on 17 June 2014
Having worked my way through more than half of the Bond novels, you start to appreciate the Fleming could be an unpredictable writer and the interest for me often lies in the way these novels differ from the films. As a rule, the shorter novels illustrate Fleming at his most creative whereas it seems in the longer books that sometimes he is tired of his creation so that a book like "Dr. No" may include elements of hokum at the end or at least allow the tension to dissipate as the novels build to a climax. Whilst I would suggest that "FRWL" and "OHMSS" are probably the best of these longer books, "Diamonds are forever" is not far behind.
Part of the success of this novel stems from Fleming reining in his excesses and this book is better for Bond being up against American organised crime so that the more incredible elements that can spoil some of Fleming's writing are absent. I would also have to add that the fact that the last third of this novel is effectively a chase sequence does add to the excitement, especially as the heroine is not quite so two dimensional as in other 007 outings. In fact, Tiffany Case is probably one of his best crafted female characters. I'm not convinced by Victor's review that the villains lack menace and it is more a case that Fleming shelved the more absurd elements for a more credible picture of how well ingrained organised crime was in to many aspects of American society. The novel is assisted by the return of Felix Leiter whose life-threatening injuries incurred in "Live in let die" manifest themselves in him being far more gung-ho and reckless.
The whole escapade is bookended by incidents in Africa and I felt this juxtaposed itself nicely insofar that the setting of the sun on the British Empire is contrasted by the more cynical world of gambling, extortion, race fixing and murder that was the rotten under-belly of American life. Granted that there are a couple of pages of wholly unacceptable racism during the course of one particular menacing incident that should have been edited out without the story losing anything, this is otherwise one of the very best of the 007 adventures. I can recall trying to read this book for the first time when I was about 13 and being disappointed that is was nothing like the film. Returning to it over thirty years later it is clear that film was not a patch on Fleming's original vision.
on 6 January 2007
When reading this book it is best to clear your head of any preconceptions over the plot that may come from the film of the same name. The plot of the book is far superior. It contains many of the things that one would expect of a Bond book (a beautiful woman, a spectacular chase sequence, sadistic bad guys) but is written in such a fashion as to make all of this seem plausible rather than conjuring up images of Austin Powers style campery. For a start the characterisation is brilliant the Bond here is distinctly human rather than some kind of superman, he gets beaten, bloodied and almost killed. In Tiffany Case Fleming also gives us a fully rounded person rather than the forgettable cyphers that featured in the many of the films. The bad guys are also well drawn in the form of the eccentric and thuggish Serrafimo brothers and hooded killers Kidd and Wint (a million miles away from their clownish portrayl in the film).
The book also showcases Flemings skill as a travel writer with a depiction of mafia dominated 1950's Vegas that conjures up the sound and smells of that bizarre town with all its gaudiness and the desperation of punters chasing the "easy" money. Through the middle strides Bond tough, but by no means immortal, constantly suprised by the ingenuity and cruelty of the mafia men he goes toe to toe with and even periodically afflicted by self doubt and agonising between love and the life of the secret agent.
I first read this when I was in my teans and now I am in my mid-forties I thought it was time for a revisit. I'm a Bond fan, love the films and have read all the various books from Fleming through to Benson and I have to admit I was surprised how much I had forgotten about this book, my memories having been tarnished by the film and the more modern versions of Bond.
Initially I was astonished how old this book was (1956!) and this is more of a detective story with a Bond that is over confident and too casual at times who is at odds with the emerging American mob.
In many ways it does show its age, and this adds to the charm.
Well worth reading to remind oneself where and how it all started...
on 1 February 2014
A change of direction for in Bond in his fourth outing as he takes on American organised crime in the shape of the Spangled Mob who are smuggling diamonds from Southern Africa via London to the United States which is having an impact on the markets.
This story involves gambling in casinos and race meetings Bond travels across the United States. Along the way Bond meets his friend Felix Leither by fate on the Street. Leither is no longer with the CIA following the injuries he received (In Bond's second adventure - Live and Let Die). He is now working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Leither updates Bond on the Spangled Mob and that he is working on corruption in horse racing.
There are some thrills in the Nevada dessert and on the liner crossing the Atlantic. In general this story is slow paced and the two brothers that head up the Spangled Mob lack the charisma of Bond villains. Their two heavies Wint and Kidd are good.
Bond's love interest Tiffany Case has a good part in this and her background and current activities are well described in another well written book by Ian Fleming.
However, in general this lacks something all round.
on 30 May 2016
Damian Lewis does a fine job in converting my least favourite Bond book into a story I really enjoyed listening to. The continuity that runs through the books elevates them far above the randomness of the films. Bond's re-acquaintance with the mutilated Felix Leiter, his vicious beating at the hands of Wint and Kidd and his ultimate revenge. It has to be said he was a little slow off the mark in recognizing those two on the return journey to England given that Leiter had informed him that Kidd had grey hair and his knowledge of the wart Wint was so fond of sucking along with their distinctive body types. Listening to this story has definitely raised the book in my estimation.
