In the second installment in the series looking at the world of James Bond, we visit Jamaica...

The World Of James Bond - Jamaica
2nd July 2004

Jamaica must be considered the most important location to James Bond, as Ian Fleming wrote all the books at his Jamaican hideaway, Goldeneye. Featuring in Live And Let Die, Doctor No and The Man With The Golden Gun, Jamaica turns out to be one of the most colourful locations in a series of books full of vivid locations. In Jamaica we come into contact with voodoo and a fortune-teller, a girl Friday living in the remains of a great colonial house with wild animals and in Fleming’s final novel, a private railway running through the mangrove swamps.

Ian Fleming had fallen in love with Jamaica when he visited the island during the Second World War for an Anglo-American navel conference. Fleming went with his great friend, Ivar Bryce, whose wife owned Bellevue, one of Jamaica’s most beautiful great houses. It was also attractive to Fleming, as one of his heroes, Nelson, had once stayed there. The conference took place at the Myrtle Bank Hotel in Kingston, but Fleming and Bryce spent their nights at the much cooler Bellevue in the Blue Mountains. In 1947 Bryce found him a site next to the sea on an old donkey racetrack near the sleepy town of Oracabessa. Fleming designed his own house, later to be christened Goldeneye after a wartime operation run by him in Spain. Tt has the unusual feature of glassless windows to allow the house to be cooled by the tropical breezes. Today Fleming’s house is part of the Goldeneye Complex, which belongs to Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost. Chris Blackwell is the son of Blanche Blackwell, with whom Ian Fleming had an affair after meeting on the island, and founded Island Records. The complex now also consists of the Royal Palm villa as well as three villas with bedrooms named after some of the Bond girls: Honeychile is in Villa 1, Tiffany Case and Domino in Villa 2, while Villa 3 has Romanov, Solitaire and Vesper.

Jamaica’s original inhabitants, the Arawaks, were virtually wiped out by the mid sixteenth century by the Spanish, who used Jamaica as a base to plunder the treasures from Mexico.

The island was ruled from what is now known as Spanish Town, but in 1655 the island was captured for the British, who imported African slaves to work on the sugar plantations. Today’s capital, Kingston, was founded in 1694 after an earthquake destroyed Port Royal on the other side of the harbour. The natural harbour is the seventh largest in the world and boosted Kingston’s importance as a trade centre, becoming Jamaica’s capital in 1872.

Above: Goldeneye - Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica

Above: The Blue Mountains area
  By the turn of the 19th century, the Jamaican sugar crop was facing rising production costs and competition from European sugar beet and with the abolition of slavery in 1838 costs rose further with the introduction of wages for the workers. The island also began exporting logwood, coffee and bananas grown on small farms set up by former slaves. Following a rebellion in 1938 the idea of decolonizing Jamaica took hold and the island eventually gained full independence in 1962. From this time Jamaica developed its bauxite and alumina exports and started to develop its tourist industry.

We first learn that Bond has visited Jamaica in Casino Royale, when his cover sees him as a wealthy Jamaican. However, in Fleming’s second James Bond adventure, Live And Let Die, we actually find him on the island. Like many tourists today, Bond spends no time in Kingston as he is picked up from the airport by Commander John Strangways, the secret service man for the Caribbean. Strangways drives Bond to his house in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and updates him on the villainous Mr Big, whom Bond had already met in Harlem. Strangways has arranged accommodation at Beau Dessert, near to Mr Big’s “Isle of Surprise” base in the middle of Shark Bay on the North coast and a house “on the other side of the island”, to be used while Bond gets into training for his assignment and also for a local to act as Bond’s fixer and guide.

The name of the local man is Quarrel, a Cayman Islander, and the two men leave on the Junction Road, taking them through Castleton and Port Maria, before taking a little road leading down to Shark Bay.

Although there is no reference to Shark Bay on the map and may well be a fictitious name, the location lies between Port Maria and Oracabessa, close to Goldeneye and possibly what is known today as “James Bond Beach”.

Above: "James Bond Beach"

After a reconnaissance of the area, the two men continue their drive along the northern coast, passing through Oracabessa, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. On the far side of the bay they stop for lunch and continue their journey to the far west of the island, to what must be Negril Beach, “five miles of white sand sloping easily into the breakers”. Here, in a “house on stilts built as a weekend cottage for the employees of the West Indian Citrus Company”, Bond spends a week preparing for his mission with an arduous training regime overseen by Quarrel - no alcohol, ten cigarettes a day, running, swimming, sailing and snorkeling. It is during the course of the latter activity that we learn the true dangers of the barracuda, when Quarrel is nearly savaged by a fish that is “capable of fifty miles an hour over short distances, and with the worst battery of teeth of any fish in the sea”. Every evening Quarrel massages Bond for half an hour with palm oil and by the end of the week “Bond was sunburned and hard” and ready to face Mr Big.

In Doctor No, Bond once finds himself in Jamaica. He books a single room with shower in Blue Hills Hotel “a comfortable old-fashioned hotel with modern trimmings”, probably based on the Blue Mountain Inn. The balcony to his room on which he breakfasts overlooks a “riot of tropical gardens to Kingston, five miles below” and once again he spends most of his time with Quarrel, who takes Bond to “The Joy Boat” restaurant, down on Kingston harbour. The restaurant is owned by his friend Pus-Feller, named on account of his one-time fight with a big octopus and to “the throb and twang of calypso music” they eat broiled lobster, steak and native vegetables, washed down with a gin and tonic with a lime (Bond) and a Red Stripe (Quarrel).

Bond spends the following day in Kingston at King’s House, where he meets the Governor and then the Colonial Secretary for information on the case he is working on – the disappearance of Commander Strangways and his secretary. Bond gets on well with the Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith, and he learns about Dr No and his island hideaway called Crab Key, after which the two have lunch at Queen’s Club.

Above: Montego Bay.

The following day Bond and Quarrel make an early start for Beau Dessert, again on the Junction Road to the North Coast. Bond is planning to make a visit to Crab Key, thirty miles north of Galina Point in Jamaica and 60 miles south of Cuba.

Before setting off, Bond again undertakes three days of training under Quarrel’s supervision and the two eventually set off in a small canoe destined for the mangrove swamps of Crab Key.

Bond returns to a now independent Jamaica in The Man With The Golden Gun, on the trail of an assassin called Scaramanga. Staying at Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, a “romantic little hotel… on the site of Port Royal”, which started in 1955 and in 1958 became a members club with only twelve rooms, Bond finds that his former secretary, Mary Goodnight, has been posted to Kingston and they meet for dinner at the hotel, where they enjoy broiled lobster with melted butter and foie gras with Champagne.

Following a lead that he will find Scaramanga in Savannah La Mar, Bond and Goodnight drive through the picturesquely named Spanish Town, May Pen, Alligator Pond and Black River. Bond’s intended rendezvous with Scaramanga is 3½ Love Lane, a large house that turns out to be an up-for-sale brothel. Scaramanga hires Bond to look after security at a shareholders’ meeting of the fictional Thunderbird Hotel, the construction of which is running late and over budget. The hotel is being built at Bloody Bay near Negril Beach and since the shareholders number members of the mafia and KGB, Scaramanga must watch his back.

James Bond finally returns to Jamaica in the short story, Octopussy. He hardly features in the story at all, but visits the house of an ex-secret service man. We are not given any details as to the house’s whereabouts on the island, but the man who is now perpetually drunk, bored and disillusioned with life is clearly modelled on Fleming’s own state of mind.

"The World Of James Bond" will visit France next...

Article by David Leigh.