Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bond's concealed weapon: the gun hidden inside the bible

In chapter 4 of Goldfinger, Fleming describes how, in a hotel room in Miami, James Bond opens his suitcase and takes out The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature, opening the book to retrieve his Walther PPK in a Berns Martin holster. The book was published in the US by Simon and Schuster in 1936, and published soon after (possibly 1937 - no date is shown) in Britain by Heinemann. The title of the book tells us that Bond has the British edition, the title of the American edition being The Bible: Designed to be Read as Living Literature.
The UK edition

As the book's blurb states, Ernest Sutherland Bates, the editor of the work, intended to modernise the archaic spelling, punctuation and arrangement of the King James Version, and reduce or remove repetitions and footnotes to produce a flowing narrative. Whether Bond feels that the editor succeeded is not recorded, and in any case he is not in a position to judge, as there's a large gun-shaped hole in his copy.
A Walther PP in the Pitt Rivers Museum

At 230mm tall, 150mm wide, and 37mm thick, the book is certainly large enough to accommodate Bond's Walther PPK 7.65mm, which is 155mm long, 25mm wide in plan and 100mm tall. Ian Fleming was persuaded to change Bond's holster to the Berns-Martin triple-draw model in 1956 by Geoffrey Boothroyd, a gun enthusiast who despaired at Bond's choice of weapons in his first four adventures. The holster is designed for revolvers, and Boothroyd recommended the .38 Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight. The revolver is about 165mm long, and the triangular-shaped holster is some 100mm along two sides and 150mm along the third. The holster would take up much of the area of the bible's page, but it fits.
A page from a 1959 catalogue

Fleming later acknowledged that he had made a mistake pairing it with the semi-automatic, but he needn't have been too concerned. Although Boothroyd rebuked Fleming for the error (“If [Bond] carries on using this PPK out of that Berns Martin rig I shall have to break down and write a rude letter to Fleming”), the view among gun enthusiasts is that the holster can be adapted for use with a gun like the Walther PPK.

Fleming doesn't mention the hollowed-out bible again, but the use of a book to conceal items – a familiar device in mystery and spy fiction – appears in the film version of Thunderball (1965), in which a dictionary is used to conceal a tape recorder, and in the film, Diamonds Are Forever (1971), in which the school teacher Mrs Whistler smuggles diamonds in a hollowed-out bible. By referring to a specific book, as oppose to a generically thick volume, Fleming demonstrated that he knew the book well enough – presumably a copy sat on his bookshelf – to select it as an appropriate volume for the Walther.

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