Ian Fleming had many homes from home but none more so than at his great friend’s farm in southern Vermont.
He used to visit his friend Ivar Bryce at Black Hole Hollow Farm right on the border between New York and Vermont.
Fleming’s first visit to Vermont was to visit Bryce who he had first met at Eton. Bryce had married a wealthy heiress to the A & P supermarket chain in America and they also had houses in Nassau and New York where Fleming would stay when he was in town. Black Hole Hollow Farm was near Saratoga on the state line between New York State and Vermont, an old stone farmhouse, which during the years was to play a part in the story of James Bond and Ian Fleming.
Fleming loved the farm, with its simple old-style New England look and he and Bryce would take strolls down to the lake and through the woods taking in the stillness and melancholy that resonated with Ian.
John Pearson, Fleming’s friend and biographer remarked that:
“Even in his last years, when illness had put an end to most of the temptations he might have punished himself for, he would still struggle, sweating, purple in the face, to the top of Big Spruce, the 1,200 foot peak that juts above the Bryce farm in Vermont.”
It was at Black Hole Hollow Farm that Fleming first thought of the plot for Diamonds Are Forever. According to Bryce:
“‘Diamonds Are Forever’ has a jacket depicting an Afghanistan* and it was there that the plot was first thought of, it is dedicated to three of the people who were his daily companions throughout that warm and eventful summer”
[*a diamond known as “Afghanistan” which belonged to Ivar’s third wife Jo Bryce.]
While staying at the farm one summer, Bryce also recounted how a scene from Diamonds Are Forever came about:
“In the storehouse of Ian’s mind nothing was ever forgotten. One dav while we were all staving at the Farm in Vermont , Ian and Ernie Cuneo decided to visit the famous mud baths at Saratoga Springs . Some miles out of Saratoga they saw a battered sign to the mud baths down a side road. They arrived at ramshackle huts deep in the woods, which proclaimed themselves the mud baths.
Hesitating only for a moment they went in and received the full treatment. Only when it was too late did they discover that the vastly luxurious mud baths for which they had set out were in Saratoga itself; they had blundered into what was very much a back-street establishment, filled with all the low life which is attracted to a great gambling centre. That was how the famous mud-bath incident in Diamonds are Forever was born.”Much of his experiences there found it’s way into his books especially in his short story ‘For Your Eyes Only‘. The hideaway of an ex-Nazi gangster, von Hammerstein, was set against the backdrop of the farm. Much of the action centers around Echo Lake and Enosburg Falls in Vermont and Frelighsburg on the Canadian border.
Bond makes his way to the Green Mountains of Vermont, where his target was staying at Echo Park, which was based on Black Hole Hollow Farm.
“Echo Lake looked what it was – the luxurious retreat, in deep country, well apart from atom bomb targets, of a millionaire who liked privacy.”
Ivar Bryce remarked:
“Ian loved it too. It answered some atavistic call in his Scots soul. He used to tramp alone for hours among the hills, and come back relaxed and brooding on some embryo new plot. In ‘For Your Eyes Only’ he described it – Echo Lake he calls it – with care and accuracy, and his affection shows between the lines.”
Later, the New York socialite and friend to Ivar and Jo Bryce, Solange Batsell Herter, would own the farm. Solange may have been the inspiration, in name at least, for Fleming’s character Solange in 007 in New York.
Kingsley Amis takes Fleming to task in his 1965 ‘James Bond Dossier‘, about the realism of the novella. Fleming says in the story: “I flew up to Bennington. Then I walked. Four days. Up through the Green Mountains. […] Judy Havelock’s walk from Bennington to Enosberg Falls might have taken her only four days, but this would be good going even for a Bond-girl, since the distance is about 200 miles, some of it difficult terrain. On the other hand, Judy pays the right amount for her non-resident bow-and-arrow license in Montpelier.”
The book received advanced praise from well-known Vermont authors for both its originality and its scope. The female protagonist Judy Havelock, was named after Sir Henry Havelock (1795-1857), a major general of the British army. Havelock was active in warfare in India and Afghanistan.
“The license had been issued in Bennington, Vermont. It had been issued in the name of Judy Havelock […] The cost had been $18.50, payable to the Fish and Game Service, Montpelier, Vermont.”
Fleming in turn encouraged Bryce to write his memoirs and gave him some advice on how to write it:
“You will be constantly depressed by the progress of the opus and feel it is all nonsense and that nobody will be interested. Those are the moments when you must all the more obstinately stick to your schedule and do your daily stint… Never mind about the brilliant phrase or the golden word, once the typescript is there you can fiddle, correct and embellish as much as you please. So don’t be depressed if the first draft seems a bit raw, all first drafts do.
Try and remember the weather and smells and sensations and pile in every kind of contemporary detail. Don’t let anyone see the manuscript until you are very well on with it and above all don’t allow anything to interfere with your routine. Don’t worry about what you put in, it can always be cut out on re-reading; it’s the total recall that matters.”
Bryce’s autobiography, You Only Live Once, was published in 1975. Incidentally, James Bond’s Vesper Martini was created by Ivar Bryce. In Bryce’s copy of Casino Royale Fleming inscribed: “For Ivar, who mixed the first Vesper and said the good word.”
Not far from the Vermont border, the central character and narrator of The Spy Who Loved Me is “Vivienne Michel,” a young Canadian woman who ends up running a cheap motel in the Adirondack Mountains to pay for a trip through America.
The inspiration for this motel, was a motel in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, which Fleming would drive past on the way to Ivar Bryce’s farm; this also became the inspiration for the Dreamy Pines Motel in the novel.
Fleming returned to Vermont for many summers, much to Ann Fleming’s disapproval, who saw Ivar Bryce as a threat. He would climb Mount Stanley and even gave hills names such as Bumble Bee Peak, where he would stop and point out Spruce Peak in the Green Mountains.
In 1945 Bryce helped Fleming find a house and twelve acres of land just outside of Oracabessa, Jamaica, which Fleming decided to now famously call the house, Goldeneye, after his wartime project in Spain, Operation Goldeneye.
It’s been noted by A.J Ayer (a Special Operations Executive and MI6 agent during the Second World War) that Ivar Bryce might have served as a model for James Bond, if one could imagine Bond divested of his appetite for violence. Ivar’s looks were such that when he walked past the offices, the secretaries, who were massed in the centre, seemed each to give a little sigh. He was also related to the Mountbatten family, cousins to the Royal Family.