Friday, September 7, 2012

James Bond - Diamonds are Forever

By 1956 Ian Fleming was turning out a Bond novel every year and they were proving to be hugely successful. Diamonds are Forever was even serialised in the Daily Express.

M sends Bond to take the place of an imprisoned courier and infiltrate the criminal gang responsible for a huge diamond smuggling scheme. Before long 007 is in America and mixing it up with a group of gangsters called the Spangled Mob. Along the way he will fall for the enigmatic Tiffany Case and meet up with his old friend Felix Leiter.

Diamonds are Forever is a quick and easy read. It does seem somewhat strange that Bond is basically working as an undercover policeman against a bunch of ordinary criminals with no connections to SMERSH. At least he is less objectionable in this book. Fleming seems to have toned down some of his more unpleasant views although he still finds time to be rude about the Irish, Americans, particularly their food (again), and Jewish people. There is also a rather extraordinary sequence describing Bond's flight to the USA and the irritations of air travel that existed even back then in the 1950s.

Bond is a bit more proactive this time and goes beyond the limits of his orders to stir up the Spangled Mob, although it seems clear that M expected him to do just that. There is a fair amount of violence and a sequence where Bond lives up to his double O status by shooting two nasty bad guys fairly quickly and efficiently. He is still using his Beretta pistol at this stage and has not yet been upgraded to his signature Walther PPK.

But it all seems a bit dull and low key for a James Bond adventure. There is no super-villain as such, the Bond girl is slightly more interesting than in Moonraker but still does not leave a lasting impression, and Bond himself seems a bit bored with it all. It feels like Fleming churned this one out fairly quickly in response to the public's reaction to the first three books.

The Bond check-list includes one minor villain with a medical condition (which Fleming gets wrong - there is no blood group F), no sporting encounter other than a rigged card game, a torture sequence which happens "off camera" between chapters, and one horrible and bizarre death (from hot mud!).

Bit of a let down really.

James Bond will return in ... From Russia with Love.

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