After the success of the first three books, Diamonds Are Forever moves away from Russia as an enemy to a story centring on Bond’s attempt to infiltrate a diamond smuggling racket run by “The Spangled Mob”.
Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date: 26th March 1956
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Pat Marriott
Bond acts as a courier, smuggling a set of diamonds inside golf balls. This was a device that Fleming had picked up whilst working in navel intelligence during the Second World War when messages were sent to prisoners of war inside the balls.
What we say
Ian Fleming sent Bond back to the United States in his fourth novel. Working undercover as a diamond smuggler, Bond again teams up with Felix Leiter, now working for Pinkerton’s.
They travel in Leiter’s “Studillac” from New York to Saratoga, where Bond has been told to bet on a rigged horse race for his payment for the smuggled diamonds. When that fails he is directed to Las Vegas where he bets on a rigged blackjack game instead.
But when he continues to gamble, against explicit instructions from the Spangled Mob, Bond is taken prisoner in a Western ghost town with its own private railway. Interestingly, in Diamonds Are Forever Fleming names the ghost town Spectreville. The book isn’t Fleming at his best, but the reader gets another good look at 1950s America.
After tackling SMERSH in the first two novels and a former Nazi who has established himself as a wealthy British industrialist in the third, the villains in Diamonds Are Forever hardly worthy of James Bond. However, once again 007 is teamed up with Felix Leiter, who is on hand provide local knowledge to both Bond and the reader. And the book memorably features Leiter’s Studillac, a Studebaker coupé fitted with a V8 Cadillac engine.
Fleming had encountered a similar model during one of his stays with Ivar Bryce at Black Hole Hollow Farm in Vermont and so appropriated it for his next novel.
Friends & foes
Employed by the Spangs as a dealer at The Tiara hotel and casino, Tiffany Case is also directly involved with their diamond smuggling operation.
Bond finds her initially to be frosty but she agrees to meet him for dinner at the 21 Club as long as “the job goes off okay”. Later Felix Leiter tells him about how she was gang-raped by local mobsters. Her mother was the madam of a San Francisco brothel and stopped paying them protection money.
She starts helping Bond out after Bond finally wins her over. At the end of the book they are headed for Britain on the Queen Elizabeth. On arrival she will move into Bond’s small Chelsea flat…
Bond’s ex-CIA pal is back for the first time since being fed to the sharks in Live And Let Die. Now working at Pinkerton’s, Leiter is investigating the same horse on which Bond has been told to bet in Saratoga.
Leiter takes Bond for a tour around the jazz clubs of Harlem and then drives him to Saratoga in his Studillac. There he introduces Bond to bourbon and branch water. Leiter later meets Bond and Tiffany in Los Angeles after they escape from the Spangled Mob and arranges their berths to Britain.
A Las Vegas cab driver working undercover for Pinkerton’s, Ernie Cureo meets Bond at the airport. He acts as a bit of a tour guide while and ferrying Bond around town. He is shot while trying to evade the Spangled Mob but makes it to the hospital and fills in Felix Leiter on what has happened to Bond.
The character is named after Bond’s friend Ernest Cuneo, who during the Second World War worked as a liaison officer for the Office of Strategic Sevices (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, MI6, the State Department, FBI and US President Franklin Roosevelt.
James Bond first met Assistant Commissioner Ronnie Vallance of Special Branch in Moonraker.
Bond meets him at his office at Scotland Yard to learn more about the Spang’s diamond smuggling operation. Vallance arranges for a heavily disguised 007 to meet Rufus B Saye at the London HQ of House of Diamonds.
Jack & Seraffimo Spang
The Spangled Mob is run by twin brothers Jack and Seraffimo Spang, and considered by the FBI to be one of the most powerful gangs in the US. While Seraffimo operates from Las Vegas, Jack is based in London under the name Rufus B Saye.
The Spang’s legitimate businesses include the Tiara Hotel in Las Vegas and the House of Diamonds in New York and London. However they are also involved in diamond smuggling, illegal horse betting, narcotics and prostitution.
