James Bond comes to life in the Seychelles

Ian Fleming on the set of 'GOLDFINGER' (1964) with Sean Connery and Shirley Eaton

Ian Fleming (right) portrait on the set
of ‘GOLDFINGER’ (1964) with Sean
Connery and Shirley Eaton.
Photo: Moviestore collection Ltd /
Alamy

The greatest obstacle any writer will ever face is the limits of their own mind. Even the most iconic of writers from human history have struggled at one time or another to find inspiration, develop a unique writing style, or move beyond the mental blocks that derail the writing process. Writers come up with the craziest methods around to defeat the dreaded “writer’s block,” and no distraction is too ridiculous as long as it clears the mind.

One of the 20th century’s best known writers, Ian Fleming, used a vacation to the Seychelles in 1958 as a cure for his mental roadblocks, and in doing so cranked out a new saga in the story of one of the world’s greatest fictional characters, 007 James Bond. Fleming, the British author responsible for creating the now famous James Bond character, found himself in need of inspiration in 1958 and used a holiday to the Seychelles as the perfect inspiration for the next chapter in the spy saga.

Who was Ian Fleming?

Fleming came from a prominent, wealthy family in Britain. The Fleming family was connected to the large merchant bank of Robert Fleming & Co. and his father, Valentine, was a member of Parliament for Henley from 1910 until 1917 when he died on the Western Front during World War I. Fleming himself was a well-educated man who was schooled at Eton College and Sandhurst (Royal Military College) in the United Kingdom before attending the universities of Munich and Geneva.

Not originally a writer, Fleming bounced between a number of different jobs in his younger days before settling into writing after serving in the British Royal Navy during World War II. During the war, Fleming served as the personal assistant to Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence in the Royal Navy.

It was this time spent during the war as Rear Admiral Godfrey’s assistant that would serve as Fleming’s inspiration for the Bond character, and even provide him with many of the early storylines. Throughout the war, Fleming worked as a liaison between Godfrey and government agencies. This provided Fleming the opportunity to cross paths with groups such as Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, Special Operations Executive, Joint Intelligence Committee, and with America’s Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA).

Creating James Bond

Over the course of his time in military service during World War II, Fleming told fellow service members of his desire to write a spy novel when the war was over. In 1945 Fleming had purchased a plot of land in Jamaica upon which he built a home to live in part-time. Fleming named the home Goldeneye and would write many of his novels from his beloved island home.

Using his wartime experiences, and a splash of his own imagination, Fleming began work on his first spy novel on 17th February 1952. Within two months Fleming had developed the James Bond character and completed the first novel in the spy series, Casino Royale. In the coming years Fleming would crank out five more Bond novels (Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, and Dr. No) before arriving on the shores of the Seychelles in1958.

The Ocean front Ian Fleming Suite, elevated on stilts over the crystal clear Indian Ocean.

The Ocean front Ian Fleming Suite, elevated on
stilts over the crystal clear Indian Ocean.

Arrival in Seychelles and Inspiration

Fleming had already completed much of the work on his seventh Bond novel, Goldfinger, when he arrived on the island of Mahé in the Seychelles in the early spring of 1958. Seeking respite from the dreary spring weather of London, Fleming had come on holiday to this Indian Ocean paradise in search of relaxation and warmer weather

In addition to some needed rest and relaxation, Fleming found inspiration for his first book of James Bond short stories.

While Fleming was on the island of Mahé he stayed at The Northolme Hotel located on northwest coast of the island along Beau Vallon Beach. The Northolme was built on Mahé before World War I and was one of the first hotels on the island. While Fleming was in the Seychelles he spent his time traveling around the island exploring its lush environment, snorkeling in the clear blue waters, and chasing after the pirate treasure lore that is so popular among the local Seychellois. He was so inspired by his surroundings that he included much of what he saw and experienced in the Seychelles in his eighth Bond book, the short stories collection entitled For Your Eyes Only.

Throughout the short story collection Fleming wrote during his holiday in the Seychelles are nods to the island nation and examples of influences from his trip, rather than refer to fictitious places or leave out names altogether, Fleming directly states where the Bond character is headed in the story. The collection of five short stories that make up For Your Eyes Only, one book is set entirely in the Seychelles. To the right is an excerpt from that book.

Other nods to his time on the island of Mahé are found in the names of characters in the story. Bond crosses swords with an American nemesis and his wife in the story. The characters are named Milton and Liz Krest, a rumored reference to his preferred tonic and ginger beer drink on the island

Lasting Impact on the Seychelles

Fleming’s time spent on the island paradise is still remembered today. The Northolme hotel has come under new management in recent years, having been purchased by Hilton Worldwide Resorts, and been renamed the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa. The modern hotel reopened with 40 private villas, five-star accommodation, and an unchanged private beach that looks as it did when Fleming visited 65 years ago.

Postage stamp printed in United Kingdom showing images of covers of "James Bond, For Your Eyes Only", novels by Ian Fleming

UNITED KINGDOM – CIRCA 2007: a postage stamp printed in United Kingdom showing images of covers of “James Bond, For Your Eyes Only”, novels by Ian Fleming, circa 2007. Photo: catwalker/shutterstock

Hilton Worldwide Resorts even has a private villa dedicated to Fleming. The villa is a remodeled version of the one Fleming stayed in during his visit and comes complete with a king size circular bed, an oceanfront view, and the complete collection of Bond novels and DVDs.

Fleming passed away in 1964 after suffering a heart attack. Years of heavy smoking and drinking caused Fleming to develop heart disease, and the resulting heart attack was too much for his body to overcome. He lived to see 11 Bond novels and one book of short stories published during his lifetime, with one more novel and one short stories collection published posthumously after his death.

While Fleming took his Bond character to numerous exciting locales around the world, the tiny island nation of Seychelles proudly served not only as the holiday destination for the character’s creator but also as the backdrop for one of his famous storylines.