on 1 September 2014
The book is about Ian Fleming' s last 10 years, Goldeneye his holiday home in Jamaica and the creation of the $6 billion dollar man. Fleming was a complex man who lived his life according to his own rules. He bought and fell in love with Goldeneye which became the haven he needed to enable him to write all of the Bond books. In this period of his life he witnessed the decline of the British Empire, the tension of the cold war and the increasing influence of America. The book covers the history and development of Jamaica during these years, world events as well as the friends, celebrities and lovers who visited Goldeneye. Matthew Parker covers in detail how these events affected Fleming and inevitably shaped Bond. James Bond's existence if Fleming had not been introduced to Goldeneye is probably as unlikely as the Beatles if McCartney had not been introduced to Lennon. Matthew Parker must have thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing it as much as I did reading it. Highly recommended.
on 16 August 2014
IN 1946 a naval intelligence aide called Ian Fleming made good the promise to himself to live in Jamaica, swim a lot and write books after the war was over. So he built a spartan little home, eventually installed a typewriter – and the rest is the brilliant history of the world’s most loved spy...Bond, James Bond.
For a couple of months every year Fleming took off to his for him idylic hidey-hole in the Caribbean, which had been named after a wartime plan he’d dreamt up for defending Gibraltar. The place had no hot water or glass in the windows or cupboards, but it was inspiring enough to be the birthplace of Bond, a true British pirate whose roots can be traced back to the great buccaneers of old who dominated the region.
This rather marvellous book reveals much about the Bond stories and their links with Jamaica, and a huge amount about Fleming and his lifelong love of the place, as well as high-level friends, dodgy love life and sheer unconventional, enviable style.
Put it on the shelf next to your Bond books.
on 9 September 2014
This book brilliantly weaves geography, politics. history, sociology and the life of Ian Fleming into a book that remains faithful to its subtitle while never feeling too narrow in its scope. Matthew Parker's research is impeccable and right from the start of the book you feel you're in capable hands. The detail is amazing and the photographs are usefully spread throughout the book and enhance the text. If you love Bond I don't think you can fail to love Goldeneye.
on 3 November 2014
Love Bond? Enjoy a good biography? Like a bit of history? There's something for everyone in Matthew Parker's most accessible offering yet. Goldeneye brings out the juxtaposition of the bright, sunny Caribbean setting of Ian Fleming's books with the altogether much darker attitudes (no doubt prevalent at the time) towards race, class, gender, family and colonial politics expoused by his famous creation and a very different (and more believable) character emerges than can be found in the cartoon-like movie adaptations. A fascinating backstory to one of the best known fictional heroes in the world.
on 30 May 2015
Being both a working class woman and a child of the 90s I would have been appalled to have lived in the 1950s. My life is immeasurably superior today then it would have been in a world of sexism, rationing and poverty. But oh to have been a man with money back then! Never have I wanted a sex change and a time machine quite as badly as I did whilst reading about Fleming's life at Goldeneye.
The endless parties, the sun, the sand, the wildlife, the flowers, the swimming, the famous men and women that he knew and loved. It was a place that only the Empire, a deep wallet, a privileged upbringing and a rich imagination could have created and it would have been glorious to experience it in its heyday. I'm sure that some feminists will down vote me for saying that but I don't care; the best that Western history has to offer has been almost universally dominated by rich white men, and no amount of righteous indignation will change that. All we can do is to try and make sure that our sons and daughters never have to experience such inequality in the future.
As an aside this is by far the best Fleming biography I have read. It is fresh, engaging and well-written. This should be your first point of call if you are as much in love with Fleming as I am.
on 21 June 2015
'Sex, snobbery and sadism' were the key ingredients in a James Bond novel, according to a review of DR NO in the New Statesman in 1958. Yes, he was probably right, but the reviewer seems to have missed out the outlandish thrills that Ian Fleming could deliver along with some of the most colourful villains in the history of pulp fiction: Mr Big, Rosa Klebb, Dr. No, Goldfinger and, that toothsome twosome, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt!
Matthew Parker's lively new contribution to the 007 'canon' is a history of Fleming's long love-affair with pre- and post-Independence Jamaica, where he spent two months of every year from 1946 until his death in 1964 and where he wrote all the Bond books. At Goldeneye, the boxy little bungalow Fleming built on the north coast of the Caribbean island, he entertained the great and the good (including Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Eden and - of course - Sean Connery) together with a far from modest selection of married ladyfriends, one of whom, Viscount Rothermere's wife Ann, divorced her husband to marry Fleming. Ann had to put up with a "three-people marriage" when Fleming took another Jamaican expat as his long-term mistress. Tit for tat, Ann Fleming became Hugh Gaitskell's lover for the last years of his life.
Fascinating as this book is, it's filled with dislikeable characters. Fleming himself is a curmudgeon, sometimes genial, more often sulky. Ann is a snobbish pill-popping neurotic who dismisses her husband's novels (largely without reading them) as 'pornography'. Even Noel Coward comes across as little more than another of the old colonial bores. Fleming largely detested the idle rich and retired who made up most of his wife's social circle both on the island and in London, and yet, as the New Statesman observed, James Bond was very much a product of the supercilious 'imperialist' mindset.
Parker confirms what we have heard before, that there was a lot of Fleming in 007: the naval background, a love of fishing and snorkelling as well as lethal levels of smoking and drinking. From this account Fleming does not seem to have been a very happy man, but his books, however sniffy some of the critics, have brought pleasure to millions.
Fleming was toying with killing off 007 at the end of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE when (unlike in the movie) Rosa Klebb strikes home with the poisoned blade in her toecap. Luckily for us, this was Fleming's break-through book and he contrived a way to 'resurrect' Bond at the beginning of DR NO. Today, in real time, Bond would either be long since despatched to the rest home for old spies or, more likely given his alcohol and tobacco intake, would have made the trip to the crematorium which he narrowly escaped in the movie of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. Despite the up-and-down quality of both the book and the movie franchise, long may he go on living!
[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
In 1943 a young naval intelligence officer was in Kingston for a conference when he promised to himself that he would come back and live on the island of Jamaica. In 1946 Ian Fleming made good on that promise and so began a long love affair with Jamaica and the creation of one of the world’s most famous literary and celluloid heroes James Bond. In the eighteen years that Fleming owned Goldeneye his home during the cold winters of a dark and dank London winters all the Bond thrillers were written here.
Matthew Parker does not idolise Goldeneye making false claims, but paints a very clear picture of it as very much a harsh bachelor pad with very little in the way of comfort, in the dying years of Imperial Jamaica when the Blacks were there to serve and not be heard. All this comes across in the book and it must be remembered that Fleming was a man of his times, the Empire had stood for the greatness of a people, and the monarchy was its representation and was a force for good.
When Fleming bought the land and designed Goldeneye there were no creature comforts no decent plumbing, no windows or cupboards. The one thing that does come across from this book is that Fleming wanted to communion with nature and be inspired by what was around him he took to Jamaica and Jamaica took to Fleming.
One of the most interesting things about this book is not just that the chapters are neatly broken up for the reader starting in 1946 and then eventually in to when each of the Bond Thrillers were written. By doing this we are able to examine the events around Fleming’s life at the time his loves and his struggles. We also get an examination of Jamaica at a turning point in its history when things were changing from colonial back post to a leading Caribbean independent nation. Parker also interviews many people who knew Fleming at the time which adds to the cache of this book.
Parker also examines our enduring love of both the books and the films and one thing that we British are good at, laughing at ourselves. Early on in the books and in Flemings’ thoughts was Britain’s uneasy and changing relationship with America which helped to spark some of the more fun, sparky and deeply felt segments in the novels. Something that does come across if it was not for the ability to laugh at ourselves, then both Fleming and Bond have something in common they were pretty unlikeable.
Throughout the book it is amazing once it is pointed out how many times Jamaica actually appears in Flemings novels. From the name of James Bond an author on Jamaica’s bird life to how many places and people appear in one guise or other. We also see Fleming’s relationships with the locals and his famous friends, such as Noel Coward, Blanche Blackwell and with the Governor General of the time Sir Hugh Foot. As well we get explanations of the politics of the time of Manley and the politics of Independence.
Matthew Parker with Goldeneye has not replaced the two excellent biographies of Fleming but made an excellent addition to the James Bond canon. We also are able to see that even though Fleming may not have been in the literary limelight and the greater his success the more destructive he became to himself and too his creation Bond.
That self destruct button that exists in all the Bond novels and films with the excessive drinking and smoking was a reflection of Fleming; he was still able to hammer out 2000 words a day until his final outing. Fleming’s love of Goldeneye and of Jamaica pours from every page of the book, while still proudly English it was probably the only place he ever was really happy.