I am currently rereading the Ian Fleming James Bond novels and has so far reached the forth book Diamonds are forever. A book that will turn 61 years old this year.
So far I think that Diamonds are forever is the weakest link of the first four books. It starts out great but slowly gets less and less interesting.
Since the books and the films have a certain formula you find parts of the books that you enjoy far more then other parts. For me, it has always been the briefing made by M in his office.
I do not know why this has such a soft spot on me and if others feel the same. I might be because the book version of M and Bernard Lee's version are so close to each other. Especially in the Sean Connery / George Lazenby era.
M in the films is a bit more grumpy than the book version of M but both are dominant and handles James Bond harsh, like a bad father.
Do you agree with me on the above or is there any other recurring part of the books that you enjoy even more? Please comment below.
Below is a extract from Diamonds are forever when Bond is being briefed by M. and it is the best part of the book for me. If you have not read Diamonds are forever or any of the other James Bond novels see this as an appetizer.
Don't push it in. Screw it in,’ said M. impatiently.If you wish to order Diamonds are forever you can do so on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here!
James Bond, making a mental note to pass M.’s dictum on to the Chief of Staff, again picked up the jeweller’s glass from the desk where it had fallen and this time managed to fix it securely into the socket of his right eye.
Although it was late July and the room was bright with sunshine, M. had switched on his desk light and tilted it so that it shone straight at Bond. Bond picked the brilliant-cut stone up and held it to the light. As he turned it between his fingers, all the colours of the rainbow flashed back at him from its mesh of facets until his eye was tired with the dazzle.
He took out the jeweller’s glass and tried to think of something appropriate to say.
M. looked at him quizzically. ‘Fine stone?’
‘Wonderful,’ said Bond. ‘It must be worth a lot of money.’
‘A few pounds for the cutting,’ said M. dryly. ‘It’s a bit of quartz. Now then, let’s try again.’ He consulted a list on the desk in front of him and selected a fold of tissue paper, verified the number written on it, unfolded it and pushed it across to Bond.
Bond put the piece of quartz back into its own wrapping and picked up the second sample.
‘It’s easy for you, Sir,’ he smiled at M. ‘You’ve got the crib.’ He screwed the glass back into his eye and held the stone, if it was a stone, up to the light.
This time, he thought, there could be no doubt about it. This stone also had the thirty-two facets above and the twenty-four below of the brilliant-cut, and it was also about twenty carats, but what he now held had a heart of blue-white flame, and the infinite colours reflected and refracted from its depths lanced into his eye like needles. With his left hand he picked up the quartz dummy and held it beside the diamond in front of his glass. It was a lifeless chunk of matter, almost opaque beside the dazzling translucence of the diamond, and the rainbow colours he had seen a few minutes before were now coarse and muddy.
Bond put down the piece of quartz and gazed again into the heart of the diamond. Now he could understand the passion that diamonds had inspired through the centuries, the almost sexual love they aroused among those who handled them and cut them and traded in them. It was domination by a beauty so pure that it held a kind of truth, a divine authority before which all other material things turned, like the bit of quartz, to clay. In these few minutes Bond understood the myth of diamonds, and he knew that he would never forget what he had suddenly seen inside the heart of this stone.
He put the diamond down on its slip of paper and dropped the jeweller’s glass into the palm of his hand. He looked across into M.’s watchful eyes. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I see.’
M. sat back in his chair. ‘That’s what Jacoby meant when I had lunch with him the other day at the Diamond Corporation,’ he said. ‘He said that if I was going to get involved in the diamond business I ought to try and understand what was really at the bottom of it all. Not just the billions of money involved, or the value of diamonds as a hedge against inflation, or the sentimental fashions in diamonds for engagement rings and so forth. He said one must understand the passion for diamonds. So he just showed me what I’m showing you. And,’ M. smiled thinly at Bond, ‘if it will give you any satisfaction, I was just as taken in by that bit of quartz as you were.’
Bond sat still and said nothing.
