|Signet paperback art by Barye Phillips|
Bond versus the American vulgarians — that’s Diamonds Are Forever, Ian Fleming’s fourth 007 thriller, published in 1956 and inspired by a Sunday Times article on diamond smuggling.
For this young American reader, the USA wasn’t as exotic a setting as a casino “near the mouth of the Somme” or Jamaica or even England, and loudly dressed American gangsters seemed laughable next to the elegant, imposing menace of Le Chiffre or Mr. Big or Sir Hugo Drax.
That said, it’s a perfectly serviceable Bond adventure, charged with Fleming’s early verve, a couple of chilling gay killers named Wint and Kidd and a likeable, tough, brassy heroine, Tiffany Case. A survivor of gang rape who works as a smuggler for the Spangled Mob, Tiffany becomes the second woman with whom Bond falls in love during the course of the novels. We learn only later that Tiffany, finding Bond too difficult to live with, returned to the U.S. with an American military officer, whom she probably married.
The novel includes a sybaritic setting, Las Vegas, that seems perfect for Bond from the moment when, with some amusement, he steps off an airliner to breathe pure oxygen from one of those American gizmos.
Never out of print, the novel got an early boost in November 1956 when the man from No. 10, Sir Anthony Eden, made a much-advertised visit to Fleming’s Goldeneye estate to recuperate following the Suez Crisis. It was adapted into a comic strip in 1959-60 and, in 1971, became the basis for Sean Connery’s last “official” film as 007. Jill St. John joined him, making an excellent Tiffany Case.