by Ian Fleming
I can’t sugarcoat it: Diamonds Are Forever isn’t the best Bond book. I don’t know if it’s the absolute worst, but it’s certainly the weakest of the four I’ve reviewed so far on B+L. Let me explain why.
First of all, the Bond villain is a gangster. Not a KGB agent, or a megalomaniac, or a dangerous assassin- a gangster. Not even a voodoo gangster. It’s just some American gangster in Las Vegas who’s been smuggling diamonds from Africa into the US, through London. Why London? Because why else would James Bond be involved, that’s why. Duh.
Second, the exotic locales that Bond goes to are New York and Nevada: Bond meets up with diamond smuggler Tiffany Case in London, follows her New York City where he finds his old American chum Felix Leiter, and then hits the racetracks of upstate New York. From there, he flies again to Las Vegas, where his target runs a casino. He finds out about another property in the desert, then goes there, and handles his business. Except for the cruise back to Europe with the now-reformed Tiffany Case, that’s pretty much it. Take a trip to lovely New York and Nevada.
I also didn’t even realize the climax of the book was happening as I was reading it. Ian Fleming sometimes likes to mess with his readers’ expectations by going for the unorthodox ending, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work. Casino Royale works; Bond’s mission concludes about 2/3 of the way through, leaving the rest of the book to deal with the fallout. Diamonds Are Forever just finishes the mission, then wraps up some random threads that don’t have a whole lot to do with the rest of the book.
The annoying thing is that the last couple of chapters would actually be pretty awesome somewhere else. They’re like their own short stories added to the end, but they’re not a significant part of the plot. It just doesn’t make any sense why Fleming didn’t cut it or make it a bigger part of the story; the middle ground kind of sucks
The really frustrating thing is that diamond smuggling is inherently cool. Diamonds are cool and smuggling is cool, so diamond smuggling should be… the bomb diggity? (Or whatever the kids are saying these days.) But it doesn’t really make sense for an international man of mystery, such as our beloved 007, to handle a problem that should probably be left to the local constabulary. Admittedly, the Bond books generally feature slightly more mundane plots than the movies have accustomed us to, but really. “I want to smuggle diamonds out of Africa.” To what end? “To smuggle diamonds out of Africa.” How grandiose.
According to Wikipedia, Fleming decided to write Diamonds Are Forever after he did quite a bit of research for a non-fiction book about diamond smuggling. Diamonds Are Forever is pretty much a side project, and it shows.