(SPOILERS FOR BOTH DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER AND FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE)
First published in 1956, Diamonds are Forever was the fourth of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels.
This time, Bond has been assigned to investigate international diamond smuggling. After assuming the identity of a burglar named Peter Franks, Bond infiltrates a smuggler’s ring. His investigation leads him back to the United States and into the untamed city of Las Vegas.
Diamonds are Forever is one of the weaker of Fleming’s Bond novels. Reportedly, it didn’t take long for Fleming to grow weary of the demands of coming up with a new Bond novel every year and he even considered killing off the British secret agent all together. As opposed to the first three books, the plot of Diamonds are Forever often feels rather hastily mashed together. Worst of all, Diamonds are Forever features the least memorable villains of the series, the Spang Brothers. The Spang Brothers are mobsters who talk like they’re in a bad crime movie and that’s about it. Certainly, they never come across like a legitimate threat to James Bond.
Probably the best thing about Diamonds are Forever is Bond’s growing relationship with the tough and cynical smuggler, Tiffany Case. More so than Vesper, Solitaire, and even Gala Brand, Tiffany seems like Bond’s equal and it’s no surprise when, at the end of the book, she and Bond end up moving in with each other.
(It’s also not a shock when, in the next novel, we learn that Tiffany soon left Bond for another man. Tiffany’s not the type to get tied down.)
It’s also interesting to read Fleming’s thoughts on Las Vegas. Remember how much Fleming hated on Florida in Live and Let Die? That’s nothing compared to what he does to Las Vegas. Reading his description of the famed gambling mecca, one gets the feeling that Fleming was both fascinated and disgusted by this quintessentially American city.
Finally, an entire chapter is devoted to Bond’s experience flying from the UK to the US. That may seem like filler to modern audiences. But you have to remember that Diamonds Are Forever was written at a time when commercial air travel was considered to be something of a luxury. For many readers in 1956, reading that chapter was probably as close to flying as they’d ever get.
Diamonds are Forever may be one of the weaker Bond novels but it was followed by one of the best, From Russia With Love!