How Jamaica inspired James Bond

'Goldeneye' by Matthew Parker
'Goldeneye' by Matthew Parker
Courtesy of Pegasus

Ian Fleming landed in Jamaica for the first time in 1943 on a very Bond-like mission. Then a young intelligence officer in the British Navy, Fleming was dispatched to the region due to rumors of a secret submarine base near Nassau.

No submarine base ever turned up, but Fleming fell in love with the island, still under the rule of the United Kingdom. On the flight back to London, Fleming declared: "I have made a great decision. When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica. Just live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books."

And that's exactly what he did. Every year from '43 until his death in '64, Fleming returned to Jamaica. He built a home there, which he christened Goldeneye, and he waited out England's cold winters on the Caribbean island. It was in that house, with a view of the ocean and warm breezes blowing, that James Bond embarked on his first mission.

Matthew Parker's new book "Goldeneye - Where Bond was Born" documents the influence of the island on the now famous fictional spy. Parker joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to discuss just how Bond came to be.

"When you go back to the books," Parker said, "you start seeing Jamaica everywhere." Fleming's plots can't resist a reference or two, whether Bond is posing as a Jamaican landowner or villains are hording treasure on a neighboring island. Two of his heroines are even named after rare birds found in Jamaica: Solitaire and Domino.

The very name "James Bond" has its roots in Fleming's Goldeneye study. He stocked his home with reference books about native plants and wildlife — on his shelf sat a well-thumbed copy of "The Field Guide to birds of the West Insides" by the ornithologist James Bond.

Over the years, Fleming turned out twelve Bond novels, all of which were written at his Jamaican home. The books have now sold over sixty million copies and spawned a film dynasty six decades in the making. The latest film, "Spectre," with Daniel Craig as 007, will hit theaters in November.

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