While James Bond is trying to figure out the mystery surrounding the murder of Major Tallon and the safety of the Moonraker launch, his suspicions alight on Sir Hugo Drax’s trusted A.D.C. Krebs. He wonders, however, how Krebs could get away with anything, seeing as how he is constantly as his master’s side.
But how could Krebs possibly be involved, with Drax’s eye constantly on him? The confidential assistant. But what about Cicero, the trusted valet of the British Ambassador in Ankara during the war? The hand in the pocket of the striped trousers hanging over the back of the chair. The Ambassador’s keys. The safe. The secrets. This picture looked very much the same.
The reference here is to a wartime scandal in Ankara (capital of Turkey) in which the British Ambassador had documents stolen out of his safe and sold to the Germans by his own valet, Elyesa Bazna. He was given the codename “Cicero.”
The 1952 movie 5 Fingers starring James Mason is loosely based on the scandal, and there was also a 1956 teleplay entitled Operation Cicero in which Ricardo Montalban played the role of Bazna.
It’s another real-world reference by Fleming which was something that would’ve been familiar to his readers at the time, and which also lent some believability to the story he was writing.
Mentioned a few times in Moonraker, this lighthouse-on-a-boat is semi-prominent in the background of the story. The ship is close enough to Drax’s base that when Bond first arrives, the light from the ship briefly illuminates the dome of the rocket silo.
Then when Bond is looking through the late Major Tallon’s room, he comes across a chart with some mysterious faint markings on it with a bearing directly towards the South Goodwin Lightship.
The next morning, Bond awakens and leaves the base early in the morning. He takes a look out at the channel:
Out at sea, in the early mist that promised a hot day, the South Goodwin Lightship could just be seen, a dim red barque married for ever to the same compass point and condemned, like a property ship on the stage of Drury Lane, to watch the diorama of the waves and clouds sail busily into the wings while, without papers or passengers or cargo, it lay anchored for ever to the departure point which was also its destination.
At thirty seconds’ interval it blared its sad complaint into the mist, a long double trumpet note on a falling cadence. A siren song, Bond reflected, to repel instead of to seduce. He wondered how the seven men of its crew were now supporting the noise as they munched their pork and beans. Did they flinch as it punctuated the Housewife’s Choice coming at full strength from the radio in the narrow mess? But a secure life,* Bond decided, although anchored to the gates of a graveyard.
(* Bond was wrong: Friday, November 26th 1954. R.I.P. )
When Bond and Gala start out on their afternoon together, they can see the ship clearly.
The white lettering on the South Goodwins Lightship was easy to read and even the name of her sister ship to the north showed white against the red of her hull.
At the end of the novel, as M is recapping to Bond the aftermath of the Moonraker launch, he notes that the Goodwin lightships broke their moorings.
The South Goodwin Lightship was, as Fleming noted in the footnote, the site of a tragedy on November 26th, 1954, as 80 mph winds capsized the ship, killing all seven crew members. There was one survivor, a Ministry of Agriculture officer who had been visiting the ship.
Here is some footage of the capsized ship, along with other damage from the storm.
I like that you can see the cliffs in the distance in the picture above.
While James Bond and Gala Brand are having their afternoon together and getting to know one another a little bit in Moonraker, Gala picks a bee orchis.
“You wouldn’t do that if you knew that flowers scream when they are picked,” said Bond.
Gala looked at him. “What do you mean?” she asked, suspecting a joke.
“Didn’t you know?” He smiled at her reaction. “There’s an Indian called Professor Bhose, who’s written a treatise on the nervous system of flowers. He measured their reaction to pain. He even recorded the scream of a rose being picked. It must be one of the most heartrending sounds in the world. I heard something like it as you picked that flower.”
After James Bond and Gala Brand regain their wits after having a cliff face pushed down on them, they decide on a plan – head to the Granville for further clean up and recovery, before heading back to Drax’s house.
They both felt keyed up and in high spirits. A hot bath and an hour’s rest at the accommodating Granville had been followed by two stiff brandies-and-sodas for Gala and three for Bond followed by delicious fried soles and Welsh rarebits and coffee.
