Of these once best-selling volumes of action pulp, “Dr. No,” “Live and Let Die,” “The Man With the Golden Gun” and the short story “Octopussy” are largely or partly set in Jamaica.
Strawberry Hill is an 18th-century coffee plantation turned resort owned by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. A Jamaican native, Mr. Blackwell is part of Fleming lore himself, thanks to his mother, Blanche Blackwell, who was, depending on your source, either the writer’s close friend or his mistress and muse. That connection helped Mr. Blackwell, at age 24, land a gig as a location manager for “Dr. No” (you can spot him dancing in a bar scene filmed at Morgan’s Harbour), and his resort franchise includes the Fleming home on the North Coast.
Of his mother’s relationship with Fleming, Chris Blackwell simply says she was a good friend of his and was very fond of him. As a thank you gift for a stay at Goldeneye, Ms. Blackwell gave Fleming a small boat she had christened ‘Octopussy’. She may have also been an inspiration for Honeychile Rider, the Bond girl from “Dr. No,” who, like Ms. Blackwell, was the Jamaica-born child of an old island family and a passionate student of sea life.
Fleming and his wife, Ann, were married in Port Maria’s town hall, which still stands. She didn’t share her husband’s love of Jamaica, never staying as long as he did. But his best man and local neighbor, Noël Coward, was equally smitten with the place.
Establishing his life in Jamaica was a necessary precursor to Fleming’s pursuit of fiction. “One of the first essentials is to create a vacuum in my life which can only be satisfactorily filled by some form of creative work,” he wrote in the Evening Standard of London.
Of the entire 007 cannon, the short story “Octopussy,” written in 1962, best captures his island lifestyle. The story is about Major Dexter Smythe, a Briton “irretrievably tied to Jamaica,” attracted to the “paradise of sunshine, good food, cheap drink, a glorious haven from the gloom … of postwar England” but later bored from consorting with the “international riffraff” of the north shore.
To mark 100 years since the birth of Ian Fleming, Gordon Corera traveled to the Caribbean to explore the author’s Jamaican home, Goldeneye, where he wrote his Bond novels. He was joined there by James Taylor, curator of a James Bond exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, and Charlie Higson, author of a series of novels about the secret agent as a teenager. Corera also meets Fleming’s gardener Ramsey Dacosta, who shares some personal insights into the lifestyle of 007’s creator.
Stay in The Fleming Villa at Goldeneye