Sunbeam Alpine Talbot

I’ve got you a car, Sunbeam Talbot coupé. New tyres. Fast. Right car for these roads.

Live and Let Die, chapter 16

At the tail of the line stood the black Sunbeam Alpine of Commander John Strangways, RN (Ret.), Regional Control Officer for the Caribbean–or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service.

DR NO, chapter 1

They got to the car. It was a black Sunbeam Alpine. Bond looked sharply at it and then at the number plate. Strangways’s car. What the hell? “Where did you get this, Quarrel?”

DR NO, chapter 4

See they look the part and send them off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

DR NO, chapter 5

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 Ochos Rio–on the Kingston-Montego route. A runaway lorry, whose driver was being traced, had crashed into the Sunbeam as it came round a bend. Both vehicles had left the road and hurtled into the ravine below.

DR NO, chapter 7

The car’s outside. You remember Strangways? Well, it’s his old Sunbeam Alpine. The Station bought it, and now I use it. It’s a bit aged, but it’s still pretty fast and it won’t let you down. It’s rather bashed about, so it won’t be conspicuous. The tank’s full, and I’ve put the survey map in the glove compartment.”

The Man with the Golden Gun, Chapter 4

The various descriptions above have me a little confused as to whether Fleming is saying that the car that Strangways brought to Bond in Live and Let Die, is the same car Strangways still had in Dr No, and was still around for the events of The Man With The Golden Gun.

There are several factors here which bear pondering. In LALD, the car is described as a “Sunbeam Talbot coupé.” A 1951 model of this car is shown here:

Sunbeam Talbot drophead coupe 1951

The first two descriptions in Dr No describe Strangways car as a “Sunbeam Alpine” which was a two-seater sports car manufactured by Sunbeam-Talbot from 1953 – 1955 and then again from 1959 – 1968. Of the first series, (which would’ve been the car described in Dr No) only 1,582 were made. Outside of the UK, US and Canada, only 175 were sent to other world markets.

Sunbeam Alpine 1953 -1955

Despite the similarities, there are some differences here, namely that the Alpine (which to add the the confusion here was also known as the “Talbot” Alpine) was a true open car, it had no roll-up windows or roof. You’ll recall that Bond instructed Quarrel to send the two men “off in the Sunbeam with the roof down. Right?”

If this was a true Alpine, it had no roof to put down. There were snap-on roofs (and windows) available, but Bond’s direction was to put the roof down. The Talbot, as you can see in the top picture, did have a roof that could be put up and down.

Then, after the car is sent off, Bond sees the news that the Sunbeam Talbot was in a fatal accident. You see the confusion?

Then finally, Mary Goodnight is driving Strangways old Sunbeam Alpine? So was the accident on the Devil’s Racecourse fatal to the passengers, but the car was able to be hauled out of the ravine and then salvaged to the point that it could be driven again? Goodnight does describe the car as “rather bashed about” so I guess it is possible, if not plausible.

But again, we’re back from the “Talbot” to the “Alpine.” My guess here is that Fleming did intend for the car to be the same all the way through, and that it was actually a Sunbeam Talbot, from which the Sunbeam Alpine was derived. It seems that the terms were pretty interchangeable during that decade, and most readers then would not have noticed.

Palisadoes Airport

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.

 

Immigration and Customs at Palisadoes Airport, late 1950’s – early 1960’s.

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.

Old Fashioned

On the Phantom train with Solitaire in Live and Let Die, they get settled in after boarding.

Bond ordered Old Fashioneds, and stipulated ‘Old Grandad’ Bourbon, chicken sandwiches, and decaffeined ‘Sanka’ coffee so that their sleep would not be spoilt.

In Thunderball, after a long first day (and before a long night) arriving in the Bahamas and searching for clues, James Bond via room service, orders a “double Bourbon Old Fashioned” before collapsing on his bed.

The Old Fashioned is essentially a way to give Bourbon some flavor with bitters (usually Angostura) and some sweetness with sugar and fruit.

The roots of the cocktail can be traced back to the early days of the 19th century when drinks of spirits, bitters sugar and water become popular. In time, other ingredients were added to the cocktail, but eventually the original came back into popularity as people began requesting the “Old Fashioned” version.

Bourbon

This page will be updated as we go through the novels)

This Kentucky-based barrel-aged whisky seems to be a Bond staple when abroad.

An observation can be made about Bond’s drinking preferences and habits. He’ll drink a martini at a bar or restaurant or when in company, while when drinking alone or in his hotel room, he often has bourbon.

He has a few favorite brands that are specifically mentioned throughout the series. These each have their own page:

I.W. Harper’s
Jack Daniels (coming – though not Bourbon)
Walker’s DeLuxe
Old Grandad
Virginia Gentleman

Here are other references to Bond drinking Bourbon throughout the series.

