newsletter Herst’s Outbursts, writing 18 books, including the best seller Nassau Street in 1960. He contributed to stamp columns in publications all over the country. His sister was Edith Herst Silverstein, which was as close as I could get to a connection.
In the course of writing this post, I came across the British Caribbean Philatelic Study Group, and in the April 2018 edition they have a bit on Ian Fleming – go to the section British Colonial post-World War II High Values (Part 2). I was drawn to this part:
Ian Lancaster Fleming has never been noted as a stamp collector or philatelist. As far as is known, he never had a collection — his interest was first editions — none of them philatelic (Figure 3). Valuable stamps never play a part in any of the James Bond adventures — they should!
Well, this is a minor part in a Bond novel. They must’ve overlooked this bit from Dr. No!