MI6 visits the home of Ian Fleming with best selling
James Bond author Lee Pfeiffer...
Goldeneye - Literary (1)
24th June 2006
A View To A Thrill: A Visit To
The Birthplace Of James Bond
By Lee Pfeiffer
It’s been said that there are only three certainties in
life: death, taxes and the next James Bond movie. Since the premiere
of Dr. No in 1962, Bond has not
only been a mainstay of our cinematic experiences but also an
icon of popular culture. However, in recent years there has been
a revival of interest in the man who made the Bond phenomenon
possible in the first place, 007’s literary father Ian
Fleming. For anyone who came of age in the 1950s or 1960s,
Fleming was an iconic figure himself-dashing and witty with a
well-founded reputation as an adventurer and ladies man. The initial
Bond novels were slow starters but by the early 1960s had become
worldwide bestsellers, aided immeasurably by President John F.
Kennedy’s inclusion of From Russia With Love among his favorite
books of all time.
Above: Goldeneyes private beach
The character of Bond reflected a good deal of the jet-set lifestyle
of his creator. Though Fleming was not bounding around the world
taking on megalomaniacs, his background in British Naval Intelligence
during WWII did stoke his interest in the realm of espionage.
(Fleming had devised missions for a commando unit that operated
behind German lines). Like Bond, he had a snobbish taste for the
proper foods and wines- along with a mastery of double entendres.
In an article for a 1960 book titled The World’s Fine Food,
Fleming said with self-deprecating wit “I am not a card-carrying
gourmet. Although I own a first edition of Brillat-Davarin’s
Physiologie du Gout, I opened it only once to read the curious
passage relating to aphrodisiacs.” Small wonder Fleming
counted JFK among his fans.
What most Bond fans do not realize, however, is that the origins
of James Bond stem from Fleming’s love affair with a locale
far removed from the glitz and glamour of London’s Park
Lane crowd- the north shore of Jamaica, to be precise. Indeed,
although tens of millions of 007 fans insured the worldwide box-office
success of the 1995 film GoldenEye
few know that the title of the movie derives not from the hi-tech
weapons system depicted in the film but from the name of Fleming’s
home in Oracabessa. Here, Fleming found a place of solitude and
freedom, far from the madding crowds of the urban metropolises
that alternately fascinated and repulsed him.
A visit to Goldeneye is an unforgettable
experience for the lucky few who have been fortunate enough
to stay there. Bond fans who visit Jamaica are routinely
disappointed to find that Fleming’s home lies in a
gated and guarded community, not menacing like Dr. No’s
Crab Key island, but probably no less secure. As someone
who has turned a juvenile preoccupation with Agent 007 into
an only slightly more mature profession, I was invited-
along with my wife Janet- to spend three nights at the property
in order to review it from the perspective of someone who
has an arguably unhealthy fixation with the Bond legacy,
having written extensively on the subject. Generally speaking,
one should take such reviews with a grain of salt, especially
if the writer has been granted a gratis stay by the owner,
in this case Island Records founder and music industry mogul
Chris Blackwell. In this case, however, that concern is
moot: Goldeneye long ago earned its reputation as one of
the most exclusive and desirable vacation spots in the world.
It’s safe to assume that Mr. Blackwell’s property
needs another favorable review about as much as Mr. Bond’s
little black book needs another entry. Rather, the managers
of the property sought to have someone with a background
in Bond lore write a perspective of the visit that incorporated
aspects of its legendary history. Years before my visit,
I had heard ecstatic stories from those who stayed at the
house about how enchanting the setting was and how transforming
the serenity proved to be to the body and soul. I was about
to have the opportunity to separate the myth from the fact.
Above: Honey Rider emerges from the
sea at Laughing Water Jamaica
There is something humbling about Goldeneye- not only to a writer
weaned on Fleming’s prose and the subsequent film adaptations.
Even if the Bond legacy has no appeal to you, it would be difficult
not to be overwhelmed by the sheer simplicity of the place. That
may sound paradoxical but in reality the primary charm of the
property (which encompasses 15 acres) is its obvious lack of glitz
and glitter. Many of those attributes can be traced directly back
to Fleming, who wanted a place that was the antithesis of London.
Although he could well have afforded an opulent vacation home,
Fleming preferred a rustic style in the island tradition. He had
fallen in love with Jamaica since his first visit in 1942. As
a Naval Commander, Fleming spent three days on the island as part
of a secret conference to plan anti-U boat strategies for the
Caribbean. The short stay was enough to make him pledge, “I
have made up my mind. I’m going to live the rest of my life
in Jamaica”. It was a promise only partly fulfilled. Fleming
could not have foreseen his eventual emergence as a best-selling
author. The ensuing business complications that arose from that
success mandated that he remain in England most of the year. However,
he did faithfully find time for extended stays at his Jamaican
property. It was here that Fleming, a professional journalist,
began to dabble with writing fiction- partly to offset nervous
jitters at the prospect of marrying his mistress Ann Rothermere,
who was pregnant with his child.
Goldeneye is nestled among tropical forests and lush gardens
on a seaside bluff overlooking the Caribbean where you can
put a little distance between yourself and the rest of the
world. Our lifestyle is pure Jamaican in rhythm and tempo,
"easy". We offer you a window to local culture
and a different way of living.
Goldeneye is also historic. This is where Ian Fleming crafted
all his James Bond novels. What Fleming loved most about
Goldeneye was the out of doors, nature, the sounds and colors,
the peace and drama of living by the sea. He delighted in
"the blazing sunshine, natural beauty and the most
healthy life I could live."