Wint & Kid
Wint and Kid are a pair of killers working for the Spangled Mob, apparently a couple. Leiter tells Bond that Wint is a sadist but hates travelling.
After Bond and Tiffany are taken to Spectreville, Wint and Kid kive Bond a “Brooklyn stomping” after changing into football boots. The pair of gangsters later tail them onto the Queen Elizabeth where they try and eliminate Bond and the girl.
Based in New York, Michael “Shady” Tree runs the narcotics and prostitution operations of the Spangled Mob. Fleming describes him as a redheaded hunchback with a big peaceful moon-shaped face”.
Tree pays Bond part of his fee for smuggling uncut diamonds to New Nork and instructs him how he is to collect the remainder in Saratoga.
After being briefed by M, Bond meets Assistant Commissioner Ronnie Vallance at Scotland Yard for further information. After a visit to The House of Diamonds in Hatton Garden Bond meets Tiffany Case at Trafalgar Palace hotel in London to discuss how he is to smuggle diamonds into the United States. Prior to flying to New York he stays at the Ritz.
After arriving in New York, Bond checks into Hotel Astor. After encountering his old friend Felix Leiter, who now works for Pinkerton’s, they head to Sardi’s for martinis and lunch. When they realise their investigations intertwine they decide to team up. While in New York Bond dines at the 21 Club with Tiffany, as well as Voisin’s before heading to Saratoga Springs with Felix. There, he stays at The Sagamore and visits the race track and Acme Mud and Sulphur Baths.
Next Bond travels to Las Vegas, where he stays at The Tiara and spends some time in the casinos. After a pursuit across Las Vegas Bond is captured by the Spangled Mob and taken to Spectreville, an old western town owned by Seraffimo Spang. After escaping, Bond reunites with Leiter and Tiffany and ends up in Los Angeles before flying to New York to board the Queen Elizabeth bound for Britain.
Before departing on his mission Bond enjoys dressed crab and a pint of black velvet at Scotts’ in London with Bill Tanner. After assuming the identity of diamond smuggler Peter Franks, Bond flies to New York durng which he sips some cocktail to accompany caviar and smoked salmon canapés.
After arriving New York, Bond dines at Sardi’s with Felix, where he relishes a medium dry martini, to go with his lunch of smoked salmon, Brizzola (a beef dish), avocado with French dressing, and an espresso. He also visits the famous 21 Club with Tiffany Case, indulging in vodka martinis, caviar, cutlets with asparagus, coffee, and Stingers made with white Crème de Menthe.
On the drive to Saratoga Springs, Bond and Felix enjoy a lunch of scrambled eggs, sausages, toast, and iced coffee at Chicken in the Basket washed down with beer. After checking into his hotel he goes out for a chicken dinner with Old Fashioneds, while the following night he drinks a couple of bourbon and branch-waters to go with a steak. This turns out to be the signature drink of the book.
On their last evening in Saratoga Bond and Leiter have dinner at the exclusive Pavilion restaurant. There they enjoy “very dry” martinis made with Cresta Blanca, followed by broiled Maine lobster with melted butter. After the meal, Leiter insists on having a final bourbon with branch-water before Bond departs for Las Vegas, noting that he won’t find branch-water there.
In Las Vegas, Bond orders a vodka martinis at the Tiara’s casino bar and another after being seated in the restaurant. After winning in a fixed blackjack game he orders a bourbon and branch-water – it turns out Felix was wrong! After being taken to Spectreville, Bond asks his captors for a bourbon and branch-water, telling them “half and half”.
Aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Bond shares vodka martinis with Tiffany. Later she sends a quarter bottle of Bollinger champagne to his room with steak on toast canapés. It’s a reference to a conversation they had earlier when he tells her the kind of woman he would marry is “Somebody who can make Sauce Béarnaise as well as love”.
Finally, after dinner on the Veranda Grill, they head to the Promenade Deck for coffee and Stingers made with white Crème de Menthe.
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