Diamonds are Forever Book Review
Death is Forever, but so are Diamonds.
3.5 / 5
James Bond is sent on an assignment to America to discover the Spangled Mob’s system of diamond smuggling that is bringing them millions of dollars. M is apprehensive in assigning Bond on this mission as he knows there is more to the American mob than meets the eye, but Bond accepts the assignment with no such reservations. However, he sees firsthand the length and breadth of their influence and power in America and he must put himself in the line of fire to dismantle this powerful machine that the Spang brothers have constructed.
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.