“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.
What was it? Half a mile away, coming across the lake, was a shapeless thing with two glaring orange eyes with black pupils. From between these, where the mouth might be, fluttered a yard of blue flame. The grey luminescence of the stars showed some kind of domed head above two short batlike wings. The thing was making a low moaning roar that overlaid another noise, a deep rhythmic thud. It was coming towards them at about ten miles an hour, throwing up a creamy wake.
Dr. No, chapter 12
The Dragon of Crab Key is one of the more terrifying creations of the mind of Ian Fleming. It had a fearsome reputation which traveled across the Carribean and kept visitors from the island.
What do we know about the dragon?
Diesel engine (“deep rhythmic thud“)
Some kind of domed cabin above two short batlike wings
Giant, solid rubber tires, at least two feet across, twice as tall as Bond. (“giant aeroplane tyres probably“
Single tire in rear width of motor
Iron fin painted black and gold
A long snout mocked-up with gaping jaws and gold paint to look like a dragon’s mouth.
Iron tractor seats
Bond still had no idea what this contraption was. Under the black and gold paint and the rest of the fancy dress it was some sort of a tractor, but of a kind he had never seen or heard of. The wheels, with their vast smooth rubber tyres, were nearly twice as tall as himself. He had seen no trade name on the tyres, it had been too dark, but they were certainly either solid or filled with porous rubber. At the rear there had been a small trailing wheel for stability. An iron fin, painted black and gold, had been added to help the dragon effect. The high mudguards had been extended into short backswept wings. A long metal dragon’s head had been added to the front of the radiator and the headlamps had been given black centres to make ‘eyes’. That was all there was to it, except that the cabin had been covered with an armoured dome and the flame-thrower added. It was, as Bond had thought, a tractor dressed up to frighten and burn–though why it had a flame-thrower instead of a machine gun he couldn’t imagine. It was clearly the only sort of vehicle that could travel the island. Its huge wide wheels would ride over mangrove and swamp and across the shallow lake. It would negotiate the rough coral uplands and, since its threat would be at night, the heat in the iron cabin would remain at least tolerable.
I’ve had a hard time figuring out this contraption as well. My best guess is that it was some sort of gulf marsh buggy:
Picturing this contraption has been a challenge, I first attempted to use the above marsh buggy as a starting point and tried to add in the rest of the details. My art skills, however, are non-existent. This was what I came up with:
I tried to incorporate the huge tires, the mudguards turned into short, backswept bat wings, the long metal dragon’s head added to the front, with the existing headlights turned into the dragon’s eyes, the armored dome on top and the fin. Definitely a crude sketch, but I think it at least gives us an idea.
I then went and looked at the 1960 comic strips for
Dr No which appeared in Express Newspapers and examined the strips drawn by Martin Asbury which show the dragon. Here
are a couple of them:
The tires are not quite the same as described by Fleming, but the other details check out. Interestingly the head of the dragon here is elongated, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me but makes sense. The lower picture shows the bat-like wings over the tires, which match up pretty well with my version.
I talked to the local schoolmaster, without telling him my secret of course, and he found out that there’s an American magazine called Nautilus for shell collectors. I had just enough money to subscribe to it and I began looking for the shells that people said they wanted in the advertisements.
Dr. No, chapter 11
James Bond is talking with Honey Rider about her life and how she began collecting shells for money.
The Nautilus started in Philadelphia in
July, 1886, as The Conchologists’ Exchange (TCE). William D. Averell (1853–1928), a shell trader from Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, created TCE as a small publication aimed at “giving information of vital interest to the student of Mollusca” (Averell, 1886a).*
In 1889, the publication was renamed The Nautilus. It is a peer-reviewed quarterly magazine on the subject of malacology. Since 1999 it has been under the purview of the National Shell Museum. Archives of the publication are available online here.
It is fitting that Fleming would reference perhaps the most prestigious publication in the field in his book. While I don’t know if Fleming himself was a subscriber, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, given his interest in aquatic life.
As Honey stated, the publication would have sections where collectors would be asking for specific shells, or looking to exchange shells from a different area.
There were the remains of a fireplace made of lumps of coral and a few scattered cooking pots and empty tins. They searched
in the debris and Quarrel unearthed a couple of unopened tins of Heinz pork and beans.
Dr No – Chapter 10
After their arrival at the former camp of the Audubon Society wardens, James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider search around the camp. Among the items the unearth are what ends up being their dinner that night – a couple of tins of Heinz pork and beans.
Pork and beans had been a staple of the American diet since at least the middle of the 19th century. Commercially canned pork and beans were introduced in the United States during the 1880s. This became essentially the first convenience food. Consisting of rehydrated navy beans packed in tomato sauce with small chunks of Salt pork or rendered pork fat, the ingredients are cooked, canned and placed in large pressure cookers to ensure sterility.
Heinz baked beans were first sold in London in the Fortnum & Mason department store in 1901. Heinz opened several UK factories to produce the beans, and between 1941 and 1948, The Ministry of Food classified Heinz Baked Beans as an "essential food" as part of its wartime rationing system.
