1. Looking Back: Ian Fleming's 'The Diamond Smugglers'

    By Devin Zydel on 2009-05-25

    Mention the name Ian Fleming and it is his James Bond novels and short story collections that almost always come to mind. However, as dedicated literary 007 fans are well aware, Bond’s creator also managed to pen a few adventures that didn’t feature his world-famous British secret agent.

    'The Diamond Smugglers'

    The Diamond Smugglers UK Jonathan Cape Hardback

    One of which was The Diamond Smugglers, published in late 1957, a few months after the release of the author’s highly successful James Bond adventure, From Russia with Love. One of the author’s few non-fiction books (the other being 1963’s Thrilling Cities), The Diamond Smugglers expanded upon several articles Fleming had written for the London Sunday Times during the year. As a side note, the articles appeared in print in September and October 1957.

    The book investigates a massive smuggling racket that saw more than £10 million worth of diamonds moving illicitly from Johannesburg, South Africa and Freetown, Sierra Leone in Africa to Europe. The principal players include:

    • Ian Fleming (naturally, as the reader’s guide to the story being laid out)
    • Sir Percy Sillitoe, KBE, DL, former head of MI5. After retirement in early 1950’s, was hired by the De Beers company to put an end to the current diamond smuggling operations
    • “John Blaize” of the International Diamond Security Organization: alias for the secret agent chief under Sir Percy Sillitoe who was responsible for penetrating the smuggling network and then later contacted Fleming in April 1957 to discuss the operation. He also provides the introduction to The Diamond Smugglers.

    In chapter one of The Diamond Smugglers, Fleming describes how he first came to hear of “John Blaize” upon receiving a phone call from an acquaintance:

    'The Diamond Smugglers'

    The Diamond Smugglers US Macmillan Hardback

    It was a friend. He sounded mysterious. ‘You remember that job Sillitoe was on? Well, it’s just finished and his chief operator says he’ll now tell you what it was all about. He’s amused by your books, particularly that diamond-smuggling one. He thinks you’d be able to write his story. He’s ready to tell you everything within reason—names, dates, places. I’ve heard some of it and it’s terrific. But you’d have to meet him in Africa—Tangier probably. Can you get away?’

    The Diamond Smugglers

    What follows is a detailed account of the International Diamond Security Organizaton’s attempts to put an end to the ‘million carat network’—the known diamond smuggling routes stretching across Africa and into various cities in Europe as well as Moscow.

    'The Diamond Smugglers'

    The Diamond Smugglers UK Pan Paperback

    The diamonds that glitter so brilliantly on a beautiful woman’s throat may very possibly conjure a whole spectrum of crime, from simple theft to murder and treason. No other precious stone is so closely identified with man’s love of luxury, his greed and his rapacity. The fascination felt for diamonds is undeniable and universal, and this intense interest and curiousity extends to those who deal in them, especially in an unlawful way.

    The Diamond Smugglers is a true account of the greatest smuggling racket in the world – the illicit passage of diamonds out of Africa, to the tune of 28 million dollars a year.

    In April of 1957, Ian Fleming met John Blaize, nom de guerre of the secret agent chief responsible for penetrating the international smuggling network which ranged from Johannesburg and Freetown to Paris, Antwerp, Beirut – and Moscow.

    Blaise gave Fleming all the facts of the three-year campaign which he and his colleagues had waged against the diamond pirates on behalf of the famous Diamond Syndicate. Dealing factually with the materials of a thriller, this true story takes you to the armed camps in which the stones are mined and then follows the course of the operatives and their quarries, cataloguing names, dates, criminal techniques, methods of detection and apprehension. Among others, you meet Monsieur Diamant, “a big hard chunk of a man” enormously wealthy, outwardly respectable – and utterly ruthless.

    The British press has termed The Diamond Smugglers “the greatest spy story since World War II.” All in all, a tailor-made real-life subject for the author such fictional spinecurlers as From Russia with Love, Casino Royale, Moonraker and (appropriately enough) Diamonds are Forever.

    US Macmillan First Edition Hardback

    Trivia & Notes

    The Diamond Smugglers is one of three non-Bond published works by author Ian Fleming. The other two are Thrilling Cities and the popular children’s tale Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

    'The Diamond Smugglers'

    The Diamond Smugglers US Collier Paperback

    This was the first Ian Fleming-penned book to carry the “© Glidrose Productions Ltd.” copyright notation (the company that holds the publishing rights to the official James Bond novels). This copyright was included on all of the following James Bond novels and short story collections that followed through 1968’s Colonel Sun. The company name was changed to Glidrose Publications Ltd. from 1973’s James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 through 1998’s The Facts of Death. For 1999’s High Time to Kill, the name was changed once more to Ian Fleming Publications Limited, which it continue to be known as today.

    Two different states of the UK Jonathan Cape first edition hardback exist: the first state includes gold titling on the spine, while the second is white.

    Numerous illustrations are included in the book. These are included in all UK and US hardback and paperback printings, with the exception of the US Dell paperback. A map of the ‘million carat network’ is included as one of the illustrations.

    As noted on the inside rear flap of the US Macmillan hardback, screen rights for The Diamond Smugglers were purchased by J. Arthur Rank.

    The US Aeonian Press hardback, published in 1976, is particularly difficult for collectors to obtain as only 300 copies were printed.

    The Diamond Smugglers was included in the highly collectible Ian Fleming Centenary collection published by Queen Anne Press in October 2008.

    In March 2008, it was announced that The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities, both long out of print, would be published in all-new hardback editions to mark the centenary of author Ian Fleming. Both titles are slated to be released in 2009. The Diamond Smugglers will be introduced by Fergus Fleming and Thrilling Cities by Jan Morris.

    Release Timeline

    • 1957: 1st British Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition
    • 1958: 1st American Macmillan Hardback Edition
    • 1960: 1st British Pan Paperback Edition
    • 1964: 1st American Collier Paperback Edition
    • 1965: 1st American Dell Paperback Edition
    • 1976: 1st American Aeonian Press Hardback Edition
    • 1987: 1st American Amereon Press Hardback Edition
    'The Diamond Smugglers'

    The Diamond Smugglers US Dell Paperback

    A major campaign against the greatest smuggling racket in the world – the smuggling of diamonds from Africa, to the tune of some ten million pounds a year
    – has just been completed. It took three years, Paris was involved and Antwerp, Beirut, Freetown, Johannesburg – and Moscow.

    How this underground battle was waged is the greatest spy story since the war.

    All the facts have come to the hands of Ian Fleming. He has been in Africa with the secret agent chiefly responsible for penetrating the international smuggling network. Ian Fleming has written this man’s story: it is a true story, and breathtaking.

    UK Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition

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