1. Literary 007 Reviewed: Ian Fleming's 'Diamonds Are Forever'

    By Devin Zydel on 2008-04-12
    Ian Fleming

    Ian Fleming

    With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s fourth James Bond adventure, 1956’s Diamonds are Forever.

    As several CBn Forum members are already aware, every two months a James Bond adventure is chosen for members of the Blades Library Book Club to read. Proceeding in chronological order, the club first read Fleming’s Diamonds are Forever back in July 2004.

    What follows are selected reviews from the Book Club Forum members. For further details on the club or to post your own review of Diamonds are Forever, simply click here.

    Literary 007 Reviewed:
    Diamonds Are Forever

    'Diamonds are Forever'

    Ian Fleming’s Diamonds are Forever

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… right idea, wrong pussy

    Diamonds are Forever is one of my favorite Fleming novels, though since Goldfinger is right up there as well, I’m definitely in the minority as far as my opinions go. I think that Fleming often did best when he was describing an alien culture, whether it was Russia in the first part of From Russia with Love or America in Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger and Live and Let Die. He has has the sort of nuanced and keen appreciations for these places that only an outsider can have. As for the novel not being “Bondesque” enough, I think that’s just what makes it so wonderful. Moonraker was, in my opinion, a decided disappointment when I read it. Are we really supposed to take seriously the idea that an experienced and world-weary agent like Bond can’t see Drax is up to no good from a mile away? The payoff for the long, drawn-out set-up is an overblown flop I could have seen coming even if I hadn’t seen the movie.

    Diamonds are Forever does really well at putting Bond in an alien environment, and having him come out on top. It’s as though Fleming put Bond into one of the Raymond Chandler thrillers he respected, and the meeting of Philip Marlowe and James Bond is a refeshing one. Fleming’s research into diamond smuggling is clear, and that lends this book a sense of realism that the more silly and overblown books like Moonraker and Dr. No lack.

    I don’t think it’s that surprising that Diamonds are Forever was panned when it was released and is still out of favor now. Whenver Fleming put alot of research into a Bond work or tried something innovative, he tended to get panned. The Spy Who Loved Me was quite good, but was savaged by critics and readers. Many of the short stories (other than The Living Daylights) are held in low favor even though I think Fleming wrote better short stories than novels. I’m not surpised that Fleming tried to kill off Bond in frustration with From Russia with Love, or that when he returned to the character he went with the “safe”, “Bondesque” and highly overblown SPECTRE trilogy, which represents the longest continuously weak period in his work, in my opinion.

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… GreggAllinson

    I just finished Diamonds are Forever and its major problem is that the villains are so poorly realised, so it really doesn’t feel like Bond’s accomplished anything when he takes down the Spangled Mob. The Spang Brothers make cameos, Wint and Kidd are OK but again only appear sporadically, and there’s a bunch of minor villains who pop up at the start and vanish, and the plot just doesn’t hang together at all. It’s not entirely a waste- I love the Studillac, Tiffany Case is a very well-written character, and the part in the ironically-named Spectreville–but coming off of the spectacular Moonraker (featuring the best villain of the first three Fleming novels), it was a huge letdown.

    Incidentally, I just started reading From Russia, With Love and the first 65 pages are devoted exclusively to building up the history and motivations of Red Grant, G, Rosa Klebb, etc. That’s how you create memorable, well-realised villains for Bond!

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… North Scorpion

    I just finished Diamonds are Forever today and I can see some of the arguments for the novel running a little slow. I think there are two items, however, that do stand out compared to the previous outings. First, the location depictions are much more detailed than in previous novels. New York is described in almost as much detail as in Live and Let Die, yet this site is not nearly as important as it is in the latter novel. Second, Fleming’s creation, Tiffany Case is superb. Try reading it whilst constantly reminding yourself that this was a Briton writing in in the mid-50’s and you will be impressed.

    These two items aside, the novel does drag in parts but if there is a bright side it is that this novel was bookended by two great books. Not to mention a fantastic movie.

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… Donovan

    I like all the Bond novels by Fleming. Diamonds Are Forever isn’t quite as good as the other novels by Fleming at that time. Mainly because there really isn’t a central villain. But Tiffany Case makes a very compelling “Bond girl”. I like reading the scenes between her and Bond. Felix is good here as well. It’s kind of too bad none of the Bond scripts ever captured what this character was like. The mud bath scene is good. I also like the descriptions of America (I always do…Fleming was a great writer because of his journalism background.) So, one can’t really be a fan of the films and never have seen Golden Gun. Same goes for the Fleming novels. Gotta read ’em all.

