a jeep. After two weeks, tired and ratherrndepressed, I could have used a bit of securityrnand peace. Maybe the packagerntourists are right.rnArriving in Kingston, I was struck byrnthe contrast between the image conjuredrnup by the famous figures who had Hvedrnon the island and the unnerving squalorrnand dense traffic of a Third World cit}’.rnIn the 1940’s and 50’s, Jamaica was shllrnthe sterling area of the British Empire. Itrnattracted many wealthy expatriates andrncelebrities and radiated an aura of glamour.rnClara Bow, Claudette Colbert, andrnBette Davis owned houses there. But thernimage of the island was really createdrnby three charming self-promoters —IanrnFleming, Noel Coward, and ErrolrnF’lynn—whose legends were greater thanrntheir achievements. All three built housesrnin Jamaica: Coward and Flynn in thernhills of the north and east coasts, Flemingrnon the north shore. Far from the bigrntourist places, they all had spectacularrnviews of the Blue Mountains, the whiternsandy beaches, and the shimmeringrnturquoise sea. Compared to the splashyrnnew-rich mansions of today’s Long Islandrnand Beverly Hills, their houses are surprisinglyrnmodest.rnIn 1946 (before the astonishing successrnof the James Bond novels), Flemingrnbuilt Goldeneye, near Oracabessa andrneast of Discovery Bay (where Columbusrnlanded in 1494) and Runaway Bay, an escapernroute for slaves. Bright neon-bluerngateposts mark the entrance to his house.rnDeliberately simple, even austere, Goldeneyernhas rough, locally made furniture,rncanvas-covered chairs, and a blue concreternfloor. Coward, who rented what herncalled the “barracks” for £50 a week inrn1946, called itrna perfectly ghastly house. We werernver)’ manly and pretended to like it.rnBut I did get tired of the iron bedsteadrnand the pictures of the snakesrnhe had plastered all over the bedroomrnwall, and the banquette yournsat on at the dining-room table,rnwhich was so narrow it bit into yourrnbottom, and the cushions that feltrnas if they had been filled withrnchipped steel.rnIn 1951, after buying a small house forrnhis guests on the coast at Blue Harbour,rnCoward built Firefly for himself andrnlived there in splendid isolation. PhiliprnHoare, his biographer, described thernhouse as “part modernist 1930’s bungalow,rnpart military fort. The house hadrnfew rooms: a studio, a modest musicrnroom, and a sitting room, with its open,rnunglazed window, framing a grandiosernwide-screen view of Port Maria, the successivernbays beyond, and the Blue Mountainsrnin the distance.” Coward’s loverrnand heir Graham Payn gave the house tornthe Jamaica Heritage Trust in 1978, andrnsince then it has been open to the public.rnAfter a brief tour conducted by an indifferent,rnill-informed guide and a videornof the Queen Mother’s visit in 1966,rntourists are left to strum the grand piano,rnwander through the grounds, see its covered-rnover swimming pool, and inspectrnthe old pirate lookout, with thick stonernwalls and old flagged floors, which Cowardrnused as a painting studio. They canrnview the concrete tomb where he isrnburied and the white marble slab thatrnreads “Sir Noel Coward-1899-1973.”rnI’m fascinated by Errol Flynn andrnhave been thinking of writing a bookrnabout him. He bought the 4,000-acrernBoston Estate, in Priestman’s River nearrnPort Antonio, in 1948. When visiting thernisland he lived on his yacht, the Zaca, untilrnhe built his house in the late 1950’s.rnWe drove through the entrance gate nearrnthe Castle police station, up the steeprnand very rough road, and past the mountainrnof coconut husks that looks like arnheap of Khmer Rouge skulls. I had arnlong talk with Leslie Marsh, manager ofrnthe estate, who was born in Jamaica ofrnEnglish and Portuguese parents and hadrnfought in the Middle East in World WarrnII. He lives in one rather rundown hilltoprnhouse, and Flynn’s third wife, the actressrnPatrice Wymore, in another. Thernestate, which includes all the land fromrnthe crest of the hill down to the sea, is notrndoing well. It employs 60 workers andrnsells 25,000 coconuts a week. It also hasrn600 head of cattle that it cannot sell becausernthe luxury hotels prefer to importrnduty-free beef from America.rnMarsh had known Flynn toward thernend of his life. He described the actor’srnlavish but rather joyless parties on NavyrnIsland (which he once owned and is supposedrnto have lost in a card game) in PortrnAntonio harbor, opposite his other favoriternhangout, the now burned-downrnTitchfield Hotel. Though scores of peoplernswam, rowed, or motored out to NavyrnIsland and got drunk at Flynn’s expense,rnhe hardly knew them and was usually toorndrunk to recognize anyone. I’d heard rumorsrnthat Flynn had a look-alike illegitimaternblack son who drove a taxi in PortrnAntonio, and I was very keen to meetrnhim. But both Marsh and Earl Levy,rnowner of the nearby Trident Hotel wherernWymore had a boutique, assured me thatrnno such person existed. Flynn died of arnheart attack in Vancouver, British Columbia,rnin 1959. Fhongh he wanted tornbe buried in Jamaica, he wound up, likernso many film stars, in Forest Lawn—thatrnDisneyland for spooks.rnJust before leaving for Jamaica, I’d spokenrnto Flynn’s daughter Rory (by his secondrnwife Nora Eddington), who urgedrnme to visit the estate and let her knowrnhow things were going. I’d hoped to seernPatrice Wymore, who had inherited thernestate and had run it since Flynn’s death.rnI particularly wanted to ask her about hisrnurge to self-destruction. But I arrived at arnbad time. Wymore, now aged 72, hadrnrecently had a cataract operation, hadrnjust returned from a trip to Europe, andrnwas still in bed at noon —exhausted by jetrnlag. Moreover, Amelia, her daughter byrnFlynn, had died five weeks earlier of arndrug overdose. Though Wymore agreedrnto see me the next morning, she was stillrnasleep when I phoned at the appointedrntime. Not knowing if she would ever appear,rnI had to press on to the next stage ofrnmy inexorable journey around the island.rnIn the interior, something of the old Jamaicarnstill remains. The rivers, waterfalls,rnand jungly mountain scenery alongrnthe winding roads are spectacular. Theyrnprovide a tremendous contrast to therntacky coast road where everything manmadernis rundown and hideous. Eighteenth-rncentury plantations have graciousrnmansions with splendid vistas, manicuredrngardens, and rough-hewn slavernquarters at the edge of the bush. GreenwoodrnGreat House was built in 1790 by arncousin of the poet Elizabeth BarrettrnBrowning, and George Orwell’s ancestorrnwas the absentee owner of plantationsrnand slaves in Jamaica. Some of thesernplantations now offer uncomfortablernrooms and mediocre food at exorbitantrnprices.rnOn the northeast coast, the low, oldfashionedrnhotels set in lavish gardens andrnfilled with tropical birds and flowers remindedrnme of the hospitality of colonialrnAfrica. In the Dragon Bay Hotel in PortrnAntonio—a town that was, compared tornOcho Rios and Negril, delightfully emptyrn—the Jolly Boys Combo, an endearinglyrnelderly quartet, played and sang traditionalrnCalypso music while we drankrnPlanter’s Punch on the veranda andrnwatched the heavy toads hop slowly uprn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn