Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming
Setting: Sierra Leone, New York, Las Vegas, Ocean liner on the Atlantic
Characters: James Bond, Tiffany Case, Felix Leiter, Jack Spang, Seraffimo Spang, Wintt, and Kidd
My Thoughts: Well this was a bunch of craziness! The book starts out from a scorpion's point of view on a landing pad near a diamond mine and then is off to the races quite literally at times. The story itself was inspired by an article Fleming read about diamond smuggling and he later went on to write a nonfiction book on the subject (creatively titled The Diamond Smugglers published in 1957 and I'm now on the search for a copy.) as well as a trip to the US aboard RMS Queen Elizabeth which figures into the last part of the book. There's diamond smuggling, gambling, horse racing, the American mob, a real old West ghost town and car chases. There's even humor as Bond starts out completely dismissing the American mobsters and realizing later that that was a mistake. Our old friend Felix Leiter has a role in this book and I think I was just as delighted to see him as Bond. The now former CIA operative is just as funny as I remembered and is just as quick to tease Bond or just give him a hard time but is there in a tough spot without fail. While I don't think I enjoyed this book quite as much as I did Moonraker it did make for an entertaining read. Tiffany is an interesting Bond girl. She's smart and she's tough and she' brings out the sensitive side of Bond a few times which is always fun to see. Rating: Very Good
Diamonds are Forever (DVD)
Setting: South Africa, Holland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baha, California
Characters: James Bond (Sean Connery), Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Ernst Stavro Blofield (Charles Gray), Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood), Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), Professor Metz (Joseph Furst) , Felix Leiter (Norman Burton)
My Thoughts: So if we're still playing the drinking game that was started while watching Moonraker where you take a drink every time something that happened in the book happens in the movie you might be kind of tipsy by the first half but you have the entire last half to sober up. The movie starts off pretty similar to the book - there's even the scorpion which I thought wa a nice touch. However, once Bond and Tiffany land in Los Angeles things take a dramatic left turn towards insanity and never looks back. Suddenly Bond's fleeing from people on a moonbuggy (sure why not), girls are getting thrown out of 5th floor windows and landing in swimming pools completely unhurt, and there seem to be a few clones with voice boxes running around. Since I'm going in order of the books not the movies this is my first Sean Connery Bond and I must say I found his portrayal much closer to the original Bond than Roger Moore's. There's much less focus on gadgets and toys and more focus on either sneaking around or a flat out fist fight. There are times where he's quick with a witticism which I really enjoyed despite book Bond famously lackng in sense of humor. Rating: Just Okay
Other Thoughts: I'm always interested with how Fleming treats the female characters in his books. The Bond books and the franchise in general are known for their sexism but to me in the books I've read so far it's a little more complicated than that. Yes, the women are discussed in a dismissive tone but so far they're not women who really let themselves be dismissed. When we first meet Tiffany Case she is very clearly in charge of the situation and it is she that comes up with the way to smuggle the diamonds. Later in the book she very much saves the day and Bond with it. She's a woman who has managed to hold her own against the worst of mobsters over a period of years and her back story is horrific. She doesn't trust men and makes no apologies for it and really is an interesting character in her own right. As well while rape is lumped in with "light" crimes it is very clear that Bond is very adamantly against it as well as the ill treatment of women (which while doesn't mean he deserves a medal does put him head and shoulders about Connery's Bond who slaps Tiffany in the face). The movie franchise is very different. The movie version of Tiffany Case is decorative but not particularly bright. She's often nervous and never seems to know what to do in a crisis without guidance. Without the book Tiffany Case James Bond doesn't make it to the next day while without the movie version Bond sees one less woman in a bikini.
Overall - The movie is fun and silly with super villains and lots of girls in bikinis. The book has far fewer girls in bikini but lots more danger and a plot that doesn't stray into complete science fiction. If you want to watch a fun action movie and don't mind stretching believability there are worse ways to spend an evening than watching Diamonds are Forever. If you want a good mystery about diamond smuggling and the Mafia give the book a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.