    (The hardest Fleming 007 work for me to complete was Quantum of Solace…but I’m glad I did because I thought what that guy did to his ex-wife was pretty incredible)

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… daltonlover13

    I think Tiffany Case is a great Bond girl, much better than she was in the movie. They showed her sort of, I want it this way and thats that in the first scene with her in her apartment, but at the same time, they showed a frightened side when on the phone with her superiors.

    I thought Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd were outstanding. They are my absolute favorite literary villains. I also thought the whole ‘sucking the thumb’ aspect was very interesting. It wasn’t like something I pondered for hours, but it made me think about from the beginning whether or not and how Fleming would incorporate that later.

    I also thought that although the movie’s plot was ‘technologically’ more with today’s, (and 1971’s) time period, that the plot made it less interesting. I thought, and still think, that the biggest and most defining difference between the films and the books is the plot. If you look at the movies, almost every plot is a search for some form of world domination.

    Then look at the books. Some plots were world domination, some were mass distruction, (Moonraker comes to mind), but some, (Doctor No sending missiles off course, Rosa Klebb getting the Spectre-lektor in the movie-, etc.) had very simple plots.

    I thought the plot, final battle, bond girl, henchmen, villains, Bond, (I didn’t think Connery was very good in this particular movie), and pretty much everything else was better in the book than the movie. In my opinion, this book is more underrated than any other 007 book. I will mention I think that the movie is under rated too, however much I may dislike it.

    ‘Diamonds are Forever’ reviewed by… Double-0 Eleven

    After The Man with the Golden Gun, this is my least favorite of Fleming’s novels. Which isn’t to say that I don’t like reading it, or even that I don’t like it. It has the usual superb descriptive writing and the action sequences are often tense. Tiffany Case is the first great female character Fleming wrote. But for me Diamonds Are Forever is a book in search of a center. It lacks focus and a strong through-line, juggling travelogues with a zig-zag plot across the American gangland world that never gels. The absentee villains, Seraffimo and Jack Spang, heads of the “Spangled Mob” and its diamond smuggling operations from South Africa to Las Vegas, don’t help. The sleazy depictions of American commercial/criminal life are unforgettable (to this day, whenever I’m in Vegas, I can hear Fleming’s description of the “gilded mousetrap” in my head), and a few tense sequences such as a fiery train crash and Bond’s confrontation with mob killers in their cabin on the Queen Elizabeth make for top-notch Fleming. But for me it just doesn’t ultimately stack up to Fleming’s other work.

    Diamonds Are Forever reads a bit like Fleming dropped Bond into Mike Hammer’s bare-knuckle wise-guy world to see how he measured up. An interesting idea, since in the early 1950s, Mickey Spillane’s novels were the most popular crime novels on the market. And Fleming’s dialogue for the American heavies isn’t that bad–you might expect a British writer to overdo it more, but the dialogue is all quite believable. Bond isn’t initially amused by the idea of going against American gangsters to investigate diamond smuggling since he sees U.S. mobsters as nothing more than a cartoon figures. Everyone who knows something about organized crime cautions him how dangerous these people can be; the incessant warnings start to turn into a bit of an annoyance, since the book never makes the Spangled Mob into a threat on the level of SPECTRE or SMERSH. They can be dangerous, but not like some of Bond’s other adversaries.

    The descriptions of places like Las Vegas and Saratoga take up large amounts of text, and for the first time Fleming lets his research and fascination with his subject get away from him. The grimy, unglamorous look at American life is often interesting, but it gets in the way of the flow of the story. The Saratoga sequence in particular feels gratuitous, and Bond does little more than act as an observer.

    Tiffany Case is a treat in the book, and Bond’s attraction to her maddening hot/cold return is a joy to read. She has a fully fleshed-out background, but the story leaves her hanging at the conclusion. I wanted to know a bit more about where she stands with Bond (although we do get to find Bond also gets to pal around with Felix Leiter (now a Pinkerton agent and not that bitter about the mauling he got in Live and Let Die) and tough-talking cabby Ernest Cureo. Even if the book is Fleming’s first disappointment, it does show him advancing in character development. Shame about those villains, however.

    Keep your eyes on the CBn main page for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.