Ah, now on to Ian Flemming’s Bond book 4 – Diamonds are Forever.
This book is only about 50/50 the same as the movie. Bond is trying to track down a diamond smuggling ring this time. He starts by slipping into the Spang mob’s supply chain by kidnapping and replacing one of their diamond couriers. He meets the lovely Tiffany Case who is his mob ‘boss’ and they smuggle some of the stolen African diamonds into the US. Bond tries to track through the hierarchy of the mob and get his hands on the mysterious Spang Brothers. In the process, he goes to some horse racing, journeys to Vegas where he mixes it up with the Spang mob, and then has one final adventure on his trip back to England on the Queen Elizabeth.
While the adventure is grand in concept, this book falls far short of most of Fleming’s other novels. It’s a bit schizophrenic in it’s plot lines with a few too many villains. Also, the job itself of tracking down the diamonds is more like police work instead of the high government intrigue we’re used too. His smuggling of the diamonds with Tiffany case is a good bit of writing, but it falls apart again when he goes for some horse racing in which the delightfully evil, well-done, but far underutilized mob couple Kidd and Wint dump hot mud on the jockey that Bond bribed to toss a horse race in order to tease out the mob.
Bond adventures to Vegas, and decides to stir up the mob by ‘stealing’ money from the mob casino which is set up to pay our Bond’s smuggling pay via a rigged card game that Tiffany deals for him. This starts the mob after him and eventually gets him captured. He’s dragged out to the Spang estate – which is a somewhat ridiculous western-era town recreation. Here we see Bond run completely out of ideas, and take a clean beating from Kidd and Wint. It’s only by the action of Tiffany that he’s saved, and a train race ensues. This whole plot line is weak and a bit schizophrenic. Knowing what we do of mobsters, we’re wondering why they don’t just off bond with a few bullets and be done with it? Why do these gangsters treat Bond with any respect or concern? The height of hubris is when Bond, finally captured after killing at least half a dozen of Spang’s men, asks the Spang brother to make him a drink before he talks – and he DOES it. In every story of mobsters I know they would have beaten him senseless and chopped off a finger for even opening his mouth. To me, if feels very much like a very British Flemming trying to write about American gangsters from just what little scraps of info would have drifted back across the ocean of his time. He doesn’t seem to really get mob behavior, and still tinges it with a bit of British culture.
Alas, Flemming pretty much flubs the whole track of the Spang brothers. They make some amazing blunders for supposedly being so careful – and it just didn’t feel like Flemming knew what he was going to do with these characters. It’s almost like he set it in motion, realized he was running out of space, and just ends the thread. Badly. It’s no surprise they never make it to any of the movie editions. There’s so little of them present, and what there is is so schizophrenic, that there’s little to even grab hold of. Probably the worst Bond villains in the books I’ve read to date.
The love interest with Tiffany is as equally disappointing. She’s certainly an interesting character, but for being such a tough character, she just sorts of falls in love with Bond for little to no reason. The final adventure they have on the cruise back to England also feels rushed and somewhat hollow and unbelievable.
So, Diamonds are Forever is a so-so book. One could easily skip it and not miss anything; but for the true Bond fan, there’s plenty of good stuff in here to enjoy. Give it a C+