The United States seems to have held a particular fascination for Ian Fleming and was certainly not as familiar a destination for British readers when he was writing the James Bond books as it is today. These were the years just after the Second World War that are considered to be a golden age for the USA and characterised by a general increase in wealth across much of the population.
Bond travelled to New York in the second book, Live And Let Die on the trail of Mr Big and saw a fair amount of the city with his CIA buddy Felix Leiter. He also visits the city in Diamonds Are Forever and in the short story 007 In New York, while in the film series he visits in Live And Let Die where several attempts are made on Bond’s life prior to him going down to New Orleans.
Later in the novel Live And Let Die Bond and Solitaire travel down by train to St Petersburg in Florida, where they meet up with Felix again. They stop off at Jacksonville’s Terminal Station and, warned that their lives are in danger, leave the train at Clearwater. The book and film versions of Goldfinger both see 007 in Miami Beach – in the book the Floridiana, while in the film it is the Fontainebleau on which Fleming based the Floridiana. And although he visits Miami in Casino Royale, the scenes were not shot there, but much the first half of Licence To Kill was filmed in the Florida Keys.
Goldfinger also sees Bond in Kentucky, where Goldfinger plans on raiding Fort Knox and either stealing or irradiating the gold, depending on whether you are reading or watching. He is on the shores of Lake George in the Adirondacks in The Spy Who Loved Me, and in North Vermont in the short story For Your Eyes Only.
The book Diamonds Are Forever sees Bond go to Saratoga for the horse racing prior to making the trip up to Las Vegas, as in the film; following Las Vegas he visits California in Diamonds Are Forever, staying at the Beverley Hills Hotel prior to flying to New York and then liner to Britain, while San Francisco features prominently in A View To A Kill. And in Moonraker, Drax’s mansion, although shot in France, is supposed to be in California; the external shots of Drax Industries were in fact Rockwell International’s facility at Palmdale.
The city has to be New York, where, if you budget is up to it at least, you should stay at the St Regis (Live And Let Die) and eat at Sardi’s and the 21 Club, while you can find the filming locations of sites of the Oh Cult Voodoo Shop and Fillet of Soul restaurant.
Love it or loath it, you certainly can’t ignore Las Vegas. The gambling capital of the United States, if not the world, everything is over the top, and you have to visit “the Strip”.
There you can visit the Tropicana, where Bond stayed in the film version of Diamonds Are Forever, Circus Circus Hotel (where Tiffany wins the elephant), the Riviera (where Bond met Plenty O’Toole) and the Hilton, which was used as the Whyte House.
A number of other locations outside Las Vegas include Slumber Inc (in reality Palm Mortuary) or the Gypsum plant where Bond took off in the moon buggy.
Although the Fontainebleau hotel on Miami Beach has much changed since Sean Connery was there in Goldfinger (the baby blue towelling number is strictly optional), you can also travel down to Key West and some of the Licence To Kill locations, which are less than four hours drive away.
However, in Miami Beach you should eat at Joe’s Stone Crab on which Ian Fleming based “Bill’s on the Beach”, where Bond dined with Mr Du Pont at the beginning of Goldfinger.