With 007's fourth adventure, Fleming returns Bond to the USA for most of the action, affording the reader a really vivid travelogue style book packed with observations about the States in the mid-fifties. The plot itself is no great shakes - Bond gets involved in trying to track down a diamond smuggling operation that stretches from Africa, through Europe and on to Las Vegas and the west coast of the States - and at times seems to go nowhere fast.
Fleming is particularly good at set piece action in this book, especially the chapter set in the mud room, which still bristles with tension and suspense no matter how many times you've re-read the book. But, as became typical as the series progressed, Fleming seems to tire of all the effort he's made in the early stages of the book, and the last third of Diamonds Are Forever falls away badly, with a train chase through the desert and a finale set on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship heading back to England.
It's way, way better than Moonraker, but not quite as tight and taut as the one that follows - From Russia, With Love, which for many enthusiasts is perhaps the high point in the series. But you can see Fleming developing the formula here, the writing remains bright, direct and crisp in that journalistic style he was well-known for, and over fifty years on this is still an enjoyable enough read.
The Kindle version is well-formatted with no silly errors, and the recent update of some of these e-book versions with introductions from contemporary authors (available as free updates if you ask) makes the Kindle series attractive and competitively priced.
Published in 1956, this is the fourth outing in print for Ian Fleming's spy James Bond. Here Bond is sent out to follow a diamond smuggling pipeline and to close it down. Inserted into the pipeline undercover, he has to deal with ruthless American Gangsters the Spangled mob, working his way through various scrapes with fixed horse races, hot mud baths and runaway steam locomotives before finally getting to the brains of the operation.
It is written with all of Fleming's verve and eye for detail. The opening paragraphs are adsorbing, and the big set pieces, especially the locomotive chase, are thrilling and breathtaking. These are the real strengths of the book. However, it does have a weakness in that the plot really isn't up to much, and the villains are less than impressive. Fleming tries to talk them up, but there is never really any feeling of threat or danger. And the plot does have a few holes in it. In all, these weaknesses are overcome by the strength of Fleming's writing. Even with unimpressive villains and a weak plot it is still an exciting read. Fleming had a real flair for adding in little descriptive touches that really build a vivid image in the mind's eye and transport the reader to the scene, I always find it adsorbing. On balance, 3 stars.
on 23 May 2016
Much, much better than the film – and I never thought I would say that.
Excellently brings to life diamond smuggling, the seedier side of the American underworld and some really nasty criminals – all set in a series of locations which keep up this a fast-paced ride.
Great fun and a terrific read.
on 27 July 2006
I think this may be the most underrated James Bond book by Ian Fleming. It literally is a thrilling read. While not his very best, it is a true gem, just with some rough edges.
Tiffany Case is one terrific leading lady by Fleming, one of his better ones, I think. A woman with a strong wall surrounding her for the most part, and one that you do not get to call all the shots with. She goes through quite a change in the story from being the frosty version we meet with Bond's alias of Peter Franks to the much happier one during their nighttime escape and Queen Elizabeth trip.
If there is one problem with this book, it is the obvious one, the villains. Yes, they are hardly some of Fleming's best. Jack and Serrafimo Spang, the beginning and end of the pipeline from England/Africa to the USA, while described as being some of the toughest of the bunch, and made out to be quite the villains, are never given enough actual time in the book to show off exactly what they are. Serrafimo gets a few minimal scenes with Bond, and Jack is....to save for spoilers...hardly in the book much at all. Wint and Kidd are fairly good though. They receive a general amount of time to be shown as a threat to Bond, as odd as they both may be.
The location switching is often claimed as a huge fault of this book, I even used to always harp on that myself, but I've come to see that it really doesn't bother me much at all. London and the USA are done fairly well for me, and I really, really love the moving around in this book. I like reading about the Tiara in the US, and the House of Diamonds, it just feels like a James Bond book.
Very excellent little aspect in this book...
A strong story overall, at times it gets murky, such as in the horse racing, and that sort, but I don't think anything in this story detracts too heavily from the overall plot.
Death is Forever. Diamonds are Forever. And this book is Forever. 4/5
Well, I never thought that Bond in print could be quite this exciting. Brought up, as I was, on the film versions, I had always associated him with fast and impossible car chases, rather unbelievable villains with splendid cats and bad puns.
With a backdrop of this, Fleming's original text came as quite a surprise. Here was a thoughtful James Bond who felt chivalrous towards women and had a conscience and, what was more, the characters were as well fleshed as they would have been had they appeared in the cinema, even somewhat better.
Diamonds are Forever concerns the activities of a diamond smuggling ring and starts with a "pick up" from a desert which I found most atmospheric. We then move to London where Bond is given the job of infiltrating the criminal circles and discovering who is behind it all and ends up shipping the stones across "The Pond" as a carrier. As his elbow, is the lovely and psychologically damaged Tiffany Case.
Once in the States, the plot moves fast and we go from rigged races to killings and torture scenes. Eventually, of course, Bond wins through, uncovers the villains and all is well. Naturally, he gets the girl. Putting in an appearance in this book are those nasty killers, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd and they are every bit as wicked as in the films. Of course, being proper baddies, they end up dead.
The story is well portrayed by Damian Lewis and I can heartily recommend this audio book for that long car journey. You can even boo the bad boys as you go.