Penguin £18.99 (295pp) £16.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897; Bloomsbury £20 (224pp) £18 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

Devil May Care, by Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming;
For Your Eyes Only, by Ben Macintyre

James Bond the Jamaican

Ian Fleming, enfeebled by a lifetime's diet of vodka and cigarettes, died of a heart attack in 1964 at the age of 56 after playing a round of golf on the Kent coast. The new Labour government under Harold Wilson (anathema to the Tory-minded Fleming) had been sworn in and Bond mania was about to take off with the premiere of Goldfinger. Fleming's endearingly absurd creation, James Bond, shows no sign of flagging. The centenary of Fleming's birth sees much attendant 007 hoopla; a pastiche Bond novel, BBC radio adaptations, exhibitions and films.

To understand the birth of Agent 007 one has to look at Jamaica, the Caribbean island which Fleming made his second home for 18 years. His Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye (named after the Carson McCullers novel Reflections in a Golden Eye), stands above the old banana port of Oracabessa on the north coast. The visitors' book reads like a who's who of English letters and privilege in the post-war years. Evelyn Waugh, Stephen Spender, Cecil Beaton, the London Magazine editor Alan Ross (Commander Ross of The Man with the Golden Gun), Anthony Eden and Graham Greene all stayed.

Without Goldeneye, it is safe to say, there would have been no James Bond. All 13 novels were written in the Jamaican home, though only three (Dr No, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun) were partly set in Jamaica. In that sun-warmed outpost of the Empire, Fleming could savour his remoteness from cold, drab Britain and delude himself that he was above the ignominy of his country's imperial demise. In pre-independence Jamaica, the Britain of Fleming's youth, with its class-bound social order, was better preserved than in austere post-war Britain where, as we read in Dr No, "people streamed miserably to work, their legs whipped by the wet hems of their macintoshes".

What Fleming loved about Jamaica, apart from its antique social hierarchy, was I suppose its physical beauty. The fireflies and the melancholy of the tropical dusk ("Goldeneye, nose and throat", Noël Coward re-named the hideaway) detained him irresistibly. Fleming got married in Jamaica in 1952, with Coward as his witness, having begun his first 007 novel, Casino Royale, in January that year.

Where did James Bond's name come from? The most plausible speculation provides another link to Jamaica. Fleming found it on the cover of an ornithological classic dear to him, Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies by James Bond – a standard reference published in 1947.

Intriguingly, the 007 extravaganzas were written with the jalousies at Goldeneye closed so that Fleming would not be distracted by the sunlight and bird-life. Yet Jamaica is a presence in virtually all the Bond plots. In Casino Royale, set in northern France, Bond passes himself off as a "Jamaican plantocrat". Hugo Drax, the villain of Moonraker, was named after the Drax Hall sugar estate which belonged to William Beckford, the 18th-century Gothic novelist. Dr No, set partly in the West Indies, alludes to the Jamaican Governor-General Sir Hugh Foot (brother of the Labour politician Michael Foot).

A strain of Gothic horror runs through many British accounts of Jamaica, notably Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. Jamaican plantation lands, with their romantic air of neglect and preponderance of "sex and machete fights", fascinated Fleming. He enjoyed exaggeration and things larger than life. His villains have bulbous heads or metal teeth; many are given exaggeratedly Jewish, Slavic or (the dastardly Mr Big of Live and Let Die) African-American features. Fleming, like many Englishmen of his class, was repelled by the notion of hybridity, and Dr No is distinguished by its disgusted (for the modern reader, perhaps disgusting) portrayal of Jamaica's half-Chinese community as yellow-black "Chigroes"; an impure race, no less.

Sebastian Faulks, in his fictional homage to Ian Fleming, creates a villain to rival the half-Chinese Dr Julius No. In Devil May Care, Dr Julius Gorner, a megalomaniac in the cruel lineage of Tamburlaine, plans to deluge 1960s Britain in a lethal tide of heroin. He has a horribly deformed hand and, like Goldfinger, is a refugee from the Baltic states with off-putting "Slavic features" (Faulks, to his credit, does not baulk at parodying Fleming's prejudices). The heroine, true to stereotype, is a glamorous Franco-Russian poppet, Scarlett Papava. Bond sets out to rescue her from the devilish embrace of Dr Gorner and his Oddjob-like sidekick, Chagrin.

Impishly, Fleming included elements of his friends (and enemies) in his fiction. Blanche Blackwell, the love of his later life, was supposedly a model for the Sapphic pilot and martial-arts expert Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Ben Macintyre, in his glossy celebration of Bond and his creator (published to coincide with the Imperial War Museum's 007 exhibition), says Fleming rather ungallantly named the decrepit guano tanker in Dr No the Blanche. Nevertheless, Fleming adored "Birdie" Blackwell for her darting kingfisher mind and mischievous wit.

Bizarrely, through his affair with Blanche (a white Jamaican of Anglo-Jewish descent), Fleming was to provide a link with the new ganja-and-dreadlock Jamaica as it emerged in the music of Rastafari. Blanche happened to be the mother of Chris Blackwell, the Island Records impresario who, in the 1970s, "discovered" the rock-reggae of Bob Marley. One cannot imagine Fleming dancing to "Lively Up Yourself"; but Blanche did, frequently, after her son Chris had helped transform Marley into a Rasta star for white audiences. By a coincidence, Chris and his mother now own Goldeneye as part of a prohibitively expensive "007" hotel complex.

After the first five, incomparably stylish, Bond novels, the prose is tired; and then came the disappointment of The Man with the Golden Gun, published posthumously in 1965. Blanche Blackwell, for her part, now lives in exile from Jamaica in west London. "I'm afraid the sunset will be a failure", she told me the other day, as she drew the curtains over her Knightsbridge view: "it always is in London." Only in 007's Jamaica is the sun such a bright – Ian Fleming would say "blood-orange bright" – red, and it is unlikely to set for a very long time.

Ian Thomson is writing a book on Jamaica for Faber & Faber

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone