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Literature / Diamonds Are Forever

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The fourth James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, published in 1956.

Bond is tasked to investigate an organization called The Spangled Mob, who are in charge of a lengthy diamond smuggling operation. Posing as a career criminal, he finds his way to Las Vegas, the heart of their operation.

The book was the basis of the seventh James Bond film.

This novel has the examples of:

  • Anti-Air: Bond uses a Bofors anti-aircraft gun to shoot down Jack Spang's helicopter.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Wint and Kidd use code based on American Football signals when they decide to break the Mexican Standoff with Bond.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Knowing that trying to save Tiffany by charging through Wint's and Kidd's door would only get her killed, Bond rips his bedsheets to form a ladder to get into their cabin below through their window.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Jack and Seraffimo Spang although Jack is the dominant one, being ABC and Rufus B. Saye.
  • Book Ends: The first and last chapters of the book take place in Africa, where the Spangs' diamond pipeline begins and where it ultimately comes to an end.
  • Boring, but Practical: The diamonds Bond is supposed to smuggle into the United States are hidden in a set of hollowed-out golf balls. Mixed in with the ones he's packed into his golf bag, they don't raise even a flicker of suspicion from customs officials.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Seraffimo Spang is a fan of The Wild West, and has refurbished a train and an entire town from that era. He is also wearing a cowboy attire when Bond comes face to face with him.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: During his flight to United States, Bond notices a man who's scared out of his mind of the experience, and has the text "My blood group is F" written on his suitcase. That man turns out to be Wint, one of The Spangled Mob's killers.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Courtesy of Wint, Kidd, and two sturdy pairs of football boots. Unlike in previous books, Fleming immediately skips to the aftermath and leaves most of the details to the reader's imagination.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Bond is out cold after getting the crap kicked out of him, he has a flashback dream to his diving mission in Live and Let Die.
    • Bond also encounters his pal Felix Leiter for the first time since the latter was attacked by a shark in Live and Let Die.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: In London, an undercover cop asks Rufus B. Saye (a.k.a Jack Spang) about a few stolen diamonds. He slips in a couple of types that don't exist; when Spang doesn't catch on, the cop becomes sure that he's only posing as a diamond merchant.
  • Cool Car: Leiter owns a black Studillac, a Studebaker Starline coupe with a Cadillac V8 engine to turn it into a powerful roadster.
  • Cool Train: Seraffimo Spang's refurbished Highland Light locomotive, which Bond finds to be the "most beautiful train in the world".
  • Cut Phone Lines: While visiting a mud bath to pay a horse jockey for cheating, Bond hears one employee say that the phone line is dead. The novel states that this should have been a warning for Bond, but he did not react and could not when the responsible pair of henchmen came and tortured said jockey for his betrayal.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The key reason Bond is able to recognize Wint and Kidd, and rescue Tiffany from them on the Queen Elizabeth is because the former participated in the ship's auction pool (an event where the passengers gamble on how far the ship will travel in the next 24 hours), drawing attention to himself. The "cheating" part comes in because Wint and Kidd planned to kill Tiffany and dump her overboard, and the ensuing man-overboard alarm was sure to guarantee a low mileage.
  • Disney Death: Ernie Cureo is apparently killed in a shootout; at the end of the story it's mentioned that he is alive but hospitalized.
  • Double Entendre: Fleming follows a description of the carnal intentions of the corrupt dentist with the thought that five thousand miles away, the diamond smuggling pipeline "would finally gush out on to soft bosoms". That ends the first chapter — and the first words of the second are "Don't push it in. Screw it in." as M tells Bond how to use a jeweller's glass.
  • Drive-In Theater: When Bond's cab is being pursued by a pair of gunmen, its driver (a Pinkerton Detective) attempts (unsuccessfully) to shake them by going to a drive-in where a movie is playing.
  • Fixing the Game: How the Spangled Mob pays most of its hired hands, so all parties can maintain Plausible Deniability about where the sudden cash came from. Of course, they tend to look rather dimly on people who try it with them.
  • Foreshadowing: The London end of the pipeline is only known as ABC. The diamond dealer they meet is Rufus B Saye. Try saying R. B. Saye in M's RP accent. Aside from sounding rather French, it's surprising they didn't spot it sooner.
  • Gayngster: Wint and Kidd, suspected by Leiter of being homosexual. The BBC radio adaptation strongly implies it of Serrafimo, too, while toning down some of Leiter's more dissonant comments on Wint and Kidd.
  • Ghost Town: The appropiately named Spectreville, which is Seraffimo Spang's base of operations.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Tiffany is the only female member of the Spangled Mob (that we see, anyhow). Guess who's the only member to reform?
