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Goldeneye, the home of Bond, is to become a celebrity village

04-Apr-2008 • Literary

Ian Fleming liked to say that James Bond would never have existed without Goldeneye, the Jamaican seaside villa where he wrote all the original 007 adventures - reports The Times.

He loved it above all for its simplicity. Goldeneye was beautiful, built on a former donkey racetrack and so humbly furnished that Noël Coward, a friend and neighbour, called it “Goldeneye, Nose and Throat”.

But now, in an indication of how far Bond’s prestige has outgrown the character’s modest origins, Fleming’s island hideaway is to be turned into a $120 million (£60 million) resort for sports stars, rock musicians and businessmen. Work began this week on the project, which will include 85 homes ranging in price from $750,000 to $3 million, two restaurants, a health spa, delicatessen, supermarket and watersports centre.

There are concerns that the scale of the development will overwhelm the intimate appeal of Fleming’s original four-room whitewashed villa, grounds and secluded private beach.

Chris Blackwell, 70, the owner of Goldeneye and the man who made Bob Marley into a global superstar with his label Island Records, believes it can be preserved. He hopes that the project will become an example of how luxury tourism can help society: the new development is expected to create 1,500 jobs on site and in the surrounding area, where unemployment is about 70 per cent.

“The Jamaican people are the root of my success and I want to give something back,” he said. “I will keep Fleming’s house as it is so that people can see the Goldeneye that he wrote in, but the future of this place is as a resort location.”

Goldeneye is a celebrity bolt hole in the Caribbean: a discreet 12bedroom hotel for VIPs, presidents and Hollywood A-listers. It is on the north coast of the island, approached via a potholed road. A wrought-iron gate with no sign leads through tropical trees to Fleming’s villa. In a tradition begun by Anthony Eden when he spent three weeks at Goldeneye after the Suez Crisis, labels at the foot of the trees record which guest planted them. Contributors range from Johnny Depp, the Clintons and Naomi Campbell, to Dawn French and Lenny Henry. Guest accommodation is limited to four lavish wooden cottages, with bedrooms named after Bond girls, and the original house, which is perched on a cliff above a coral beach.

Fleming fell in love with Jamaica during a conference on the U-boat threat to the Caribbean in 1942. He bought the 15-acre plot four years later and built a house, which he named Goldeneye after a wartime operation that was never put into action. He wintered there for the rest of his life.

When he embarked on Casino Royale in 1952 Fleming was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking journalist deep into middle age who was writing to forget about his impending marriage to his long-term mistress Ann Rothermere. He did not appear destined for literary immortality. He had failed at Eton, Sandhurst and in the City before discovering a flair for journalism and then a sense of purpose in the Second World War, which he fought from a desk as a spymaster for the Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy.

At Goldeneye, Fleming developed a strict routine, typing fast for three hours every morning and one hour in the evening, never looking back “except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to”. When not writing or snorkelling, he drank martinis and whisky and conducted his last love affair, with Mr Blackwell’s mother, Blanche.

His presence in the house remains palpable, although the desk at which he wrote is missing on an overseas assignment of its own: it is one of hundreds of Bond relics to go on show at the Imperial War Museum in London in For Your Eyes Only, a year-long exhibition on Fleming and Bond.

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