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!
Then began the great Tong wars of the late ‘twenties. The two great New York Tongs, my own, the Hip Sings, and our rival, the On Lee Ongs, joined in combat. Over the weeks hundreds on both sides were killed and their houses and properties burned to the ground. It was a time of torture and murder and arson in which I joined with delight.
Dr No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining as guests of Dr No on Crab Key, listening to the Dr tell them the story of his life. He recalls his early years in China where he first became associated with the Hip Sings tong gang as a young man, and subsequently ran into some trouble which forced the gang to send him to New York.
Tong wars in the United States began in the 1880’s in San Francisco. Gangs spread to Chinatown communities across the United States. The Hip Sing tong was the first established on the east coast, and became the only bicoastal tong. Among their rivals in New York was the On Leong tong, with whom they battled from the early 1900’s to the 1920’s. The On Leong had the cops in their pockets; the Hip Sing won the district attorney’s office to its side.
The On Leong and Hip Sing organizations exist to this day.
“Bryce, John Bryce.” She wrote busily. “Permanent address?” “Care of the Royal Zoological Society, Regent’s Park, London, England.” “Profession.” “Ornithologist.”
Dr No, Chapter 13
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of animals and their habitats. In 1829, King George IV gave the society a Royal Charter.
James Bond uses the ZSL as part of his cover story in Dr No, when he and Honey Rider arrive in the reception area of the Dr’s headquarters on Crab Key. Bond lists his next-of-kin as M (using his real name), describing him as his Uncle, and giving his address as Managing Director, Universal Export, Regent’s Park, London.
Thus, the Regent’s Park location of the Zoological Society and the London zoo, is conveniently located near Bond’s office in the secret service building in Regent’s park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The other side of the mountains was in deep violet shadow. Lights were already twinkling in the foothills and spangling the streets of Kingston, but, beyond, the far arm of the harbour and the airport were still touched with the sun against which the Port Royal lighthouse blinked ineffectually. Now the Constellation was getting its nose down into a wide sweep beyond the harbour. There was a slight thump as the tricycle landing gear extended under the aircraft and locked into position, and a shrill hydraulic whine as the brake flaps slid out of the trailing edge of the wings. 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 Plum Point lighthouse in Port Royal was built in 1853. Made of stone and cast iron, the 69-foot tall two-stage structure flashes every nine seconds, alternating between red and white. It sits adjacent to the end of the Norman Manley International Airport, (the Palisadoes Airport in Bond’s time) as can be seen here:
The light on the tower has reportedly only gone out once, during a 1907 earthquake. A year earlier, in 1906, the cruiseliner Prinzessin Victoria Luise (the first purpose-built cruise ship) ran aground near the lighthouse and was wrecked.
Here is a look at the Harbor, and you’ll note that the lighthouse is not in the town of Port Royal proper, but is near the airport. This could a view similar to what Fleming described, with the “far arm of the harbour and the airport.”
For anyone who is a fan of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, a pilgrimage to the spot where Fleming wrote the books is high atop the wish list.
At least it was for me.
After many years of thinking about it, I decided to do it. There was a lot happening in my life at the moment, and an escape to wander in the paths that Ian Fleming himself walked and lived seemed like the ideal way to find my own direction. I’m close to the age that Fleming was when he was writing the books, living in Jamaica for two months a year, and this seemed the perfect time to take the plunge and really immerse myself in finding out what appealed so much to him, and if it would give me similar inspiration.
Arriving at the Goldeneye Resort after a two-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport, you wonder if you’re even in the right spot. There is no sign out front announcing the resort, just a simple gate. It’s later explained to me that because of the celebrities who come here, any little bit to throw off the paparazzi is attempted.
A gracious welcome in the Ian Fleming lounge is the first stop, a simple room much in the feel of the original Goldeneye house, with open, windows and familiar, black-and-white images of Fleming adorning the walls. (Most of these images can be found in Matthew Parker’s excellent book.)
My stay was not in the actual Goldeneye house (Referred to as the Fleming Villa on site) but instead in one of the new beach cottages recently added to the resort. The next afternoon I would have a chance to visit the Fleming Villa.
Just coming here was something of a risk, as I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to go to the house. I was informed ahead of time that if there were guests staying in the villa, obviously I would not be able to tour the house. As it was the off-season, the house was empty, and with wild anticipation, I was brought up to the house that Ian Fleming built.
The villa is fenced in for privacy, so as I stepped through the gate I caught my first glimpse of Goldeneye, I saw only the roof and top of the walls over the tropical bushes, but recognized the building immediately. I walked along the side path and through the side entrance of the house. It opens into the living area, where there are a few bits of furniture set around a glass-topped table and a large day bed. While not quite as spartan as when Fleming lived there, the house remains simple. No television, no clocks or other visible electronics, save a speaker in the bedroom.
The wide windows with the opened shutters and broad sills had me imagining the people sitting in this room over the years and the conversations that were held here. The cocktails. The meals served by Violet. They took place in this very room.
Moving through this large room, I stopped briefly at the door in the front of the house to admire Fleming’s sunken garden, where they would sit and read in the tropical sunshine, and where Ann would be painting.
Turning back into the room, you see the door leading into a bedroom with a desk set into the corner. This is where Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels. I nervously ask the guide if I may sit at the desk, she says “of course.” It is the original desk, and from all the photos I can find, this is the original chair as well. I sit in the chair, at the desk, and gaze out the window. Fleming would close the shutters on these windows when he was working, and then throw them open when he was done for the day and head down to the water.
What a moment.
I took a little bit to just absorb the moment. To reflect on the history here. Events 60 years ago in this very structure. It was actually pretty humbling.
Out the side door of Fleming’s bedroom led to a path down to the cliff side, and down the stairs that have been built into the cliff. Not the original stairs, but heading down them was still another thrill. There was the private beach. About the size of a cricket pitch, with the large rock about 10 feet out.
Another moment to pause and think of the hours Fleming spent exploring the waters here.
After a few minutes, it’s back up another set of stairs in the cliff which bring you up to the other side of the property. Getting more of a frontal view of the house allows you to get the measure of it. Back near the gate where I came in, I pause to look at a disheveled looking sign on a tree. This is the tree planted by the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden during his 1956 stay at Goldeneye to recuperate from Suez.
It’s one of the last things I see as I exit Goldeneye.
But I will certainly never forget this visit to the spot where it all began for James Bond.
(Stay tuned for more of my tour of the North coast of Jamaica, seeking out Fleming/Bond connected locations.)
After Strangways and Mary Trueblood are killed in the opening chapter of Dr. No, their bodies are deposited in a body of water outside Kingston.
As the first flames showed in the upper windows of the bungalow, the hearse moved quietly from the sidewalk and went on its way up towards the Mona Reservoir. There, the weighted coffin would slip down into its fifty-fathom grace and, in just forty-five minutes, the personnel and records of the Caribbean station of the Secret Service would have been utterly destroyed.
The Mona Reservoir is the main water supply for Kingston, located in the neighborhood of Mona, about eight kilometers outside of Kingston.
After many years of development and several setbacks, the Mona Reservoir went into service in 1959.