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Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born --- Ian Fleming's Jamaica


Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born --- Ian Fleming's Jamaica

One of Ian Fleming’s teachers wrote to his mother that “He ought to make an excellent soldier, provided always that the Ladies don’t ruin him.” Fleming, who was a storied womanizer (and a good solider) in real life, established a fictional alter-ego who was always successful with “the Ladies” and an expert at Cold War-style spy-craft. In this highly readable book, Matthew Parker, who came upon Goldeneye, the Fleming retreat in Jamaica, while working on THE SUGAR BARONS, paints a colorful portrait of the paradise where James Bond first drew breath, and where Fleming flirted with creation and self-destruction.

"In this highly readable book, Matthew Parker...paints a colorful portrait of the paradise where James Bond first drew breath, and where Fleming flirted with creation and self-destruction."

Famously, Fleming, visiting Jamaica on an espionage assignment for the British Navy during World War II, vowed to return and did so, building a villa he called Goldeneye on a high hill overlooking the ocean. “Each year, Jamaica had soaked into him, with its creative spirit and cocktail of luxury, melancholy, imperialism, sensuality, danger and violence.” By 1953, he had tapped out his first novel at Goldeneye: CASINO ROYALE introduced Bond --- uncomplicated, unflappable, undaunted by danger. Bond would become an English icon and the books’ international favorite, while Fleming would go on smoking 3+ packs of cigarettes a day, drinking to dangerous excess, and writing a new Bond thriller every year. Together with NoëlCoward, who also moved to Jamaica, Fleming, though always something of a loner, would help make Jamaica the happening place for the beautiful people: Kathryn Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Michael Redgrave, Lucien Freud, the Oliviers, and Fleming’s wife-to-be, Ann Charteris.

But this is a story about the place as well as the man. Fleming (through the eyes of Bond) saw Jamaica as a sensual playground, peopled by simple, dark-skinned natives with an innate willingness to please those of lighter skin. Dodging the dreary English weather for a few months each year, Fleming was not keen to acknowledge the complex issues of race and rights roiling in his island refugeStill, Parker points out, during Fleming’s years there, Jamaica was a nation aching for, pushing for and ultimately achieving independence.

Jamaica provided the setting for several Bond books, and Dr. No was also filmed there. It became the archetype, in Fleming’s imagination, of all that was right about an empire for the imperialists: a carefree realm where evil could lurk but always be brushed aside with a round of really stiff drinks delivered by smiling servants. While there, Fleming had a long-term affair with Blanche Blackwell, perhaps the only woman who ever really took with the lonely man from a cold climate, while Ann, who considered the Bond tales pornographic, had a lover back home. Both, perhaps typical among their peers, struggled with addictions and bouts of melancholy.

Bond’s creator died in his mid-50s, having perhaps done everything he wanted and lived a life that, to many, would be enviable. Goldeneye, his kingdom by the sea, became a posh tourist inn. Bond, of course, lived on; as Parker notes, at the time of Fleming’s passing, “his books had sold thirty million copies and been translated into eighteen languages.”

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on March 13, 2015

Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born --- Ian Fleming's Jamaica
by Matthew Parker

  • Publication Date: August 9, 2016
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • ISBN-10: 1681771578
  • ISBN-13: 9781681771571