‘And now let’s run through the rest,’ said M. He gestured towards the pile of paper packets in front of him. ‘I said I’d like to borrow some samples. They didn’t seem to mind. Sent this lot round to my house this morning.’ M. consulted his list, opened a packet and pushed it across to Bond. ‘What you were looking at just now was the best − a “Fine Blue-white”.’ He gestured towards the big diamond in front of Bond. ‘Now this is a “Top Crystal”, ten carats, baguette-cut. Very fine stone, but worth about half a “Blue-white”. You’ll see there’s the faintest trace of yellow in it. The “Cape” I’m going to show you next has a slight brownish tinge, according to Jacoby, but I’m damned if I can see it. I doubt if anyone can except the experts.’
Bond obediently picked up the ‘Top Crystal’ and for the next quarter of an hour M. led him through the whole range of diamonds down to a wonderful series of coloured stones, ruby red, blue, pink, yellow, green and violet. Finally, M. pushed over a packet of smaller stones, all flawed or marked or of poor colour. ‘Industrial diamonds. Not what they call “gem quality”. Used in machine tools and so forth. But don’t despise them. America bought £5,000,000 worth of them last year, and that’s only one of the markets. Bronsteen told me it was stones like these that were used for cutting the St Gothard tunnel. At the other end of the scale, dentists use them for drilling your teeth. They’re the hardest substance in the world. Last forever.’
M. pulled out his pipe and started to fill it. ‘And now you know as much about diamonds as I do.’
Bond sat back in his chair and gazed vaguely at the bits of tissue paper and glittering stones that lay scattered across the red leather surface of M.’s desk. He wondered what it was all about.
There was the rasp of a match against a box and Bond watched M. tamp the burning tobacco down in the bowl of his pipe and then put the matchbox back in his pocket and tilt his chair in M.’s favourite attitude for reflection.
Bond glanced down at his watch. It was 11.30. Bond thought with pleasure of the In-tray piled with Top Secret dockets he had gladly abandoned when the red telephone had summoned him an hour before. He felt fairly confident that now he wouldn’t have to deal with them. ‘I guess it’s a job,’ the Chief of Staff had said in answer to Bond’s inquiry. ‘The Chief says he won’t take any more calls before lunch and he’s made an appointment for you at the Yard for two o’clock. Step on it.’ And Bond had reached for his coat and had gone into the outer office where he was pleased to see his secretary registering in another bulky file with a ‘Most Immediate’ tab.
‘M.,’ said Bond as she looked up. ‘And Bill says it looks like a job. So don’t think you’re going to have the pleasure of shovelling that lot into my In-tray. You can post it off to the Daily Express for all I care.’ He grinned at her. ‘Isn’t that chap Sefton Delmer a boy friend of yours, Lil? Just the stuff for him, I expect.’
She looked at him appraisingly. ‘Your tie’s crooked,’ she said coldly. ‘And anyway I hardly know him.’ She bent over her registry and Bond went out and along the corridor and thought how lucky he was to have a beautiful secretary.
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.
The grey eyes looked back at him thoughtfully. M took the pipe out of his mouth. ‘How long have you been back from that holiday in France?’
‘Two weeks, Sir.’
‘Have a good time?’
‘Not bad, Sir. Got a bit bored towards the end.’
M. made no comment. ‘I’ve been looking at your record-sheet. Small-arms marks seem to be keeping well up in the top bracket. Unarmed combat’s satisfactory and your last medical shows you’re in pretty good shape.’ M. paused. ‘The point is,’ he went on unemotionally, ‘I’ve got rather a tough assignment for you. Wanted to make sure you’d be able to take care of yourself.’
‘Of course, Sir.’ Bond was slightly nettled.
‘Don’t make any mistake about this job, 007,’ said M. sharply. ‘When I say it may be tough, I’m not being melodramatic. There are plenty of tricky people you haven’t met yet, and there may be some of them mixed up in this business. And some of the most efficient. So don’t be tetchy when I think twice before getting you involved in it.’
‘All right then,’ M. put his pipe down and leant forward with his arms crossed on the desk. ‘I’ll tell you the story and then you can decide whether you want to take it on.
‘A week ago,’ said M., ‘one of the high-ups in the Treasury came to see me. Brought with him the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade. It had to do with diamonds. Seems that most of what they call “gem” diamonds in the world are mined on British territory and that ninety per cent of all diamond sales are carried out in London. By the Diamond Corporation.’ M. shrugged his shoulders. ‘Don’t ask me why. The British got hold of the business at the beginning of the century and we’ve managed to hang on to it. Now it’s a huge trade. Fifty million pounds a year. The biggest dollar-earner we’ve got. So when something goes wrong with it, the Government gets worried. And that’s what’s happened.’ M. looked mildly across at Bond. ‘At least two million pounds’ worth of diamonds are being smuggled out of Africa every year.’
