Your thoughts on the Bofors Gun Climax of Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever (1956)?

DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
edited April 2016 in Literary 007 Posts: 14,724
I'm curious to know other members' thoughts here on the climax of Ian Fleming's fourth James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever (1956). To me, it is rather anticlimactic in nature with James Bond shooting down Jack Spang's escaping helicopter (albeit rather reluctantly) with a Bofors gun as it looks more like cold-blooded murder, something we're told by Fleming he doesn't care for (his cold-blooded double-O recruitment hits quite aside).

In another sense however there is something very literary with a capital "L" about how the pipeline opens in the first chapter and closes in the last chapter. It may be a comment by Fleming on the open-ended nature of Bond's job as a secret agent or about the ongoing Cold War. Diamonds Are Forever is one of Fleming's most literary Bond novels.

If this scene had been filmed in a faithful film adaptation of the 1956 novel I think they would have had Jack Spang firing back at Bond and his military aides either with his gun (although not much competition there) or with a machine gun fitted to his helicopter so that it didn't appear quite so much like a one-sided chicken shoot with Bond in the best position to kill a basically defenceless Jack Spang in his fleeing helicopter. As it stands, it looks like Bond is symbolically shooting a man who is running away in the back. Perhaps this is the insidious influence of the Bond films leaching in in my mind to the quite different world and adventures of the literary Bond. Who knows? Once we've seen the Bond films we can't "un-see" them as it were.

It is notable though as a point in favour of my contentions about the finale of Diamonds Are Forever that Kingsley Amis no less in The James Bond Dossier (1965) wrote that,

"The clearest case of this type of dream stuff comes at the end of Diamonds Are Forever when Bond, having rolled up the entire smuggling pipeline in England and America, goes all the way to Sierra Leone merely, it seems, to bring down a helicopter with a Bofors. It feels like a fairly attractive if not compelling fantasy, pooping away with an anti-aircraft gun, though personally I should have preferred as target a winged aircraft that could retaliate." (1966 Pan paperback edition, p. 19)

So what do we think about this one? Do we view this one-sided climactic action sequence through the lens of the saturation of the film Bond or is this end scene wanting in terms of threat to Bond himself or his allies in the Freetown Garrison Force in Sierra Leone?

As an aside, it's interesting to also note how the finales of both the novel and film versions of Diamonds Are Forever (I'm referring to the oil rig battle) are equally anticlimactic in nature and leave one unsatisfied and wanting more rather like an experienced pipe smoker burning his tongue expecting more flavour to come from a mild pipe tobacco that has a low nicotine content. We're also left with a bad taste in our mouths in the denouement of the novel version of Diamonds Are Forever, or at least I am. Perhaps it's just not Bondian or cinematic enough for the modern reader of a 1950s novel and one can't lay any blame at Fleming's door for that of course.

As always, I'd love to hear your views on this subject!

Comments

  • I found it anti-climactic as well. The films generally end with a face-to-face confrontation between Bond and his main adversary, the better novels at least describe the villain in his death-throes (if only in Bond's mind-eye--I'm thinking here specifically of LALD, even though Bond can't actually SEE Mr. Big's death he can imagine it pretty clearly.) DAF (both versions) is lfairly weak in this regard.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 31,015
    I guess that the reason that I enjoy that chapter (hadn't really thought about it before) is that I had always thought of it more as a coda, or an afterthought, than as the climax. We'd already had two of those with the wreck of Spang's train and the battle with Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd at sea (probably the high point of the novel). Bond in Africa, personally firing heavy artillery (I believe that is the only time that he does so, in Fleming); I found that interesting.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 31,015
    And I have no problem with Bond taking Spang out in cold blood. That is what he is supposed to do. He's never sent to arrest these people.
  • LeonardPineLeonardPine The Bar on the Beach
    Posts: 3,419
    As Birdleson mentioned, it's not a climax. It's more of an epilogue. The climax of the novel is the train wreck and the fight on the Ship.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,724
    As Birdleson mentioned, it's not a climax. It's more of an epilogue. The climax of the novel is the train wreck and the fight on the Ship.

    Thanks, what are your thoughts on its effectiveness?
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CAModerator
    Posts: 31,015
    It's always worked for me.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,724
    Birdleson wrote: »
    It's always worked for me.

    Yes, I appreciate that of course, but like Kingsley Amis I just find it lacking a bit. It's probably my own fault that I feel that way and not Fleming's. Perhaps (with hindsight) I expect a bit more of a Bond film ending from it or something.
  • LeonardPineLeonardPine The Bar on the Beach
    Posts: 3,419
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    As Birdleson mentioned, it's not a climax. It's more of an epilogue. The climax of the novel is the train wreck and the fight on the Ship.

    Thanks, what are your thoughts on its effectiveness?

    I like the book although it's considered one of his weaker efforts.

    To be honest i forgot about that epilogue until i saw it mentioned here.

    I will have to re-read it to see how effective the end is.
  • DragonpolDragonpol The Crazy World of David Dragonpol
    Posts: 14,724
    Dragonpol wrote: »
    As Birdleson mentioned, it's not a climax. It's more of an epilogue. The climax of the novel is the train wreck and the fight on the Ship.

    Thanks, what are your thoughts on its effectiveness?

    I like the book although it's considered one of his weaker efforts.

    To be honest i forgot about that epilogue until i saw it mentioned here.

    I will have to re-read it to see how effective the end is.

    That's great - thanks @LeonardPine! :)
  • LeonardPineLeonardPine The Bar on the Beach
    Posts: 3,419
    Now that I've re-read the novel again the climax is Bond killing Wint and Kidd on the ship. And bloody good it is too!

    The final chapter is epilogue and it works ok. They do try and capture Spang but Bond is forced is forced to shoot his helicopter down. I must admit Bond could have missed out the USA altogether and put a stop to the pipeline in South Africa!
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