The Granville was the Granville Hotel, a long-time landmark in St Margaret’s which was demolished in 1996.
Much of the action in Moonraker takes place in the county of Kent, around the town of Dover, in the South-East corner of England.
Sir Hugo Drax’s rocket base on is on the edge of the cliffs between Dover and Deal. The cliffs of course, are the famous White Cliffs of Dover.
During their afternoon together, James Bond and Gala Brand head down to the bottom of cliffs.
To their left the carpet of green turf, bright with small wildflowers, sloped gradually down to the long pebble beaches of Walmer and Deal, which curved off towards Sandwich and the Bay.
They walked along in Silence until they came to the two-mile stretch of shingle that runs at low tide beneath the towering white cliffs of St. Margaret’s Bay.
While there, a cliff face falls on them.
It is worth noting that at the time in which he wrote Moonraker Ian Fleming owned a house at the end of St Margaret’s Bay called White Cliffs. Thus, he was intimately familiar with all the locales described in the story.
Hoagland Howard Carmichael was an American composer, singer and actor who is referenced in two James Bond novels as a good representation of what agent 007 looks like.
In Casino Royale, it is Vesper Lynd who first makes this connection.
‘He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his …’
Bond is told of this, and later muses:
As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical. Not much of Hoagy Carmichael there, thought Bond, as he filled a flat, light gunmetal box with fifty of the Morland cigarettes with the triple gold band.
In Moonraker, Gala Brand also makes the connection:
Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold.
These are the only mentions of Carmichael, but the description of Bond stays pretty consistent throughout the series.
Fleming himself had a drawing of James Bond commissioned for a comic strip artist to use for a series in the Daily Express.
I would quibble slightly with the receding hairline, but this is Fleming’s own interpretation, so we’ll have to accept it.
After James Bond reads about the Inspectoscope in Moonraker, he turns his attention to the next file, which is entitled “Philopon. A Japanese murder-drug.”
‘Philopon is the chief factor in the increase in crime in Japan. According to the Welfare Ministry there are now 1,500,000 addicts in the country, of whom one million are under the age of 20, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police attribute 70 per cent of juvenile crime to the influences of the drug.
Fleming then goes into the addictive properties of the drug, and how with abuse, the drug creates a persecution complex within the abuser, who feels that others are trying to kills him, and thus murder becomes self-defense. The report says that in the hands of a criminal “master-mind” the drug could become a dangerous weapon causing addicts to kill without conscience. The last thing Bond reads before putting the report down is “As usual Korean nationals are being blamed…”
What is this killer drug, Philopon?
Crystal meth. Or methamphetamine.
Yes, Japan had something of a methamphetamine epidemic after World War II. The Japanese army had actually supplied it to soldiers and even factory workers to enable them to work longer hours (without eating). It was given to kamikaze pilots so they could endure long flights and not mind crashing into things and ending their own lives.
After the war, many of these people were still addicted. That number grew to the 1.5 million number that Fleming mentions above. (more on this below) This was exacerbated by the government releasing the stores of meth that it had built up during the war.
In 1951, the Japanese Ministry of Health prohibited meth in Japan, but this only caused even more production of the drug.
One of the most famous and popular medicines was Philopon,which was extracted by Dr. Miura and the Dainippon Pharmaceutical Company and made available in 1941. Philopon is a coined word,combining the Greek philo (love) and ponos (labor),and was a synonym for stimulants until the 1970s.
The paper quotes from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police report on their 1954-55 campaign against meth and echos more of what Fleming wrote, both in the numbers and on blaming the Koreans.
Seventy percent of these smugglers,unlawful producers,and bootleggers consist of Korean people and they gnaw at the bodies and spirits of approximately 1,500,000 of our fellow countrymen. At its most extreme, we seem to be living with a large crowd of people going insane and becoming brutal offenders. . . . Our fellow countrymen, especially young people,are the victims of Korean people seeking their own interests, and the result will be the destruction of our future generations, who will become sick and decline in health and finally turn into addicts who will destroy our entire social order. . . . Korean people who are well informed of the dangers of stimulants rarely use it themselves nor do they allow their children to use it.