In Live and Let Die, Bond orders Old Fashions on the Silver Phantom, stipulating Old Grandad Bourbon. Before meeting up with The Robber, he has a quarter of a pint of Old Grandad with his steak dinner, and  later has two double Old Grandads on the rocks while preparing to leave Tampa.

Throughout Diamonds are Forever, Bond consumes Bourbon and Bourbon and Branch water.

The opening chapter of Goldfinger is entitled REFLECTIONS IN A DOUBLE BOURBON and Bond has several before heading out with Mr Dupont.

In Thunderball, after finding the plane, Bond goes back to his room and orders a “club sandwich and double bourbon on the rocks” before phoning Domino.

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Vivienne Michel is consuming the last of her bottle of Virginia Gentleman bourbon as the story gets going.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, while at Piz Gloria, Bond sits next to Ruby at dinner, who is having a Daiquiri, and Bond orders a double Bourbon on the rocks.

After Tracy gives Bond a detailed description of what she had for dinner, Bond tells her over the phone that “I had two ham sandwiches with stacks of mustard and half a pint of Harper’s Bourbon on the rocks.The bourbon was better than the ham.”

When Bond meets Marc-Ange to discuss the commando job on Piz Gloria, he “poured himself a stiff Jack Daniel’s sourmash bourbon on the rocks and added some water.”

In You Only Live Twice, Bond, while at the Miyako hotel in Kyoto, Bond orders “a pint of Jack Daniels and a double portion of eggs Benedict to be brought up to his room.”

Fleming himself preferred bourbon to scotch. He had the notion that it was somehow better for his heart as he explained to Richard Hughes: ‘The muscles expand under bourbon; Dikko, but they contract under scotch. ‘ He also suggested that bourbon counteracted the ill-effects of the nicotine in the many cigarettes that he smoked each day. (Foreign Devil: Thirty Years Of Reporting In The Far East by Richard Hughes)

Sadly, history proves out that Mr Fleming’s theories were perhaps not accurate in this case, at least.

Spectre Before S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

Even before it became the name of perhaps the most famous criminal organization in fiction in the novel Thunderball, Ian Fleming liked the word “spectre”.

This interesting little word, according to Collins English Dictionary can be defined thusly:

spectre (ˈspɛktəor specter

n

1. (Alternative Belief Systems) a ghost; phantom; apparition
2. a mental image of something unpleasant or menacing: the spectre of redundancy.

The usage of the word had declined and actually reached its lowest point during the time that Fleming started using it:

As you can see, it has increased somewhat in use since that time.

Here are some instances in which Fleming used it prior to Thunderball, when it became the abbreviation for the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. 

Here are some examples of its use:

Live and Let Die:

The great grey football of a head under the hurricane lamp looked like an elemental, a malignant spectre from the centre of the earth, as it hung in mid air, the golden eyes blazing steadily, the great body in shadow.

Diamonds Are Forever:

Spectreville. The Spectre Range. In total throughout the book there are 11 mentions of the two of these.

From Russia With Love:

Kronsteen…had sweated away a pound of weight in the last two hours and ten minutes, and the spectre of a false move still had one hand at his throat.

The decoding machine which is the MacGuffin of the novel is called a Spektor. (17 mentions)

Goldfinger:

Bond walked slowly up to the putt, knocking Goldfinger’s ball away. Come on, you bloody fool! But the spectre of the big swing – from an almost certain one up to a possible one down – made Bond wish the ball into the hole instead of tapping it in.

Despite the chart above, I don’t actually know how commonly this word was used in every day language. From here, it seems like a rather obscure word, which Fleming liked the sound, sight and meaning of, and enjoyed using it whenever he could, even a variation on the word in Spektor. He also used the variations Spectral and Spectrally on occasion. (also meaning ghostly)

Live and Let Die:

All through the centre of the state, the moss lent a dead, spectral feeling to the landscape.

Most of the tanks were dark, but in some a tiny strip of electric light glimmered spectrally and glinted on little fountains of bubbles…

…in the grey valleys they caught the light of the moon and waved spectrally

From Russia With Love:

The spectral eye of the nightlight cast its deep velvet sheen over the little room.

You Only Live Twice:

The poisons listed fall into six main categories: Deliriant. Symptoms: spectral illusions…

When the novel Thunderball came out, and all the controversy and eventual court case surrounding it, one of the items at issue was the criminal organization of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and who actually came up with it. Kevin McClory claimed that he did and even later named his company Spectre Associates Inc.

From the outside, it would seem that Fleming had an affinity for the word, especially with his creation of the Spektor in From Russia With Love, and it would seem reasonable that it was a creation of Flemings. Eventually, McClory was awarded the film rights to all of Thunderball, including S.P.E.C.T.R.E and Ernst Stavro Blofeld while Fleming retained the literary rights to these.

