My James Bond Challenge continues with Diamonds Are Forever, the fourth Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, in 1956. 

Once again, my book review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst going through the book. Diamonds Are Forever is not one of my favourite movies so I was intrigued about what the book would be like.

  • I like the cold open with the scorpion. Pretty graphic too!
  • p12 – The first line from M is amusing, as there is no lead in or background to it at all. “Don’t push it in. Screw it in,” said M impatiently.
  • p.13 – Fleming gives a fascinating description about diamonds. I started being intrigued about diamonds myself after reading that.
  • p.14 – “And now you know as much about diamonds as I do.” I just really like M’s character, his directness and also the relationship that they have together. It’s sweet in a way.
  • p.15 – ‘There was a creak from M’s chair and Bond looked across the table at the man who held a great deal of his affection and all his loyalty and obedience.’ Aww.
  • p.19 – Bond certainly has a strong opinion about American gangsters. “There’s nothing so extraordinary about American gangsters,” protested Bond. “They’re not Americans. Mostly a lot of Italian bums with monogrammed shirts who spend the day eating spaghetti and meat-balls and squirting scent over themselves.”
  • p.25 – Bond’s first disguise! Seems to only be a tiny bit of make-up but apparently still makes him unrecogniseable. Good work.
  • Fleming is writing accents phonetically again!
  • Bond is in America again! Let’s see if Fleming is a bit scathing of Americans again like in Live and Let Die
  • p53 – “Diamands are Forever” is mentioned in a jewellery shop window
  • Felix is back! And now working as a P.I. for Pinkertons. Great to see him back and getting on with life after his big accident.
  • p61 – He meets Tiffany for only the second time and already they are getting very flirty
  • p61 – He orders a Martini “shaken and not stirred’! That’s the first time he has asked for that. We will see how often it gets used in the novels now.
  • p62 – The banter between Bond and Tiffany is great. I really like Tiffany’s lines.
  • p64 – “He busied himself with lighting a cigarette, confuring up the professional to keep the human quiet.” Great line.
  • p64 – “…he’s so crooked, you shake hands with him you better count your fingers afterwards.” Another great line.
  • p68 – Bond eats Oeufs Benedict. Even posher than Eggs Benedict.
  • It’s interesting that Felix is actually beginning to sound like a bit of a showoff in this book.
  • p88 – Interesting that the company is called “Acme mud and sulphur”. I’ve only really ever heard of ACME being used in Road Runner cartoons.
  • p91 – I’m kind of getting used to Fleming calling people Negro or Negress now, as I guess it is perhaps a sign of the times back then, but in these next few pages he must say ‘The Negro’ about 50 times during this scene at the mud baths. I’m finding it pretty off-putting here. But there’s also an interesting paragraph starting with “Bond had a natural affection for coloured people.” Again there’s obviously a lot wrong with all these lines and descriptions but I’m curious as to actually how much inherent negative racism Fleming has in him himself. He certainly uses racist terms and makes sweeping sterotypes, and certainly seems to look at other races as ‘us and them’ (which is the definition of racism I guess), but he often seems to have quite a bit of respect for black people. Although he obviously still portrays them in very racist situations and stereotypes. Interestingly one ‘race’ that he is actually quite negative about is Americans! I’ve noticed in previous novels that he often has little jibes at aspects of the American culture. This novel is a prime example of that, as he portrays the main villains in the mafia as not very scary at all and with quite amusing names. I’m still unsure in general if he is actually extremely racist or if he is just indulging heavily in the racist vernacular of the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if the truth is that his dial is swinging more to the racist end of the scale.
  • p99 – And now we get, “Some of these homos make the worst killers”. Welcome to the 50s folks. And Ian Fleming.
  • p101 – It’s funny that he calls Blackjack a nursery game
  • It’s great to see Bond go to Vegas. Interesting to hear from Felix that Vegas in the mid 50s sounds just as intense as Vegas in the 21st Century, including “little old ladies working the slots”. And also that the whole layouts of the casinos were designed to corral people through all the gambling areas.
  • p107 – Felix asks Bond, “You still got that double O number that means you’re allowed to kill?” “Yes,” said Bond dryly. “I have.”
  • p111 – Fascinating to hear about what was on The Strip in the mid 50s. I’d love to imagine that Fleming went there for research.
  • There are quite a few humorous lines here from Fleming. Almost like modern dry humour.
  • Cool to see Bond winning about 20 grand at Blackjack and Roulette.
  • Great how Bond enjoys it when he starts getting tailed by guys with guns.
  • p129 – “That’s —-ed them proper.” Is that the literary equivalent of a bleep?
  • The town the boss is in is called Spectreville. That’s interesting, as the organisation S.P.E.C.T.R.E. hasn’t been introduced yet. Maybe it was just a name or word that Fleming liked the ring of just now.
  • p142 – Bond blacks out and seems to have a flashback to his diving mission in Live & Let Die. Nice to have a callback.
  • p148 – ‘”___” said Bond, once.’ Fleming is a comedian! I love it.
  • p154 – I love how Felix sorts out all the mess and killing Bond did, with the authorities. Especially given he is just a Pinkerton now.
  • p155 – It feels like Bond is close to falling in love with Tiffany.
  • p156 – A page later he remembers he has to extract the number from “the girl”
  • p163 – There is a fascinating chat with Bond about what sort of wife and kids he would like. But then he says, “Matter of fact I’m almost married already. To a man. Name begins with M. I’d have to divorce him before I tried marrying a woman.”
  • p165 – Bond puts his foot in it and then the book says, ‘He knew that nothing but the great step of physical love would cure these misunderstandings.’ I bet that’s Bond’s answer to everything.
  • p166 – There is a fantastic first paragraph of Chapter 23 where Fleming writes about love affairs. I wonder if he was writing from first hand experience.
  • Just like in Casino Royale the main action in the book ends about 40-50 pages before the end, but there is a twist.
  • p170 – ‘His face had the glistening, pasty appearance of a spat-out bullseye.’ Charming.
  • p187 – I love how Bond gets more and more sweaty when telling M about Tiffany.

I enjoyed several things about this book. Namely the character of Tiffany Case. Very strong indeed, certainly in her personality and words, but with a distinct air of sadness around her and her backstory. And I really love the extension of our insight into Bond’s relationship with M. I love their little relationship. But overall this novel left me lacking a bit. The plot wasn’t thrilling, the setting was a bit boring, Bond didn’t seem a very good spy. Not one of the best. Just like the movie.

Current ranking and scoring out of 10
Moonraker – 9
Casino Royale – 8.5
Live and Let Die – 7
Diamonds are Forever – 6.5