Uncertain Denomination of Crab Key: Currency in James Bond’s Jamaica

Where the sky meets the Caribbean Sea just off the coast of Jamaica, Ian Fleming peered towards the horizon and he saw an island, Crab Key. The private island of the German Chinese super villain Dr. No, Crab key is the setting of Fleming’s 1958 novel Dr. No. [slide]

It is here—30 miles north of Jamaica and 60 miles south of Cuba—that swirling oceanic currents and the currents of the circulation of capital converge.  

In this part of our presentation, I examine Fleming’s fictional island of Crab Key and the various currencies that circulate through it. [slide] The oceanic currents of criminal Chinese backchannels brought Dr. No from Shanghai to New York before he absconds to Harlem, Milwaukee, and eventually Crab Key a dependent territory of a dependent territory, Jamaica. Also at play in the novel, are the oceanic currents of the overseas Chinese that brought Dr. No’s chimeric Afro-Chinese henchmen—the Chigroes—from Hong Kong to Kingston. All of these currents converge on Crab Key. In this world of Cold War villains and heroes, currents of various currencies–mediums of exchange, stores of value— are circulated, laundered, and transferred through Crab Key.