Live And Let Die novel

1954 saw the publication of Live And Let Die, set in the US and Fleming’s second home of Jamaica. Full of imagination, it saw a change of pace from the previous book with its descriptions of gambling and paved the way for Bond as an action hero.

Live And Let Die Cover

Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date:
 5th April 1954
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Kenneth Lewis

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Mixing voodoo with pirate treasure and SMERSH, the book is the first to introduce Fleming’s fascination with the ocean and once in Jamaica is full of local colour.

The film of the same name was the first to star Roger Moore and like most of the films had very little to do with the book beyond sharing the names of the villain, Mr Big, and the girl, Solitaire.

Interestingly enough, a scene where Bond and Solitaire are dragged behind a boat over a shark infested reef was later used in the film For Your Eyes Only, and Licence to Kill starring Timothy Dalton was quite obviously, but loosely, based on the book.

What we say

Although Casino Royale was not published until later that year, Fleming wrote his second novel during his annual winter holiday in Jamaica in early 1953.

007 is sent to New York to investigate Mr Big. There he teams up with CIA agent Felix Leiter, under whose guidance he gets to see the jazz clubs and dance halls of 1950s Harlem. From New York they travel to Florida and then, after Felix is almost killed after being fed to the sharks, Bond heads to Jamaica.

This is the first of several stories that take place in Fleming’s favourite place and provides the opportunity for Bond to don a wetsuit and scuba gear and explore the submarine world in which Ian Fleming was so interested.

Fleming’s novel expertly combines action, suspense, and cultural exploration. He vividly describes locales like bustling New York, exotic Jamaica, and the retirement communities of Florida, immersing readers in each setting. His meticulous research and attention to detail reveal the world of espionage and offer thrilling glimpses into international intrigue and dangerous villains.

Among the highlights is when Felix Leiter takes Bond on a tour of Harlem’s jazz clubs, which is both fascinating and dated. When the novel was published in the United States this section was significantly toned down to make it palatable to American audiences.

It is also curious how Fleming weaves voodoo into the story, including a heroine who seems to genuinely possess psychic powers. Later Fleming’s love of Jamaica and the underwater world is evident when 007 scuba dives to Mr Big’s lair located on the Isle of Surprise.

Friends & foes

Bond has a number of allies, including his CIA friend from Casino Royale, Felix Leiter, Solitaire, local Secret Service man John Strangways and Cayman Islander, Quarrel. However, he also faces a formidable adversary in the enigmatic Mr Big, a powerful criminal mastermind.

Felix Leiter is once again recalled by the CIA to help Bond out and is portrayed as a capable and loyal friend. The two men have a good working relationship as shown when he takes Bond out on an unforgettable tour of the jazz clubs of Harlem.

However, Leiter is also portrayed as being somewhat more cautious and pragmatic than Bond, who tends to be more reckless and impulsive. Despite their differences in approach, the two men are able to work together effectively to achieve their goals.

Solitaire is the name by which Simone Latrell is better known. Originally from Haiti, not only is she among “the most beautiful women Bond had ever seen” but she is also telepathic.

Solitaire is held captive by Mr Big, her who uses her powers for his criminal activities. Bond helps to rescue Solitaire from Mr Big’s clutches while infiltrating his operations. Over the course of the novel, Solitaire becomes romantically involved with Bond and ultimately helps him defeat Mr Big.

John Strangways is the Secret Service’s most senior agent in the Caribbean lives in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains above Kingston. He assists Bond with equipment and introduces Bond to Quarrel.

Quarrel is a Cayman Islander who assists Bond in Jamaica and helps get him back into shape before his ordeal on the Isle of Surprise.

Mr Big is how Buonaparte Ignace Gallia is commonly known. He is tall with a large, bald head and grey-black skin that is “taut and shining like the face of a week-old corpse in the river”. Head of the Black Widow Voodoo cult, Mr Big is “probably the most powerful negro criminal in the world”. Cult followers believe he is  the zombie of Baron Samedi. If that wasn’t enough he also works for SMERSH.


007 is sent to New York, where he again teams up with CIA agent Felix Leiter, who takes Bond to a number of nightspots in Harlem. They later follow a lead that takes them to St Petersburg in Florida. Finally, Bond sets off to Jamaica for a showdown with Mr Big at his lair on the Isle of Surprise.


