Thursday, June 30, 2011

Diamonds Are Forever - Ian Fleming

Cover from the first edition.

  Diamonds are Forever is Fleming's fourth Bond novel. Like the three predecessors it is a relatively easy read and I started and finished it last night. I can finish one of these novels off in two hits. I started it before I had dinner having initially read 70 pages, and afterwards, with all the household stuff finished, I sat down and read the next 210 pages in one sitting. Sure I finished just after mid-night but you get the idea at how easy these novels are to devour.

 I've now read two novels in two nights as I greedily flew through Tracy Chevalier's lovely novel Girl With a Pearl Earring the night before. Courtesy of Blogger and its temperamentally I wrote a review and lost it as I posted it due to a Blogger glitch. Just imagine a guy stamping his feet, swearing and cursing, and you get the general idea! Not impressed at all as it took me an hour to write!

 Diamonds are Forever is also the seventh of the Bond movies. It saw Sean Connery return as Bond after George Lazenby's foolish, career ending decision not to continue on in the role. At the time I believe Connery was the highest paid actor in the world for reprising the role. Of course after this he quit permanently only appearing in the unofficial Bond movie, Never say Never Again, which was nothing more than a Thunderball re-make. As with all the movies it veers well away from the novel. Several scenes are lifted from the novel but it is virtually unrecognisable. The diamonds in the book are smuggled into the States to be distributed illegally by a gang. In the movie they are used in satellite laser. Also the villains in the novel are the Spang brothers, but in the movie it is Bond's arch-enemy Blofeld.

 I believe diamond smuggling was of personal interest to Ian Fleming and he wrote a non-fictional work on the subject in the 1960's. Apparently it is very similar to Diamonds are Forever and many have mistaken it as a Bond novel because of the similarities. Like its predecessors this novel has also dated and Fleming has toned down some of his sentiments. Maybe he was advised to as the anti-American feel is less than in Live and Let Die. For instance Bond and Leiter have a discussion on the merits of American and European sports cars instead of Fleming, through Bond, just being totally dis-missive of American cars. Also Fleming is less dis-missive of American food than in Live and Let Die. It is a better novel to read for this toned downedness, as I'm not really interested in reading an authors somewhat racist/sexist/xenophobic views.

 In dated terms we see Bond with 'the girl' in this novel, Tiffany Case, fly from L.A to New York to board the Queen Elizabeth and the flight taking ten hours. I'm sure it doesn't take that long now but it is indicative of the fact the novel is 58 years old! Also the car Felix Leiter drives is a Studillac with a top speed of 130mph. Most high powered cars today are able to top that easily! Funnily enough Fleming uses the Studillac in the novel because he drove one in the States and was impressed with it. I suppose he toned down his feelings on American cars because of this!

 After finishing this novel one glaring thing hit me in the differences between the novels and the movies. That is the fact that in the novels Bond caries around a Beretta with a puny .25 calibre. In the very first movie Dr. No M makes Bond swap his Beretta for the more reliable and potent 7.65mm PPK, a very fine hand gun. I was amazed than a 00 was armed with such a puny hand gun in the novels. Sure it is small and relatively flat pistol, but with a 'license to kill' I'd have expected him to armed with something more that what in all reality is little more than a pea shooter!! But here I again  had to back off and separate the Bond of the novels from that of the movies.

 The other thing is that besides Sean Connery none of the other Bonds smoked. Bond of the novels is a seventy a day smoker!! and has his own cigarettes custom made with three gold stripes just above the filter. It isn't exactly what you would expect from a secret agent who is supposedly super fit is it?! Yet it is a sign of the times as smoking wasn't the social taboo it has since become.

In short then Diamonds are Forever is a step forward from Fleming especially in regards to his private views. I found the novel well paced with no flat spots. I found there was no single scene that stood out as in the previous three novels. I'm just not sure that the premise fits Bond as a secret agent though. Diamond smuggling comes across more as an Interpol area of expertise rather than that of 'Universal exports'! I've started From Russia With Love and it feels more like proper Bond territory in with dealing with Smersh again rather than Mob type gangs in America.

 So far of the four novels I have read I liked Live and Let Die the most. It has a tension in several of its scenes that the other three novels don't come close too.  You may also like to know that in Diamond are Forever Felix Leiter has left the CIA after his encounter with the shark in Live and Let Die. He has lost a hand and has a limp, and now works for a private firm. Fleming wrote 14 Bond novels and Leiter was written out of his CIA role very early on. It is a very clear deviation from the movies where he is CIA in all of them...and even changes colour in Casino Royale!! What an amazing trick!!

 Another quick, easy reading Bond novel, but very,very dated.


  1. Yea I agree with you, decent book but feels dated reading it now.

  2. I need to go trolling Amazon or Ebay.

  3. This one felt particularly dated over the last three.

    AL....I'm getting mine from the local library!