House of Lords Gin (And Martini & Rossi)

When Felix Leiter and James Bond meet in the King Cole Bar at the St Regis in Live and Let Die prior to heading out to Harlem, they have martinis while making plans for the night.

Leiter ordered medium-dry Martinis with a slice of lemon peel. He stipulated House of Lords gin and Martini Rossi. The American gin, a much higher proof than English gin, tasted harsh to Bond. He reflected that he would have to be careful what he drank that evening.

House of Lords gin was a brand put out by Booth’s Gin, which was founded around 1740 – in London. Fleming referring to it as “American gin” is a little confusing to me, unless he means that the gin imported to America is a higher proof than what is available in England. (Note: After checking with @007Dossier on Twitter, he suggests that it may have been a mixup on Fleming’s part in terms of the proof. 80 proof in the U.S. would’ve been 70 proof in the UK.) I haven’t found any evidence of this, however. All advertisements that I’ve found for the gin show it to be a 86 proof.

Martini and Rossi is perhaps the most well-known brand of Vermouth in the world. The company had its origins in 1840, and was renamed Martini, Sola & Cia in 1863 before becoming Martini & Rossi in 1879.

Boston

Residing as I do in the greater Boston area, I’m interested in the occasions when Ian Fleming brings James Bond close to my home. Unfortunately, in the novels at least, the only glimpse Bond gets of Boston is from the air. He does venture into New England, going into Vermont for the events of For Your Eyes Only, but for that trek, he flies into Montreal, not Boston.

Boston is city on the east coast of the United States, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The city is one of the oldest (settled in 1630) in America and the site of much rich history – including some of the earliest rebellions of the colonists against the British Empire. (We’re friends now though, right?) Fleming mentions the city in three of the novels.

In Live and Let Die the city is used as part of Bond’s cover while on assignment:

He was given a military haircut and was told that he was a New Englander from Boston and that he was on holiday from his job with the London office of the Guaranty Trust Company.

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond gets a brief view of the city as he flies into New York.

And then there were three hours when the plane hung dead-steady in the middle of the world, and only the patches of bright sunshine swaying slowly a few inches up and down the walls of the cabin gave a sense of motion. But at last there was the great sprawl of Boston below them, and then the bold pattern of a clover-leaf on the New Jersey Turnpike, and Bond’s ears began to block with the slow descent towards the pall of haze that was the suburbs of New York.

Finally, in Thunderball the city is mentioned simply as a geographical marker:

Bond said, “Did the American D.E.W. line pick it up—their Defense Early Warning system?”

“There’s a query on that. The only grain of evidence we’ve got. Apparently about five hundred miles east of Boston there was some evidence that a plane had peeled off the inward route to Idlewild and turned south. But that’s another big traffic lane—for the northern traffic from Montreal and Gander down to Bermuda and the Bahamas and South America. So these D.E.W. operators just put it down as a B.O.A.C. or Trans-Canada plane.”

Actually it was the DISTANT Early Warning system, but I’ll give Mr Fleming the benefit of the doubt and say he was being dramatic. Also, the hijacker of the Vindicator, Giuseppe Petacchi notes his location in relation to Boston while delivering the plane to S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

The coastline of America should be on the screen by now. He got up and had a look. Yes, there, 500 miles away, was the coastline map already in high definition, the bulge that was Boston, and the silvery creek of the Hudson River.

And that’s it. I’m just glad Boston was on Fleming’s radar – no pun intended – while he was writing the Bond novels.

Colt Detective Special

As Moonraker opens, Bond is in the firing range in the basement of the headquarters building, getting some firing work in with the Instructor.

THE TWO thirty-eights roared simultaneously.

The walls of the underground room took the crash of sound and batted it to and fro between them until there was silence. James Bond watched the smoke being sucked from each end of the room towards the central Ventaxia fan. The memory in his right hand of how he had drawn and fired with one sweep from the left made him confident. He broke the chamber sideways out of the Colt Detective Special and waited, his gun pointing at the floor, while the Instructor walked the twenty yards towards him through the half-light of the gallery.

(A sidenote – the reference to the Ventaxia fan is yet another product placement by Ian Fleming. The company is actually Vent-Axia and provides exactly the type of fan described here.)

The Colt Detective Special is short-barrelled revolver favored by detectives for both its stopping power (.38 Special) and ease of concealment.

Bond was likely using a second series CDS here, which were manufactured between 1947 and 1972.

This is a 1956 model, so about a year or two away from the events of Moonraker, but as part of the second series of the CDS, the overall design would’ve been the same as the one James Bond was using.

Tee-Hee in Live and Let Die also carried a .38 Colt Detective Special, which Bond took off him after knocking him out. Bond then used the gun to shoot his way out of the garage.

Champion Harpoon Gun, Wilkinsons Commando Dagger

When James Bond is reviewing his equipment for his undersea trek to the Isle of Surprise in Live and Let Die, he inventories it as follows:

There was a new and powerful Champion harpoon gun and a commando dagger of the type devised by Wilkinsons during the war. Finally, in a box covered with danger-labels, there was the heavy limpet mine, a flat cone of explosive on a base, studded with wide copper bosses, so powerfully magnetized that the mine would stick like a clam to any metal hull. There were a dozen pencil-shaped metal and glass fuses set for ten minutes to eight hours and a careful memorandum of instructions that were as simple as the rest of the gear. There was even a box of benzedrine tablets to give endurance and heightened perception during the operation and an assortment of underwater torches, including one that threw only a tiny pencil-thin beam.

For the Champion harpoon gun, someone can correct me if I’m mistaken, but I’m assuming it was the Arbalete Champion speargun which Bond had received.

 

I can’t say for sure this is what Bond used – I don’t even know what year this gun is, but hopefully this allows you to picture at least the type of speargun he was using.

In The Hildebrand Rarity, Bond also has a Champion:

Bond had a Champion harpoon-gun with double rubbers. The harpoon was tipped with a needle-sharp trident – a short-range weapon, but the best for reef work.

The double rubbers described here refers to bands, which give the gun its power:

Two factors affect a band’s power potential: stretch and diameter. All other things being equal, a 9/16-inch band provides less potential power than a 5/8-inch band. Adding additional bands increases the power potential in a linear fashion (i.e. two 5/8-inch bands yielding 100 pounds (45.4kg) of power potential. – How to Choose the Right Speargun

As for the commando dagger devised by Wilkinsons, there are many to choose from. We’ll go with these for now:

While these three knives may look the same, and indeed were designed to look alike, the top knife above is the Wilkinson, and the other two are look alikes from the same era.

For more on the Wilkinson knives, check out this excellent website: The Wilkinson F-S Collection.

As for the limpet mine, it sounds like it looked like this.

 

And this shows you the components of the mine, including the copper bosses and magnetized bottom:

 

 

He also has a supply of Benzedrine tablets. (Note the entire section Fleming and Bond get in that wikipedia entry.)

 

Manatee Bay

After arriving in Jamaica in Live and Let Die, James Bond and companion Quarrel drive to the Western end of the island for a week of training before Bond is to make his undersea trek to the Isle of Surprise.

There is some confusion here, as Ian Fleming again took some creative licence with the naming. He calls the area near Negril Manatee Bay. There is a Manatee Bay in Jamaica, but it is on the Southern end of the island. The bay near Negril is Long Bay.

John Griswold in his amazing Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories offers a possible explanation.

In short, the idea is that the name “Long Bay” wasn’t exotic enough, so Fleming searched for Bays near Long Bay. Trouble is, there are two Long Bays in Jamaica, and near to the “other” Long Bay was a Manatee Bay. That area is said to be where Columbus made a stop, something Fleming refers to in his story:

Here, because of the huge coastal swamps, nothing has happened since Columbus used Manatee Bay as a casual anchorage. Jamaican fishermen have taken the place of the Arawak Indians, but otherwise there is the impression that time has stood still.

Fleming may have grabbed the name Manatee Bay not realizing it was not near the Long Bay on the Western end of the island. Griswold notes Fleming had first typed Negril Bay, and later crossed it out and put in Manatee Bay.

Manatee Bay is currently a hot topic in Jamaica as conservationists are battling to keep it from being developed as another resort area. It’s being called most important remaining natural coastal habitat left on the island that link will show you some of the coastal swamps Fleming refers to.

Long Bay, near Negril is the place that Bond and Quarrel go to.

Bond thought it the most beautiful beach he had ever seen, five miles of white sand sloping easily into the breakers and, behind, the palm trees marching in graceful disarray to the horizon. Under them, the grey canoes were pulled up beside pink mounds of discarded conch shells, and among them smoke rose from the palm thatch cabins of the fishermen in the shade between the swamp-lands and the sea.

In a clearing among the cabins, set on a rough lawn of Bahama grass, was the house on stilts built as a weekend cottage for the employees of the West Indian Citrus Company. It was built on stilts to keep the termites at bay and it was closely wired against mosquito and sand-fly. Bond drove off the rough track and parked under the house. While Quarrel chose two rooms and made them comfortable Bond put a towel round his waist and walked through the palm trees to the sea, twenty yards away.

The area is still spectacular.

I couldn’t find anything about the a West Indian Citrus Company, but I did find this photo of a beach house used by the West Indies Sugar Company that was on Long Bay near Negril:

 

 

The photographer, Robin Farquharson has an amazing site of pictures from Jamaica from 1954 to present.

Did you ever wonder about duppies or the rolling calf?

No man walked alone for fear of the duppies under the trees, or the rolling calf

Well, wonder no more – Jamaican Folk Tales