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Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica Hardcover – March 11, 2015
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“Parker’s entertaining and well-researched biography dishes up a rich stew for fans of popular literature, travel writing, British and West Indian history, and filmmaking, all sauced with plenty of titillating celebrity gossip.”
- Booklist (starred review)
“This is no guilty pleasure. It’s a straight-up delight of a biographical narrative that crisply illuminates Bond, Fleming and the era when the sun was setting on the British Empire and dawning on the jet age. Parker is out to explain an era, a writer and a remarkable character. Mission accomplished”
- Dallas Morning News
“A wonderful biography. If you like Bond, you’ll like this book.”
“Fans of James Bond books and films, along with those intrigued by the man behind the spy will devour the captivating stories within these pages. Readers interested in Jamaica’s relationship with Britain and America as the country moved toward independence will also appreciate the historical, cultural, and political realities and their context within Fleming’s work.”
- Library Journal
“Throughout Matthew Parker’s account of Fleming’s post-war sojourns in Jamaica, and how they shaped his fiction, we can imagine Bond himself looking on and feeling a perverse stab of envy. Parker tells a wider story; that of an island and its people at a turning point in their history. Parker’s highly readable account of Fleming’s Jamaican life is less Thunderball and more Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. Bond himself might have been a touch jealous.”
- The Telegraph
“Hugely enjoyable and deliciously gossipy.”
- The Telegraph
“Against a backdrop of the island’s evolution from colonialism to independence, Matthew Parker tells the story of Fleming’s Jamaican retreat, of the psychological fallout of the end of the British Empire and of how Bond parachuted in to offer solace in the form of escapist fantasy. With Goldeneye now a luxury resort and the public appetite for Bond movies undiminished, Parker’s book is an astute reminder of the price we pay for fantasy.”
- The Washington Post
“Matthew Parker’s Goldeneye spies on Ian Fleming’s love affair with Jamaica”
- Vanity Fair (Hot Type Pick)
“Unique. Parker's Goldeneye is an appealing Caribbean history dressed as pop culture, and he adds complexity to Bond's legacy of vodka martinis, car chases and women in bikinis.”
- Associated Press
“The author parallels Fleming's life with postwar events that planted the seed for the Bond character. He summarizes each of the Bond books as they reflect Cold War history―e.g., the Suez Crisis, the independence movements and increasing economic turmoil. A well-written look at Fleming''s life, though the book is even better as an indictment of the anachronistic colonialism of the 1950s and the end of the British Empire.”
“An outstanding survey packed with insights key to understanding Ian Fleming's world and how it translated to his famous James Bond character and scenarios, as well as a cultural and social survey of Jamaica's evolving importance in the world.”
- Midwest Book Review
“The iconic image of bikini-clad Ursula Andress stepping out of the Caribbean sea in the first James Bond movie ‘Dr. No’ is the stuff of fantasy. Now, Parker tells the story of the equally fantastic life of Bond creator Ian Fleming on the beaches of Jamaica, where he spent two months of every year from 1946 to 1964 at Goldeneye, the villa he built on the island’s northern coast, hobnobbing with celebrity residents Errol Flynn, Noel Coward and Lawrence Olivier. Read it while drinking a martini ― shaken, not stirred.”
- New York Post
“The soil from which Bond sprang is as virile as the spy himself. In exploring Jamaica, the island where Bond was born, Parker casts the entire canon in a refreshing―almost tropical―light. Through exhaustive research and interviews, Parker assembles an intricate portrait of not just Fleming, his coterie and his Goldeneye villa, but of Jamaica and the post-War remnants of the British Empire.”
- Paste Magazine (Best Books of March)
“Fascinating. Parker treats each Bond novel, beginning with Casino Royale, with respect and expertise, taking care to show that Fleming often integrated his deep knowledge of Jamaica into the plotlines. The depiction of Fleming’s own life of luxury in Jamaica, meanwhile, is mesmerizing. The book is as charming as Bond himself, leaving us a greater understanding of the world’s most famous spy, his creator, and the house in which he was conceived.”
- Publishers Weekly
“Without Jamaica it is safe to say, there would have been no Agent 007. Matthew Parker sets the record straight in Goldeneye, his superb account of Fleming's Jamaica. This well researched, excellently written book tells of a rapid literary decline.”
- The Financial Times
“Insightful and engagingly written. Compelling. Goldeneye thoroughly explores Fleming’s life and provides glimpses of his 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.”
- The Seattle Times
“Parker gives us insight into how this exotic local nurtured Fleming's writing, as well as a glimpse at some of the interesting guests he entertained there, and a look into colonialism and the crumbling British Empire. This is Bond's real origin story.”
- Book Riot
“As much a testament to Jamaica as it is to Bond. The perfect book to understand the roots of one of the world’s most legendary cultural icons.”
“Sparkling. Full of great quotes and salacious gossip. The Commander would be pleased.”
- Open Letters Monthly
“I could not put down this story. For devotees of James Bond, or Jamaica, or the British Empire of old, Goldeneye is most entertaining reading.”
- Providence Journal
“The first book to explore the north-shore estate where the author and former intelligence officer Ian Fleming spent two months each year and wrote all the Bond books. The purchase of his tropical lair, the retreat from society, the way Fleming spent the latter half of his life there―these are all apparently telltale signs of a man who just can't handle getting older. What Parker's new book shows is how much that crisis latched itself onto James Bond, and how the defiant fantasy he provided against decline both restored Fleming and gave life to an immortal franchise.”
- The Atlantic
“A sophisticated history of how Fleming’s character developed. This is the beginning of the story of how Fleming and Jamaica, that desultory duo that generated Bond novels, first made contact.”
- The Buffalo News
“A completely fascinating, authoritative and intriguing book―especially for anyone interested in Ian Fleming and the James Bond phenomenon.”
- William Boyd, author of 'Any Human Heart'
“The book that James Bond obsessives have been waiting for―a beautiful, brilliant history of Ian Fleming at home at Goldeneye, all of sun-drenched, gin-soaked, bed-hopping colonial Jamaica outside the window and 007 at the moment of his creation. This is THE BIG BANG OF BOND BOOKS―the world-weary romance, the impossible glamour, the sex, the travel, the legend, the longing for escape and adventure―it all starts right here.”
- Tony Parsons
“Supremely enjoyable. Matthew Parker has created a completely new picture of Fleming, Bond and the role of Jamaica in the making of the legend.”
- John Pearson, author of 'The Life of Ian Fleming'
“Matthew Parker's brilliant book Goldeneye is indispensable for anyone interested in the inner life of the enigmatic Ian Fleming and the whole James Bond phenomenon he created.”
- Nicholas Rankin, author of 'Ian Fleming's Commandos'
“What makes Parker's book particularly fascinating is the way that, as a result of close and intelligent reading, he teases out how Fleming drew on the island, its culture and its post-war development for much of the atmosphere and incidental detail in the Bond series.”
- Literary Review
“Entertaining. Parker makes a convincing case that Jamaica is crucial to a proper understanding of the man and his work.”
- The Spectator
“Best read somewhere hot, sipping something cool is Matthew Parker's brilliant addition to the canon of Jamaican travel writing and 007-ology, Goldeneye.”
“Fascinating. Less a dry narrative of sandal wearing chaps paying over the odds for their Morland cigarettes than a studious array of thoughts and insight.”
- Mark O’Connell, author of 'Catching Bullets, Memoirs of a Bond Fan'
“One of the attractions of Matthew Parker’s book is that he not only reminds us of the origin of the Bond novels, but he fills in a lot of background about Jamaica―both its political path to independence and its later development as a tourist destination. Those seeking a world of sea, sunshine, girls, rum, tobacco and self-indulgent luxury will find it evoked here―and it is this they will remember, not the Spartan house Fleming built.”
