Diamonds are Forever (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 Jun 2004
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Diamonds Are Forever, Ian Fleming's fourth Bond novel, has all the hallmarks of a classic 007 adventure and whilst it lacks some of the strength and depth of other books in the series it nevertheless has much to recommend it. The plot concerns a ruthless syndicate known as the Spangled Mob who are running a diamond smuggling pipeline out of Africa into the USA. This is costing England millions of pounds and James Bond is sent to investigate. A promising set up, but it soon becomes apparent that the syndicate's only aim is to get rich and as Bond novels go it is slightly disappointing that this is the sum total of the villains' project.
On a more positive note, Tiffany Case is an excellent Bond girl who plays an integral part in the book. The relationship that develops between her and Bond is highly convincing and well-observed and the book is rich in dialogue between the two. On the topic of marriage:
Bond: "Most marriages don't add two people together. They subtract one from the other."
Tiffany: "But it depends what you want it to add up to. Something human or something inhuman. You can't be complete by yourself."
As suggested by the syndicate's comparatively (in Bond terms) modest ambitions, Diamonds Are Forever lacks a really good principle villain, but it does have well-portrayed minor contenders in the form of the duo Wint and Kidd, two violent and ruthless killers. There are some tense moments in the novel and although there is no real action until well over half way through it, once it starts, it is almost non-stop until the end.
One of the outstanding features of this adventure remains the way Fleming wrote the character of Tiffany. Her relationship with Bond adds humanity and life to Diamonds Are Forever. --Jamie Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The remarkable thing about this book is that it is written by an Englishman. The scene is almost entirely American and it rings true to an American. I am unaware of any other writer who has accomplished this" (Raymond Chandler)
"James Bond is one of the most cunningly synthesized heroes in crime fiction" (Observer)
"A brilliant story that maintains the promise of an extremely clever introduction" (Manchester Evening News)
"Once again Ian Fleming has brought it off" (Birmingham Post) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
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.
This is a steady novel, with copious descriptions of locations and gambling, brief spouts of action and Bond’s internal monologue. This is not the best Bond novel so far and neither the worst, it is simply a novel that is read as part of the Bond canon rather than seeking it out for its literary achievements or entertainment value. It is different from the film version of the same name, but as I have realised, that isn’t out of the ordinary. Bond fans would probably not enjoy this story as much as others due to the fact that Bond lights a cigarette more times than there are action sequences.
An aspect that appears in Diamonds, but not to the extent of Live and Let Die, is Fleming’s use of derogatory and stereotypical language when describing non-English people. Though, I am reading it knowing this was typical of that period, it is still no less cringeworthy.
The villains, the Spangled Mob, were described as hardened criminals operating a brilliantly constructed system of diamond smuggling which stretched from the source in Africa, to America and England. However, with Fleming’s detailed descriptions of the villainous Spangs, the build up to their introduction suggests that they would be a great test for Bond, but they are shown to be feeble and are not given much time devoted to them. He defeats them fairly quickly and a strength in Casino Royale that was missing in this story was Fleming’s inclusion of Bond’s internal monologue, planning and decisions when faced with a difficult situation or a devious criminal. Instead, Fleming dodges the torture scene, perhaps knowing of the comparisons that would be made with Casino Royale, and Bond and Tiffany make their escape while everyone is sleeping which seems very anti-Bond for my linking.
Fleming provides a unique perspective as he elaborately describes locations whether it is New York, Saratoga or Las Vegas. It is interesting to read from a 1950’s perspective what an Englishman would think when he visits differing parts of America. He does it in a way which is not only extremely informative, but he also paints an immaculate picture of the exact scene that the reader is faced with. The copious descriptions of each part of America gives some verisimilitude to each of them, which is important to provide the reader with an accurate view of America. The depth of detail when describing the Saratoga Racecourse was immense and he achieved the feat of transporting the reader from England to America in his context, but also from 21st century to the 1950s.
Card playing is synonymous with Bond novels and films, and yet again it features greatly in Diamonds, but not only that, but the added bonus of horse race gambling. For some this could become quite tedious as Fleming endeavours to explain odds and percentages as well as Bond’s own thinking concerning whichever game he is playing. However, for some, it provides an exploration into a key facet of Bond’s character and when he is internally deciding on the best strategy to play the cards, we get a little closer to his character and learn a bit more about his decision-making.
Tiffany Case provides another chance for Bond to get close to an attractive woman who is involved with the case. However, unlike in the films and some of the books, Bond is shown to be more sensitive around Tiffany as Felix Leiter has filled him in on her troubled and hellish upbringing and background. And by the end he Bond is torturing himself as he has developed strong feelings for this woman, even contemplating leaving the Service for her. Their dinner aboard the Queen Elizabeth is a devilish game of cat and mouse between the pair as they ask each other personal questions, with Bond both dodging and answering awkward questions about love and what woman he’d like to be with. Tiffany shown she is very compatible with Bond, though Bond was always ready to defend his lonely stance rather than chancing it with her.
Though Diamonds isn’t the most action packed of the Bond novels I have read so far, he is shown to be more human than the others which may have added to the appeal rather than be seen as a spy with a licence to kill. I will still continue my goal of reading all of Fleming’s James Bond books that have been released in a special vintage collection.
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