Fleming also mentions the Bar Mecca murder case which was in the headlines at the time as well, it was a 1953 murder case in which the motivation was money for Philopon.
Once again, Ian Fleming was mixing current events and news reports into his novels, which likely made them seem even more authentic to the reader. Now, 60 years later, much of these events and references are lost to time.
While reviewing the files that have piled up in his in-tray in Moonraker, James Bond comes across two files of which the contents are shared with us.
The first one is for an instrument used for detecting hidden contraband.
The Inspectoscope,’ he read, ‘is an instrument using fluoroscopic principles for the detection of contraband. It is manufactured by the Sicular Inspectoscope Company of San Francisco and is widely used in American prisons for the secret detection of metal objects concealed in the clothing or on the person of criminals and prison visitors. It is also used in the detection of IDE (Illicit Diamond Buying) and diamond smuggling in the diamond fields of Africa and Brazil. The instrument costs seven thousand dollars, is approximately eight feet long by seven feet high and weighs nearly three tons. It requires two trained operators.
Where did this file come from? The September 19th, 1953 issue of The New Yorker (No Hiding Place).
For the past two years, the local customs office, which is fairly hard pressed even in the off seasons, has been aided in its work by a cumbersome but extremely effective fluoroscopic device known as the Inspectoscope. Any traveler arriving here by plane or ship and suspected of concealing contraband of one sort or another is apt to be whisked to the local headquarters of the Customs Agency Service, at 201 Varick Street, and subjected to the uncannily close scrutiny of this one-eyed monster, which is capable of detecting undeclared objects not only in secret compartments of suitcases and the folds of old Inverness capes but inside the human body as well. Horrid, but that’s smuggling for you.
It goes on to talk some about diamond smuggling, the motivation and methods of the practice. Then, we get the payoff:
To top off our visit, Mr. Duncan led us to the rear of the building and showed us the Inspectoscope, which approximately eight feet long by seven feet high, weighs as much as an elephant, is manufactured by a San Francisco firm called the Sicular Inspectoscope Company, cost seven thousand dollars, and consists of a low platform with a cabinet full of unspeakable complicated electrical equipment at one end and a control booth at the other. It is widely used in prisons, he said, to determine whether convicts or supposedly innocent visitors are concealing knives, blackjacks, files and the like.
Wow! It was pretty cool to find this article, and realize that Ian Fleming had read it, and used the material in his book. The amount of information on diamond smuggling within the article makes me also think that this might’ve gotten him on the track to writing The Diamond Smugglers and Diamonds Are Forever.
In fact, in Diamonds Are Forever, when Bond is talking with Ronnie Vallance about his mission.
Let’s hope the whole job doesn’t blow up in my face in the customs shed at Idlewild. I shall look pretty silly if the Inspectoscope picks me up.
Here is another column on the new device from the year in which Fleming wrote Moonraker.
Powerful ‘Inspectoscope’ Can ‘Look’ Into Sealed Packing Cases
NEW YORK, Aug. 25 (W—U.S.)
Customs agents are going after smugglers with new “X-ray eyes” that peer into sealed packing cases in search of contraband. The first “inspectoscope” ever built has been put to work on the New York waterfront checking crates and cartons that may carry forbidden cargo under innocent labels.
The device, which works on the principle of a doctor’s fluoroscope was built by a West Coast firm at the suggestion of customs officials. It cost $8000, and is much more powerful than similar instruments used to detect weapons or files on persons entering prisons.
Leroy Mackerodt, deputy surveyor of customs, said the inspectoscope can “look” into about 800 packing cases a day. A conveyor belt may be used to speed up the process of moving cargo before the inspectoscope’s “eye.”
Customs agents believe the device will be especially valuable in tracking down small parcels of narcotics that can be hidden in cases containing otherwise-innocent cargo.
The inspectoscope later may be put to use in checking the baggage of travelers. The present model generates so much radioactivity that it cannot be used to check the passengers themselves for contraband that might be hidden in their clothing.
Customs inspector Joseph Baldwin demonstrated the inspectoscope by examining a crate marked “iron ornaments” to see if that was what it really contained. The screen-like eye of the machine was fitted against the crate and Baldwin flipped a switch.
On another screen, much like that of a television set, a ghostly picture of the crate appeared. The decorative ironware inside the crate was clearly visible.
Mounted on Trailer
The inspectoscope is 10 feet high and 14 feet long. It is mounted on a trailer so it can be moved from pier to pier.
Baldwin said that, with experience, an operator could become familiar with the appearance of different materials on the inspectoscope screen. Then he could tell at a glance whether a package contained burlap, for instance, or some more expensive fabric.
The power of the inspectoscope is so great than an operator can remain at the controls for only two hours at a time without risking harm from its rays.
Baldwin said the machine ought to be fool-proof, with one exception. If cargo were packed in a case lined with lead, which resists radioactivity, the inspectoscope would go blind.
I like that they give away the way to beat the machine at the end! Also, that so much radiation emanated from the instrument that operators couldn’t go more than two hours on the machine.
In Moonraker, Bond reflects that he’ll need to find another hiding place or way to carry his gun when he travels abroad. Clearly, Fleming did see this as something that would be used on a wide-scale in the future, and putting it into the book assists the story in seeming modern, even though it is 60 years old!
In From Russia With Love, the device is referenced again, as while Bond is reviewing the new briefcase that Q Branch put together for him, with its hidden compartments:
He thought how surprised the ticket clerk at London Airport would have been if she had weighed the case instead of letting it go unchecked as an ‘overnight bag.’ And if, in their turn, Customs had been intrigued by its weight, how interested they would have been when it was slipped under the Inspectoscope.
The Inspectoscope – clearly a device that Ian Fleming was fascinated with.
After administering the beatdown of Sir Hugo Drax at the bridge table in Moonraker, Bond explains in private to M and Basildon what had just happened.
He fanned the red pack out on the table and showed M. and Basildon that it would have produced the same freak grand slam that had defeated Drax.
“It’s a famous Culbertson hand,” he explained. “He used it to spoof his own quick-trick conventions. I had to doctor a red and a blue pack. Couldn’t know which colour I would be dealing with.”
Culbertson was Ely Culbertson, a pioneer in the game of contract bridge, who reached his peak of fame and dominance during the 1930’s.
If you have a few moments, I recommend this 1954 article from Sports Illustrated about a famous match Culbertson played in 1931 in London, which to me, makes me at least wonder if Fleming got some of the ideas for the Moonraker battle from this game. It was played in high society, with a lot of bluster and gamesmanship being tossed around, with tempers flaring.
Culbertson was a fascinating man, known for his outlandish spending habits, once spending $5,000 on shirts on Fifth Avenue, and known for smoking his own brand of cigarettes (sound familiar?) at $7 a day.
There is an amusing little incident in Moonraker where James Bond is driving and he sees a sign that makes him stop his car to look closer.
Startled at the great crimson words, Bond pulled in to the curb, got out of the car and crossed to the other side of the street to get a better view of the big skysign.
Ah! That was it. Some of the letters had been hidden by a neighbouring building. It was only one of those Shell advertisements. ‘SUMMER SHELL is HERE’ was what it said.
Bond smiled to himself and walked back to his car and drove on.
When he had first seen the sign, half-hidden by the building, great crimson letters across the evening sky had flashed a different message.
They had said: ‘HELL is HERE… HELL is HERE… HELL is HERE.’
It used to be that you had to use a different oil in your car in the summer and the winter. During the summer you used a thicker oil so that the heat would not cause the oil to break down as quickly. If you used that same oil in the winter, the cold would make it so thick that it would be difficult to start your car.
Thus companies like Shell used to advertise different versions of oil, summer and winter.
Oils these days are multiviscosity – which means they flow just fine cold and then thicken and protect as the engine heats it up. So we don’t need to use various weather oils in our automobiles.
I’d love to find a neon sign like what Bond saw above, but haven’t been able to find a photo anywhere. If you see one, let me know.