- Country Life
“You might think there is nothing new to say about Ian Fleming―that every detail of his life has been obsessively picked over by biographers. Matthew Parker, though, has produced a book a illuminating as it is intriguing. Written in a quick-fire, atmospheric prose style that clearly owes something to Fleming’s own, it cracks along with all the urgency of a Bond novel.”
- Daily Mail
“The evocation of the writer's voluptuous existence in Jamaica (and the unspoilt island itself) is nonpareil. Parker's record of a key period in the life of the writer makes a fascinating read.”
- The Independent (UK)
“An amazing portrayal of British racial and colonial attitudes in the 1950s and 60s.”
- Andrea Levy, author of 'Six Stories and an Essay'
“Persuasive, well researched and entertaining.”
- The Guardian
“Matthew Parker’s account of Fleming’s experiences among the island’s dissolute late-colonial visitors―from film stars and royalty to the secret services―shows how a combination of a jet-set crowd and the exoticism of the setting inspired the James Bond books, all of which were written there.”
- New Statesman
“An enjoyable, sun-soaked, alcohol-sodden addition to Bond literature.”
- The Times (UK)
About the Author
Matthew Parker is the author of three previous non-fiction books, Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II; the Los Angeles Times bestseller Panama Fever, which was one of the Washington Post’s Best Books of the Year; and The Sugar Barons, which was an Economist Book of the Year. He lives in England.
Top customer reviews
By Matthew Parker
Penguin Books 2015, 387 pages
Collier County Public Library: Yes
“My contribution to the art of thriller-writing has been to attempt the total stimulation of the reader all the way through, even to his taste buds.” – Ian Fleming
The James Bond movie franchise is 53 years old yet it is the third highest grossing movie franchise in the world, right behind those whippersnappers Harry Potter and Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, wrote 14 Bond books plus a collection of short stories and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a children’s story about a flying car, a bedtime story he made up for his son Caspar. He finally wrote it down while recovering from his first heart attack in 1962. The hugely popular book was published in 1964. Dick van Dyke starred in the 1968 movie version. Fleming was already deceased, so he couldn’t protest an American actor getting the role.
As popular as the Bond movies have been for five decades now, it would be interesting to know how many movie fans have read even one of the books. The most recent statistics I could find show that Ian Fleming surpassed Agatha Christie as the most financially successful British crime writer, with his books earning more than 100 million pounds (about 252 million dollars) while Agatha lagged behind at 100 million pounds even. In contrast, the #1 American thriller writer John Grisham has earned more than 600 million dollars from his books and six other Americans have outearned both Fleming and Ms. Christie. Yet, Bond films have earned over 7 billion dollars plus whatever the just-released SPECTRE rakes in. If they adjusted for inflation, I would imagine that the massively successful Bond films of the 1960s would place the franchise in at least the number two slot.
Even though Fleming died August 12, 1964, of a massive heart attack, he remains as intriguing a character as his fictional spy hero 007. Several writers have published biographies of Ian including his long-time good friend Kingsley Amis whose book was sanctioned by the Fleming family. Matthew Parker approaches Fleming’s story as history rather than an homage to a friend or British crime writer icon. He provides context to each of Fleming’s winter visits to Jamaica from 1946 to 1963 including his first trip to Jamaica in 1943. Parker’s intention is to show not only the effect that Jamaica had on Fleming and his books, but also to clarify the authentic imperial and post-imperial Jamaica that is the backdrop for several of the novels. Parker himself was born in Central America and lived in the West Indies through most of his childhood, so he is familiar with the region and its history. He also uses multiple sources to support his writing.
Fleming was the second of four sons of Valentine and Eve Fleming. Like Bond, his father was British and his mother from an aristocratic Scottish family. Valentine’s father Richard had made a fortune investing in American railroads and his son was educated at Eton and Oxford and took his place in society as a country gentleman and member of Parliament. At school he became lifelong friends with Winston Churchill, served with him in the military until he was killed in May 1917, when Ian was 9 years old. Churchill wrote Valentine’s obituary and stayed in contact with the Fleming family throughout his lifetime.