Heinz UK and Ireland's main food manufacturing facility is based in Kitt Green, near Wigan in the North West of England and turns out more than 1 billion cans every year. It is Europe's largest food factory.
Our threesome on Crab Key had to eat their pork and beans cold, cupped in their hands. They had "about two full handfuls each and a cricket ball of bread."
Quarrel splashed out of the mangroves. He was carrying a rifle. He said apologetically. "No
cap'n. Looks like us may need hit." Bond took it. It was a U.S. Army Remington Carbine, .300. These people certainly had the right equipment. He handed it back.
Dr No – Chapter 10.
As James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider head up the river to the former camp of the Audubon Society men, they are forced to hide from
Dr No's men who are looking for them. One man is lingering behind, and Bond kills him. Quarrel takes the man's gun – a U.S. Army Remington Carbine, .300.
This was likely the M1 carbine, which was the standard firearm for the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and well into the Vietnam War. A lightweight, easy to use
, .30 caliber (7.62 mm) semi-automatic carbine, this rifle was also very popular with military and police forces around the world.
Dr No equipped his security team with them, showing, as Bond noted, that he gave his people the right equipment.
One of them was holding a long black loud-hailer with a wire attached. The other was manning a machine gun on a tripod. It looked to Bond like a Spandau.
Dr No – Chapter 9
Bond watched the snout of the Spandau swing and depress. The man was going to start with the canoe among the rocks.
Dr No – Chapter 9
James Bond, Quarrel and Honey Rider have just made acquaintances on the beach of Crab Key, when Dr. No's henchmen, searching for them, drive by the beach in a high-powered motorboat. (Converted MTB, British Government surplus? Bond wonders.) The occupants of the boat issue orders for the trio to show themselves.
When there is no response, they fire a warning round from the Spandau. This could've been an MG 42, which was called "Spandau" by British troops, but Spandau was also a traditional generic term for all German machine guns.
When the warning round is fired, it sparks a note of recognition in Bond. There came the swift rattling roar Bond had last heard coming from the German lines in the Ardennes.
Bond walked the few steps down the beach and bent and picked up one of the shells. It was alive and the two halves were shut tight. It appeared to be some kind of a cockle, rather deeply ribbed and coloured a mauve-pink. Along both edges of the hinge, thin horns stood out, about half a dozen to each side. It didn't seem to Bond a very distinguished shell. He replaced it carefully with the others.
Dr No, chapter 8
James Bond has met Honey Rider on the Island of Crab Key and having already compared her in his mind to Botticelli's Venus, Bond learns that there really IS a Venus involved here, albeit a shell, a rare shell that Honey is collecting.
‘Well then, yes, they are rare. Very. You can get five dollars for a perfect specimen. In Miami. That’s where I deal with. They’re called Venus elegans-The Elegant Venus.’ Her eyes sparkled up at him with excitement. ‘This morning I found what I wanted. The bed where they live,’ she waved towards the sea. ‘You wouldn’t find it though,’ she added with sudden carefulness. ‘It’s very deep and hidden away. I doubt if you could dive that deep. And anyway,’ she looked happy, ‘I’m going to clear the whole bed today. You’d only get the imperfect ones if you came back here.’
Bond assures here that he is not here to take her shells, and when she asks what he is doing here, he claims to only be interested in roseate spoonbills.
Is it a coincidence that Ian Fleming has two separate Venus references in the same chapter? The Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility, first as a painting recalled by Bond, and then as a shell? There is also a third separate Venus reference, later in the book.
I would hazard the guess that Fleming was familiar with the works of Carl Linnaeus, who named the species Venus dionein 1758. Linnaeus uses a number of obscene terms in describing the shell – "What is disquieting is that words usually associated with the anatomy of the human female, such as vulva, anus, nates, pubes, montisveneris, labia, hymene, strike a discordant note in the description of a clam." That linked page is actually a fascinating read, and the more I think of it, I'm in fact fairly certain Fleming knew of this history and the inclusion of this particular shell is on purpose and with a huge wink to the segment of the readership that would also be in on the joke.
The girl looked down into her left hand and began to whistle softly to herself. There was a happy note of triumph in the whistle. She was whistling 'Marion', a plaintive little calypso that has now been cleaned up and made famous outside Jamaica. It had always been one of Bond's favourites. It went:
All day, all night, Marion,
Sittin' by the seaside siftin' sand…
The girl broke off to stretch her arms out in a deep yawn. Bond smiled to himself. He wetted his lips and took up the refrain:
“The water from her eyes could sail a boat, The hair on her head could tie a goat…”
James Bond has just awoken on Crab Key and has seen what he compares mentally to Botticelli's Venus, he watches a few more moments, as she picks up shells, she begins to whistle a tune that Bond recognizes.
The tune referenced by Ian Fleming here is actually entitled Mary-Ann (or Marianne). Composed by Roaring Lion (Rafael de Leon) in 1941, the song was not released until 1945. (Interview with Roaring Lion.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.