Matthew Parker’s “Goldeneye” chronicles author Ian Fleming’s time in Jamaica, where James Bond’s creator constructed his character as an antidote to the woes of a crumbling British Empire.
‘Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born — Ian Fleming’s Jamaica’
by Matthew Parker
Pegasus, 264 pp., $27.95
The name is Fleming … Ian Fleming.
The writer’s many lives included stints as a journalist and a British spy during World War II. But, as millions know, his fame rests on a single creation: the iconic James Bond.
“Goldeneye” is not a full biography. For that, Andrew Lycett’s “Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond” serves well.
Rather, Matthew Parker’s insightful and engagingly written book focuses on the last decades of Fleming’s life in Jamaica.
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Fleming fell in love with the island during the war and later built a Spartan home there. He called it Goldeneye, after a wartime spy operation. Fleming’s thrillers, written there, were often set on the island, if only partially.
Fleming’s life is compelling — he was hard-drinking, hard-smoking, adulterous, macho and charismatic. “Goldeneye” thoroughly explores this life and provides glimpses of Fleming’s neighbors and guests, among them Noel Coward, British royals, and, of course, Sean Connery.
But the book’s real value is its examination of how Jamaica and Bond formed a microcosm of England’s changes in the 1950s and early ’60s.
At home, Britons faced bleak and dispiriting postwar deprivation, and globally their once-mighty Empire was crumbling in the face of colonial independence movements — including Jamaica’s. The suave, patriotic, daredevil Bond was conceived as an antidote to this decline.
Privately, Fleming railed against the loss of colonial life, disliked America and mocked minority races. His books indirectly reframed these attitudes, championing all that was good and great in England.
Fleming, a sad alcoholic in his later years, was already a best-selling author when he died (in 1964, aged 56). But shortly after Fleming’s death the movie of “Goldfinger” skyrocketed Bond to household-name status. As Parker’s astute book makes clear, Jamaica was always at the core of this enduring hero.