Ian’s own education was at Eton and Sandhurst, and although he attended two colleges, he did not graduate. Eventually he found work writing for a newspaper and then with a publishing house. Parker goes into some detail about Ian’s relationship with his mother which was in sharp contrast to the closeness he had with his father who called him “Johnny.” His youngest brother Michael was killed in World War II. When Ian first experienced Jamaica in 1943, he was a man born for the best of things who had lost his one loving parent and his youngest brother, failed to graduate college and was reduced to writing for a living before the war. He had rather a fatalistic outlook on life. After joining the military in WW II, Ian’s intelligence and communication skills were well utilized in the British Naval Intelligence Division.
Ian had his first experience with Jamaica when as assistant to the director of Naval Intelligence, he was sent to Kingston for an Anglo-American conference on tactics to deal with the destructive German U-boats. They were inflicting massive damage on shipments of vital war goods. Ian brought along his lifelong friend Ivar Bryce, who met him in New York where the two friends took Silver Meteor to Miami. Sound familiar? Yes, it is the same journey that Bond took with Solitaire in “Live and Let Die.” From Miami they flew to Kingston. Bryce was eager to show Fleming his latest wife’s new purchase – a former plantation great house set 1500 feet above the city. They stayed there during the duration of the conference.
Ian was smitten at first whiff of the Jamaican air. The tranquility and live-for-today simplicity combined with the incredible natural beauty of the island and friendliness of the residents infused Ian’s psyche with a contentment he had never experienced before.
Jamaica would prove to be the one true love of Ian’s life.
When he returned to Jamaica after the war’s end, he eventually built a winter home which he named Goldeneye after a war-time memorandum he wrote about the planning and oversight of two intelligence units. The house was extremely rustic to put it nicely. He was there to relax during the day and party hard in the evening. He didn’t have hot water installed nor worry about draperies and furnishings. Every morning he swam and sometimes snorkeled before breakfast. After his two months of winter respite, it was back to London to his world of writing, especially travel writing, and working at a publishing house, travel, continued hard partying and ceaseless womanizing.
In 1952, Fleming wrote his first Bond book, “Casino Royale.” It was published the next year and thereafter, Fleming spent each winter at Goldeneye starting the day with a swim, shower, breakfast and sitting at his bedroom typewriter pounding out Bond’s escapades until early afternoon. He wrote for a post-war Britain which was still suffering shortages and still living with the ruins of the war. He took them to distant places, warm sunny opulent places, because travel was too expensive for average people at that time. Bond’s clothing and grooming are as sumptuous as the description of the meals he eats because Fleming was giving his reader what they yearned for but could not hope to attain. Bond was implacable and always came out on top because Britain was still bruised and limping from that long war and because the Empire was almost gone. America was pictured as a place of greed and crime, primarily because Fleming resented the role it had played in the war. He knew it would have been lost without America’s entry and that America was going to dominate world affairs. He just didn’t like it.
Most often the anti-Americanism is apparent in his novels. One exception is Felix Leiter, an American operative that Bond works with. Fleming used the surname of a good American woman friend of his, Oatsie Leiter. He also named some of his villains after people he disliked. Oatsie also introduced him to a man who would have a huge impact on Fleming’s future fortune – John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Ian was visiting Oatsie in D.C. and they were driving in her Cadillac when they came upon a young couple walking. Oatsie knew them very well – JFK and Jacqueline. It was 1960 and the senator was running for president of the United States. Oatsie was to attend a dinner party at their home that evening. She asked if she could bring a guest. JFK politely asked who would that be and he was introduced to Ian Fleming. His response, “James Bond? But of course, by all means, do please come.” JFK had been reading the Bond books since Jackie gave him a copy of “Casino Royale” in 1955 when he was bedridden. She also gave CIA Director Allen Dulles a copy of “From Russia With Love” in 1957. Thereafter, it is said that JFK and Dulles traded their Bond books. It was in a March 1961 Life magazine article by Hugh Sidey that America learned that “From Russia With Love” was in JFK’s 10 Top Ten Books. The very day after the issue’s release, Bond book sales skyrocketed in America. It is a clue to Fleming’s character that when he retold the story of meeting JFK, he would Kennedy as saying, “THE Ian Fleming?”
Fleming’s personal life reflected his indulgent behavior. His womanizing started at a young age as did his drinking and his use of barbiturates and other drugs. He had first episode of gonorrhea at age 19, was plagued with kidney stones, and had his first heart attack in 1962, then the final fatal heart attack in August 1964 at age 56. He had been warned at age 40 by a doctor to cut down on the drinking and drug use. He decided he would rather “live too much” than live too long.
He married for the first and only time in his mid 40s, to a woman he had been having an affair with since 1936. She was married when they met and after her husband died in WW II, Ian refused to marry her so she married a wealthy nobleman. Finally, in 1951, five months pregnant with Ian’s child, Ann Charteris was given a divorce and the very day it was finalized, Ian and Ann were married. Their child, Caspar, was turned over to his nanny, where he and the nanny lived in a cottage near Ann and Ian’s home. Caspar would be brought in for a quick minute before dinner, where the parents and their guests, drinks in hand, would coo over the child for a few seconds. No one in the Ian Fleming family had a happy ending.
Goldeneye Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica is a great read. Fleming is even more captivating than his fictional spy hero. He is not admirable except for his work ethic, in my opinion. Like Bond, he was often brutal, cold and merciless with people. This book was a massive undertaking by Parker, to put this British icon Ian Fleming and his fictional British icon James Bond in historical context. I think he did an admirable job in showing how Fleming’s own snobbery and xenophobia (in a 1956 letter to Ann, “All foreigners are pestilential”) are reflected in Bond. Also his relationship with Jamaica, which was mostly loving yet paternalistic. He had the same cook for all the years he spent at Goldeneye, who called him “Commander,” and most of the other help came back year after year. Parker makes a strong argument for where Fleming got Jamaica wrong.
The book is stuffed with anecdotes about the rich and famous of the 1940s and 1950s who made Jamaica their hideaway. Fleming and Errol Flynn, who also loved the island, were oil and water. If they were in the same room, they made sure to be on opposite peripheries. Noel Coward was a good friend and a Jamaican neighbor to Fleming. He also knew Fleming’s women quite well and Parker quotes Coward many times in regards to those relationships.
Parker begins with the 2012 incident where Daniel Craig (newest Bond) and Queen Elizabeth are chatting, then appear to parachute to the opening of the 2012 Olympics. Bond and Elizabeth both officially began their reigns in 1953. Both are British icons. After a brief survey of Fleming’s early life, Parker details each Bond book and that year of Fleming’s life. He argues that Fleming’s own feelings about Jamaica are reflected in the stories, including the latter novels where he portrays Jamaica as a dark place plagued by crime and greed. Events in Fleming’s life are also reflected in the novels. All of his assertions are bolstered with entries from the diaries, letters, interviews, biographies of Fleming himself and people who knew him.
I gave it a rating of 4.0/5.0. It is well written, easy to read with some interesting information about the history of Jamaica, and many photographs. You do not have to be a Bond fan, either movies or books, to enjoy this book. But if you read this, you will get insight into why he had Bond’s wife killed on their wedding day.
This review was published in the 12/25/2015 issue of Coastal Breeze News. http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/category/entertainment/book-remarks/
and a world long gone, but super-influential on the original Bond books. This is probably the most colorful
portrait of Ian Fleming ever. Well done!
the North Coast "during the day." If you have been enchanted by Jamaica--the climate, the diversity, the history, the flora/fauna, the people--this
book should be on your reading list.
It's an easy read, something to peruse at a chapter a day or week. You will be able to break away from it but to enjoy the next time you pick it up whether you retain all of what you read the last time or not, in short, my kind of book.