‘That’s a lot of money,’ said Bond. ‘Where are they going to?’
‘They say America,’ said M. ‘And I agree with them. It’s by far the biggest diamond market. And those gangs of theirs are the only people who could run an operation on this scale.’
‘Why don’t the mining companies stop it?’
‘They’ve done everything they can,’ said M. ‘You probably saw in the papers that De Beers took on our friend Sillitoe when he left M.I.5., and he’s out there now, working in with the South African security people. I gather he’s put in a pretty drastic report and come up with plenty of bright ideas for tightening things up, but the Treasury and the Board of Trade aren’t very impressed. They think the thing’s too big to be handled by a lot of separate mining companies, however efficient they are. And they’ve got one very good reason for wanting to take official action on their own.’
‘What’s that. Sir?’
‘There’s a big packet of smuggled stones in London at this very moment,’ said M., and his eyes glittered across the desk at Bond. ‘Waiting to go to America. And the Special Branch know who the carrier is to be. And they know who’s to go out with him to keep an eye on him. As soon as Ronnie Vallance came across the story − it was leaked to one of his narks in Soho, to one of his “Ghost Squad” as he chooses to call it − he went straight off to the Treasury. The Treasury talked to the Board of Trade and then both their Ministers formed up to the P.M. And the P.M. gave them authority to use the Service.’
‘Why not let the Special Branch or M.I.5 handle it, Sir?’ asked Bond, reflecting that M. seemed to be going through a bad phase of mixing in other people’s business.
‘Of course they could arrest the carriers as soon as they took delivery and tried to get out of the country,’ said M. impatiently. ‘But that won’t stop the traffic. These people aren’t the sort that talk. Anyway the carriers are only small fry. They probably just get the stuff from a man in a park and hand it over to another man in a park when they get to the other side. The only way to get to the bottom of the business is to follow the pipeline to America and see where it goes to there. And the F.B.I. won’t be much help to us, I’m afraid. It’s a very small part of their battle with the big-time gangs. And it’s not doing any harm to the United States. Rather the reverse if anything. It’s only England that’s the loser. And America is outside the jurisdiction of the police and M.I.5. Only the Service can handle the job.’
‘Yes, I see that,’ said Bond. ‘But have we got anything else to go on?’
‘Ever heard of “The House of Diamonds”?’
‘Yes, of course, Sir,’ said Bond. ‘The big American jewellers. On West 46th Street in New York and the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. I gather they rank almost as high as Cartier and Van Cleef and Boucheron nowadays. They’ve come up very quickly since the war.’
‘Yes,’ said M. ‘Those are the people. They’ve got a small place in London, too. Hatton Garden. Used to be very big buyers at the monthly showings of the Diamond Corporation. But for the last three years they’ve bought less and less. Although, as you say, they seem to be selling more and more jewellery every year. Must be getting their diamonds from somewhere. It was the Treasury who brought their name up at our meeting the other day. But I can’t find out anything against them. They’ve got one of their biggest men in charge over here. Seems odd as they do so little business. Man called Rufus B. Saye. Nothing much known about him. Lunches every day at the American Club in Piccadilly. Plays golf at Sunningdale. Doesn’t drink or smoke. Lives at the Savoy. Model citizen.’ M. shrugged his shoulders. ‘But the diamond business is a nice, well-regulated sort of family affair, and there’s an impression that the House of Diamonds has an awkward look about it. Nothing more than that.’
Bond decided it was time to put the sixty-four thousand dollar question. ‘And where do I come in, Sir?’ he asked, looking across the desk into M.’s eyes.
‘You’ve got an appointment with Vallance at the Yard in’ – M. looked at his watch – ‘just over an hour. He’s going to start you off. They’re going to pull in this carrier tonight and put you into the pipeline instead of him.’
Bond’s fingers curled softly round the arms of his chair.
‘And then,’ said M. matter-of-factly, ‘you’re going to smuggle those diamonds into America. At least that’s the idea. What do you think of it?