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.
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.
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.
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.
In Dr No, when James Bond is being given the assignment to close out the case of the missing Strangways, a detail from the last case that the Station Head of Jamaica had been working on before his disappearance catches 007’s interest. The Chief of Staff had referred to it as “Only that damned business about the birds.”
The Audubon Society had been making noise in Washington, even getting the British Ambassador involved, which was how the case came to the attention of the Secret Service. Bond presses for more information. Tanner relates:
“It seems there’s a bird called a Roseate Spoonbill. There’s a coloured photograph of it in here. Looks like a sort of pink stork with an ugly flat bill which it uses for digging for food in the mud. Not many years ago these birds were dying out. Just before the war there were only a few hundred left in the world, mostly in Florida and thereabouts. Then somebody reported a colony of them on an island called Crab Key between Jamaica and Cuba. It’s British territory-a dependency of Jamaica. Used to be a guano island, but the quality of the guano was too low for the cost of digging it. When the birds were found there, it had been uninhabited for about fifty years. The Audubon people went there and ended up by leasing a corner as a sanctuary for these spoonbills.
The Chief of Staff goes on to relate that the Island of Crab Key was then bought by a certain Dr No, with the stipulation that the sanctuary not be disturbed. A few suspicious incidents resulting the deaths of the Wardens and of a couple of members of the Audubon really caused things to heat up. But Strangways had not reported back anything in his investigation prior to his disappearance.
In Dr No, once M and Sir James Molony have ended their back and forth over the health and prospects of James Bond, M queries as to the type of poison that had nearly killed Bond.
By the way, did you ever discover what the stuff was that Russian woman put into him?”
“Got the answer yesterday.” Sir James Molony also was glad the subject had been changed. The old man was as raw as the weather. Was there any chance that he had got his message across into what he described to himself as M’s thick skull? “Taken us three months. It was a bright chap at the School of Tropical Medicine who came up with it. The drug was fugu poison. The Japanese use it for committing suicide. It comes from the sex organs of the Japanese globe-fish. Trust the Russians to use something no one’s ever heard of. They might just as well have used curare. It has much the same effect-paralysis of the central nervous system. Fugu’s scientific name is Tetrodotoxin. It’s terrible stuff and very quick. One shot of it like your man got and in a matter of seconds the motor and respiratory muscles are paralysed. At first the chap sees double and then he can’t keep his eyes open. Next he can’t swallow. His head falls and he can’t raise it. Dies of respiratory paralysis.”
“Lucky he got away with it.”
“Miracle. Thanks entirely to that Frenchman who was with him. Got your man on the floor and gave him artificial respiration as if he was drowning. Somehow kept his lungs going until the doctor came. Luckily the doctor had worked in South America. Diagnosed curare and treated him accordingly. But it was a chance in a million.”
The globe-fish, or puffer fish is a member of the species of fish of the family Tetraodontidae. These fish have the ability to inflate themselves to a globe several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened. The skin, liver and sex organs of the fish contain Tetrodotoxin.
Tetrodotoxin is said to be 10,000 times more lethal than cyanide. As Sir James mentions, the poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles and causes an increasing paralysis of the muscles of the body. Bond was saved because Rene Mathis gave him artificial respiration, and the Doctor on site thought Bond’s symptoms were similar to curare and treated as such.
Interestingly, eight years after his experience with Rosa Klebb (according to Griswold, that meeting took place on August 19th, 1954) while James Bond is on assignment in Japan for the events of You Only Live Twice where he has a dinner with Tiger Tanaka, who announces to Bond that they will be dining on Fugu fish.
‘Fugu is the Japanese blow-fish. In the water, it looks like a brown owl, but when captured it blows itself up into a ball covered with wounding spines. We sometimes dry the skins and put candles inside and use them as lanterns. But the flesh is particularly delicious. It is the staple food of the sumo wrestlers because it is supposed to be very strength-giving. The fish is also very popular with suicides and murderers because its liver and sex glands contain a poison which brings death instantaneously.’
If Bond recalls that he nearly died from Fugu poisoning, he doesn’t mention it to Tiger, and gamely goes ahead with the meal.
A very beautiful white porcelain dish as big as a bicycle wheel was brought forward with much ceremony. On it were arranged, in the pattern of a huge flower, petal upon petal of a very thinly sliced and rather transparent white fish. Bond followed Tiger’s example and set to with his chopsticks. He was proud of the fact that he had reached Black Belt standard with these instruments-the ability to eat an underdone fried egg with them.
The fish tasted of nothing, not even of fish. But it was very pleasant on the palate and Bond was effusive in his compliments because Tiger, smacking his lips over each morsel, obviously expected it of him. There followed various side-dishes containing other parts of the fish, and more sake, but this time containing raw fugu fins.
As Tiger tells Bond, every fugu restaurant has to be manned by experts and be registered with the State because of the risk of poison. Even today that remains the case.
According to Griswold, this meal took place on October 2nd, 1962. Are we to believe that Bond didn’t know what was in the spike in Rosa’s shoe, that he forgot about it, or that because of the seriousness of this assignment, he went ahead and participated in the meal?
After M quotes Dr Peter Steincrohn at Sir James Molony, the famous neurologist has the perfect comeback to the head of the British Secret Service.
This one I’ve had here is tough. I’d say you’ll get plenty more work out of him. But you know what Moran has to say about courage in that book of his.”
“He says that courage is a capital sum reduced by expenditure. I agree with him. All I’m trying to say is that this particular man seems to have been spending pretty hard since before the war. I wouldn’t say he’s overdrawn-not yet, but there are limits.”
“Just so.” M decided that was quite enough of that. Nowadays, softness was everywhere.
Sir James was quoting none other than Winston Churchill’s personal physician.
Born Charles Wilson in 1882, 1st Baron Moran was knighted in 1938 and became Churchill’s personal physician in 1940. In 1945, he wrote a groundbreaking study on the Psychological Effects of War entitled The Anatomy of Courage.
One of the passages from the book which is often quoted comes from this:
Courage is will power, whereof no man has an unlimited stock; and when in war it is used up, he is finished. A man’s courage is his capital and he is always spending. The call on the bank may be only the daily drain of the front line or it may be a sudden draft which threatens to close the account.
Another passage that Molony could’ve been referring to is this one:
Likewise in the trenches a man’s will power was his capital and he was always spending, so that wise and thrifty company officers watched the expenditure of every penny lest their men went bankrupt. When their capital was done, they were finished.
When you look at that line, Could it be that Molony was actually offering M some fairly strong criticism, noting how the “wise” officers carefully watched their men so that they weren’t “spending” too quickly?
Moran had a long life, living until 1977 when he passed away at the age of 94.