  • Hook Hand: Felix Leiter has acquired one of these (as well as a prosthetic leg) since his near-fatal shark attack in Live and Let Die.
  • Indy Ploy: Despite his usual cold and professional demeanor, Bond eventually gets sick of playing nice with the Spangs and deliberately crosses Seraffimo to speed up the investigation. Several improvisations later, most of the Vegas branch is dead, Seraffimo's Old West playground is an ash-heap, and the entire pipeline is on its last legs.
  • It's Personal: The mission becomes personal for Bond when he witnesses the brutal punishment on a jockey who didn't do as told by The Spangled Mob, and he decides that such ruthlessness isn't right.
  • Meaningful Name: Tiffany's father was so disgusted at having a daughter that he gave his wife $1,000 and a makeup compact from Tiffany's and walked out on both of them. Tiffany was named after the item.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The reader is meant to assume that Seraffimo is the dominant Spang brother, what with him being at the very end of the pipeline and being the one with a supervillain lair. Jack meanwhile is written off as a non-threat pretty early on when it turns out he actually doesn't know much about diamonds despite smuggling them. Nope; Jack's in charge!
  • Oireland: On its way to the U.S., Bond's plane has a brief layover in Ireland. Fleming proceeds to cram just about every single stereotype an Englishman can think of into the airport's souvenir shop. Given that the travelogue portion of the book is based on Fleming's own travels and that this is a souvenir shop in the 1950s, probably Truth in Television.
  • Pinkerton Detective: Felix Leiter is now employed as one of these, having left the CIA due to loss of his leg and arm. Bond's cabdriver in Vegas also works undercover as one.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Our heroes are fleeing Spectreville on a gasoline-powered handcart. Then Bond has to ask about the gas. Then Tiffany has to proclaim those things can run forever on just a gallon.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: While Fleming was never the most socially-conscious writer, even for The '50s, this was probably the intended effect with how brutally Wint and Kidd treat the Black attendant at the Saratoga mud-baths. It's taken up to eleven with the Spangs' inside man at the diamond mines, an Afrikaner whose "hatred for all black things" extends even to insects.
  • Punny Name: Tiffany Case was named after a literal case of Tiffany-brand perfume, which her father gave to her mother before walking out on her.
  • Rape as Backstory: Tiffany Case was the daughter of a madame who stopped paying protection money to the mob, the mob chased out the hookers and gang raped Tiffany at a young age. It has left her distrustful of men, but she warms up to Bond.
  • Red Right Hand:
    • Shady Tree is a redheaded hunchback, whose glassy eyes are described to be like those in a taxidermy exhibit.
    • Downplayed with Wint and Kidd; Wint has a wart on his right thumb, which he is constantly sucking, and Kidd, despite his young age, already has white hair. Their "homophilia" is probably is meant to be a case of this as well.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Fleming was interested in the diamond trade after reading an article in The Sunday Times about diamond smuggling from Sierra Leone.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: When Jack Spang personally goes to collect the final batch of smuggled diamonds from the dentist in Africa at night, narration notes how moonlight causes this effect on his flying goggles.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape: At the end of the novel, Bond flies to Freetown in Sierra Leone, and then to the next diamond rendezvous. With the collapse of the rest of the pipeline, Jack Spang (who turns out to be ABC) shuts down his diamond-smuggling pipeline by killing its participants. Spang himself is killed when Bond shoots down his helicopter. With a Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft autocannon.
  • Shout-Out: When Bond and Tiffany escape from Serrafimo's town via a railroad handcar, at one point she tells him "That was quite an exit. Like something out of an old Buster Keaton film."
  • Shown Their Work: Fleming met with Captain James Hamilton of the LAPD, who provided information on the Mafia organisation in the US and Jack Entratter, owner of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, who provided the background to the security systems and methods of cheating depicted in the novel.
  • Title Drop: Bond comes across a jewel store window which has a product that uses the title of the book as its marketing slogan.
  • Track Trouble: A rare instance where it's the heroes trying this. They succeed, by shifting the tracks just enough to force Serrafimo's train into a hairpin turn it can't hope to make without crashing.
  • Tuckerization:
    • Ernie Cureo, Bond's taxi-driving ally in Las Vegas, was named after Fleming's traveling companion Ernest Cuneo.
    • "Boofy" Kidd was named after one of Fleming's close friends—and a relative of his wife—Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran, known to his friends as "Boofy".
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Where most of the book's second half takes place. Bond himself becomes thoroughly disenchanted with the place after a few days, noting that it's clumsy, boorish, and altogether soulless next to the classier casinos of Europe.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Wint hates flying so much that he has to be paid a special bonus by his employers if he has to do so and carries a card reading "My Blood Group is "F"".