Bond is served a martini before lunch in New York, which is followed by soft-shell crabs with tartare sauce, medium rare hamburgers with French fries and broccoli, and ice cream with melted butterscotch. They wash this down with Liebfraumilch and finish with coffee.

Also see: Live and Let Die: food & drink from the novel

Later, at the King Cole Bar in the same hotel, Bond and Leiter order medium dry martinis made with House of Lords gin and Martini and Rossi vermouth, but Bond finds the gin harsh. They also order scotch and sodas at various bars and clubs in Harlem, accompanied by ham sandwiches. After returning t his hotel, Bond pours himself three inches of Haig and Haig on the rocks.

As Bond and Solitaire travel down to Florida on the Silver Phantom , he orders Old Fashioneds and later miniature bottles of dry martini, to accompany their meals. After arriving they meet Leiter, who produces a bottle of Haig and Haig scotch. He and Bond have a scotch an soda. After discovering Solitaire’s kidnapping, Bond and Leiter have “a stiff drink together.” Bond continues drinking until he has “drunk enough to drown his thoughts” before going to sleep.

After Leiter is thrown to the sharks, Bond has a stiff drink before going to investigate further. Later he drinks a pint of Old Grandad and two cups strong coffee to accompany a large rare steak with French fries. After his visit to Ourobouros Worm and Bait he stops at a bar and has two double Old Grand-Dads on the rocks.

During his flight to Jamaica, Bond has a cocktail, and Strangways fixes them both strong whisky and sodas as they discuss the Isle of Surprise. Bond also drinks whisky before making his night swim from Beau Desert, using it to wash down a Benzadrine tablet.

After defeating Mr Big, Bond and Solitaire celebrate at Beau Desert. She brings a cocktail shaker and two glasses outside to Bond, telling him “I hope I’ve made it right…Six to one sounds terribly strong. I’ve never had vodka Martinis before”.

Afterwards, Solitaire tells Bond that they have been left “a case of the finest champagne in Jamaica” by Strangways.


In Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming equips Bond with numerous brands, including various FBI-provided items after arriving in America such as a Zippo lighter. Fleming continues to showcase Bond’s refined taste in food and drink, including Blue Mountain coffee and Old Grandad bourbon.


Bond drives his Bentley to the office for an early morning meeting with M. Fleming describes it as “the 1933 4 ½-litre with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger”.


After exhausting his supply of Morlands, Bond switches to King Size Chesterfields.


After being Americanised by the FBI most of Bond’s belongings are forwarded to Jamaica. However, he keeps his Beretta .25 with the skeleton grip and chamois leather shoulder-holster. Later he carries it under his wetsuit when he dives to the Isle of Surprise.


Bond’s battered Ronson is replaced by a plain Zippo lighter.


The FBI provide a light-weight Hartmann ‘Skymate’ suitcase. The company was founded in 1877 and continues to produce luxury suitcases today.


Bond wears a tie-clip from Swank. The company has been in existence since 1897 and continues to provide men’s jewellery, belts and leather accessories.

Mark Cross

He is supplied with an alligator-skin billfold from Mark Cross, a company founded in 1845.


Fleming mentions Rolex for the first time. Although he dives with it there is no suggestion it is a Submariner, as worn in the early films.

Champion harpoon gun

Bond asks Strangways for the Admiralty to send various equipment, including a couple of harpoons gun supplied by French manufacturer Champion.


He also asks for a commando dagger. When it arrives Fleming notes “it is of the type devised by Wilkinsons during the war”. This is the Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife, also referred to as the British Commando knife.


To go with a huge lunch with Captain Dexter of the FBI and his CIA contact Felix Leiter, Bond drinks what Leiter tells him is “as good a Liebfraumilch as you can get in America”.

Old Grandad

On the Silver Phantom from New York to St Petersburg  Bond orders chicken sandwiches for himself and Solitaire accompanied by Old Fashioneds made with Old Grandad bourbon.


Bond also orders Sanka coffee for them. He orders this popular brand of decaffeinated instant so they can sleep on the train.

Blue Mountain coffee

For his first breakfast after arriving in Jamaica, Bond drinks Blue Mountain coffee on the veranda of John Strangway’s house. Blue Mountain coffee is a protected certification mark and coffees bearing this mark are among the most expensive in the world.

You can buy Live And Let Die from Amazon UK and

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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