Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Diamonds Are Forever, by Ian Fleming

(pb; 1956: fourth book in the original 007/James Bond series)

From the back cover:

“Meet Tiffany Case, a cold, gorgeous, hard-boiled blonde; the kind of girl you could get into a lot of trouble with – if you wanted. She stands between James Bond and the leaders of a diamond-smuggling ring that stretches from Africa via London to the States. Bond uses her to infiltrate the gang, but once in America the hunter becomes the hunted. 007 is in real danger until help comes from an unlikely quarter, the ice maiden herself...”

Review:

Bond goes up against American gangsters – this time, it’s the Spang brothers, Seraffimo and Jack. Bond’s femme fatale is Tiffany Case, who was gang raped at a young age and has hardened accordingly. Lesser villains include Shady Tree (a cruel midget), Wint (a huge thug who sucks his thumb) and Kidd (a pretty boy thug).

There’s less police work and more savagery in the fourth Bond outing. Bond finds himself in some odd situations – being in America and all – but, true to series-form, he has help: the aforementioned Tiffany Case, and Felix Leiter. Leiter, now a Pinkerton detective, has left the CIA. He also has a right steel hook and a noticeable limp – reminders of Leiter’s wounds, received in the second Bond novel, Live And Let Die.

The Spang brothers have their quirks, too. Serrafimo is an Old West afficionado who owns a refurbished ghost town, Spectreville. Jack, also called Rufus B. Saye, and who might be “ABC,” the mysterious leader of the gang, is barely seen, but his cold-blooded nature is distinctive.

One of the things I love about the Bond novels is how Fleming mentions, in passing, certain events from past novels, without slowing the plot or action of the current novel. It gives a stronger sense of continuity to an already well-written series.

Diamonds Are Forever is less intense than its predecessors, but it’s still exciting.

This became a film in 1971. Sean Connery played Bond. Jill St. John played Case. Norman Burton played Leiter.

Seraffimo and Jack Spang were nixed in the film version. The villain of the film version is Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Charles Gray), whose character was last seen in the previous Bond film, 1969's On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In On Her Majesty’s... Blofeld was played by Telly Savalas.

Guy Hamilton directed Diamonds Are Forever, from a script by Richard Maibaum.

Diamonds Are Forever, the book, is followed by From Russia With Love.

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