In Diamonds are Forever, cab driver Ernie Cureo is dropping James Bond off at the Tiara, and offers some parting advice.
…If ya got work to do in Vegas ya better wait till ya know ya way around. And watch the gambling, friend.” He chuckled. “Y’ever hear of those Silence Towers they have in India? They say it takes those vultures only twenty minutes to strip a guy to the bones. Guess they take a bit longer at The Tiara. Mebbe the Unions slow ’em down.”
The Silence Towers in India. How many times have we read that passage and not really known what it was actually referring to?
The truth it turns out, is pretty gruesome. The Towers of Silence, or Dakhma are used by the Zoroastrians as a way of disposing of their dead.
The towers are usually circular, with a flat top and a pit in the middle. Dead bodies are placed on top of the tower, in full exposure to the sun and birds such as vultures. (Thus Cureo’s comment) Once the bones have been picked over and bleached by the sun, they are pushed into the center of the pit where they further disintegrate.
Again, Fleming sliding in a seemingly obscure reference, which when examined closer, brings a richness of sense and flavor to the books.
One thought on “Silence Towers of India”
Really good post. Beautifully demonstrates how the detail in the writing adds gravity to the sense of drama.
As with the violence in the books, the descriptions make it richer, and I always get a sense that when Bond is in trouble – he really is in trouble!
What I also get from Ernest Cureo is how much Bond is out of place. He clocks him as a ‘Limey’ from his dress sense and warns Bond to be careful. It would seem strange in today’s society that in a place like Vegas you could stand out enough to draw suspicion. That type of historical context shows how Vegas itself must have changed over the years.
Yet at the same time Bond’s confidence is very high. He is not intimidated by Spang in any way. Even at the roulette table despite cameras focusing on him, Bond makes a point of drawing attention to himself – “Now for the last throw, thought Bond – and then out of here with twenty thousand dollars of the Spang money”.