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

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
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
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
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering