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James Bond Author Fondly Remembered

November 29, 1999

ORACABESSA, Jamaica (AP) _ In this small town along the rocky shores of northern Jamaica, old-timers still remember the hard-living Englishman who spent winters at a cliff-top villa he called Goldeneye, spinning wild tales of an elegant spy with a license to kill.

Ian Fleming reportedly wrote all 14 of his James Bond novels at his Jamaica retreat _ now a luxury resort owned by reggae great Bob Marley’s former producer _ and he included tasteful island locales in several of them.

``From his books, people could get the impression that he was a gourmet and a man who lived in an exquisitely decorated home,″ said Morris Cargill, 85, a local newspaperman who befriended Fleming and British playwright Sir Noel Coward, who lived up the road.

``Fact is, he was quite an ascetic. When Noel and I would go to dinner at Goldeneye, we took the precaution of eating beforehand.

``The place was quite empty inside.″

Nevertheless, it was here that Fleming came upon the idea of naming the dashing spy after an unsuspecting American ornithologist. ``I was looking for a name for my hero _ nothing like Peregrine Carruthers or ‘Standfast’ Maltravers _ and I found it on the cover of .. ‘Birds of the West Indies’ by James Bond,″ he wrote in ``Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica.″

Then Fleming sat down at his desk to pen ``Casino Royale,″ launching the phenomenally successful series that five decades later churns on, with the release this month of the box office smash ``The World Is Not Enough.″

``We’d collect coconuts and fruits for him,″ remembered Ramsey Dacosta, 62, a Goldeneye groundskeeper who began his career doing odd jobs for Fleming.

``Sometimes he’d go down to the harbor and get a boat for shark fishing. He’d swim out to the reefs just offshore and dive around. Other than that _ well, he used to smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink fruit punch all day while he wrote.″

The origins of the name Goldeneye _ also the title of a 1995 Bond film and book by John Gardner _ are not clear. Locals believe it a play on the town’s name _ meaning, roughly, Goldenhead in Spanish. Biographer Andrew Lycett wrote that it was the code name of a secret mission Fleming masterminded as a young officer in British naval intelligence.

Fleming first visited Jamaica in 1942, when he was an intelligence man in Bermuda. He returned and bought the property for Goldeneye four years later _ in the dying days of the British Empire, when the north shore of Jamaica teemed with scions of wealthy British families and American celebrities like Errol Flynn.

Today Goldeneye is owned by Jamaican entertainment tycoon Chris Blackwell and operates as an exclusive resort.

A short stone wall curves inward to an iron gate crowned by two wooden pineapples. A driveway winds among lush vegetation and manicured lawns to the main house that Fleming built, a one-story white cement structure with a shingled roof and wooden slatted windows that rents for a Bond-worthy $2,500 a night. Four smaller villas go for $400 to $1,100 a night, and the whole estate can be had for $5,000 a night.

The sparsely decorated bar at the nearby Casa Maria hotel, where Fleming drank with the likes of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, has been renamed the ``007 Bar.″ Nearby is ``James Bond Beach,″ a concert venue.

Goldeneye had its share of notable guests, like British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who spent three weeks there in 1956. And there was the real James Bond, who showed up ``out of the blue and couldn’t have been nicer about my theft of the family name,″ Fleming wrote.

In any case, Fleming gave much credit to the laid-back setting.

``Would these books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaica holiday?″ he wrote. ``I doubt it.″

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