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.

Queen’s Club, Kingston Jamaica

The opening chapter of Dr. No has a disturbing scene taking place at an exclusive establishment in Kingston Jamaica, not far from King’s House.

On the eastern corner of the top intersection stands No 1 Richmond Road, a substantial two-storey house with broad white-painted verandas running round both floors. From the road a gravel path leads up to the pillared entrance through wide lawns marked out with tennis courts on which this evening, as on all evenings, the sprinklers are at work. This mansion is the social Mecca of Kingston. It is Queen’s Club, which, for fifty years, has boasted the power and frequency of its black-balls.

Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day Queen’s Club will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground, but for the time being it is a useful place to find in a sub-tropical island—well run, well staffed and with the finest cuisine and cellar in the Caribbean.

Scene from a movie filmed four years after Fleming’s novel.

Inside the club, four prominent men are playing their nightly game of high bridge. One of the men, Commander John Strangways leaves the club at 6:15, as is his routine, to run back to his office for a daily call, after which he normally returns to the club.

This time however, he will will not return.

Just before six-fifteen, the silence of Richmond Road was softly broken. Three blind beggars came round the corner of the intersection and moved slowly down the pavement towards the four cars. They were Chigroes—Chinese Negroes—bulky men, but bowed as they shuffled along, tapping at the kerb with their white sticks. They walked in file. The first man, who wore blue glasses and could presumably see better than the others, walked in front holding a tin cup against the crook of the stick in his left hand. The right hand of the second man rested on his shoulder and the right hand of the third on the shoulder of the second.

From the same film as above.

Strangways is shockingly killed, and the events are set in motion which eventually brings James Bond to the island of Jamaica.

The Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith later takes Bond to lunch at Queen’s Club, where he gives Bond some more background on the case and on the people of Jamaica.

Fleming’s Queen’s Club is based on the real life Liguanea Club. which opened in 1910, and is still in business to this day.

As it appears today.

Interestingly, in The Man With The Golden Gun, Fleming has Mary Goodnight telling Bond about her house in Kingston, and she says:

‘And James, it’s not far from the Liguanea Club and you can go there and play bridge and golf when you get better. There’ll be plenty of people for you to talk to.

Whether Fleming’s change was accidental or due to the change in government (Jamaica became Independent) he removed the Queen’s Club name, I’m not sure, but it is interesting.

 

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.

Sea Island Cotton Shirts and Shorts

If you’ve read the James Bond books, you know that while Bond dresses rather simply, he is, like in many areas, very specific about what he likes and uses for himself.

One item that James Bond is known for is his preference for Sea Island cotton shirts and shorts.

Most passages read something like this one in Moonraker:

He had shaved, gargled with a sharp mouth-wash, and now, in a battered black and white dogtooth suit, dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt and black silk knitted tie, he was walking softly, but not surreptitiously, along the corridor to the head of the stairs, the, square leather case in his left hand.

Other books where Sea Island cotton is mentioned are Diamonds Are Forever, Dr No, The Man With The Golden Gun (underpants) and From Russia With Love.

Sea Island is not a brand, but rather a specific type of cotton. The Gossypium barbadense produces a longer “staple” of cotton, and also has a more silky feel to it, making it extremely comfortable. Think about taking your Egyptian cotton sheets and making a shirt out of them – that’s what it would be like.

The species is grown on tropical American islands and through the Caribbean, Ian Fleming would’ve certainly been familiar with it, and was obviously a fan of the fabric.

Here is a 1951 Hathaway Shirts ad for a Sea Island shirt. At the time Hathaway was the best-selling shirt on the market, so these certainly could’ve been what James Bond was wearing.

FYI – This was part of an entire series of ads starring the gentleman with the eye patch, and was the inspiration for the “Most Interesting Man in the World” beer commercials.

Pink Gin

In The Man With The Golden Gun, when James Bond is introduced to the hoods at the Thunderbird Hotel, drinks are being served.

The red-coated barman asked him what he would have and he said, ‘Some pink gin. Plenty of bitters. Beefeater’s.’ There was desultory talk about the relative merits of gins. Everyone else seemed to be drinking champagne except Mr Hendriks, who stood away from the group and nursed a Schweppes Bitter Lemon.

Pink Gin is a cocktail – one of the foundational beverages of the British Empire. It is, as Bond notes, gin with bitters. Some put the bitters directly into the gin, others put the bitters into the glass, swirl it around, dump them out and add the gin.

Meant to be served without ice.

 

The Schweppes Bitter Lemon being consumed by Hendriks is a non-alcoholic soft drink. It is a flavored tonic water which has never been hugely popular in the United States, but was and is in Europe.

Walker’s DeLuxe Bourbon

In The Man With The Golden Gun, Bond seems to have a preference for this now-defunct brand.

After arriving in Jamaica, Bond makes his way to the hotel at Morgan’s Harbour. While waiting to meet up with Mary Goodnight, he goes to the waterfront bar and orders a “double Walker’s de Luxe on the rocks” followed by another “with a water chaser to break it down”. Then, when Goodnight arrives, he orders her a daiquiri, and himself another double, making it three doubles at that sitting.

Later, after checking into the Thunderbird hotel, Bond calls Room Service and “ordered a bottle of Walker’s de Luxe Bourbon, three glasses, ice and for nine o’clock, Eggs Benedict.

Bond reflected:

The best drink of the day is just before the first one (the Red Stripe didn’t count). James Bond put ice in the glass and three fingers of the bourbon and swilled it round the glass to cool it and break it down with the ice.

After picking up his book, (Profiles in Courage by John F Kennedy.) Bond drinks:

He drank the bourbon down in two long draughts and felt its friendly bite at the back of his throat and in his stomach. He filled up his glass again, this time with more ice to make it a weaker drink, and sat back and thought about Scaramanga.

He then has a last drink before bed.

Two more times in the book, Bond takes a slug or two of bourbon in his room. We can assume it is from that same bottle.