Which American Gangsters were the Spang Brothers in Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever (1956) based on?

DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
edited December 2016 in Literary 007 Posts: 17,643
Anyone have any ideas on this? I'm thinking of real-world American (or indeed British) gangsters here specifically who could have influenced Ian Fleming to create the Spang Brothers of the Spangled Mob in Diamonds Are Forever (1956)? I know for instance that there was a British gangster of the 1950s and 60s called Jack Spot (I have a book on him) and that the Spangs' successor as leader of the Spangled Mob was called Jack Strap as seen in the Goldfinger (1959) novel. He is shot by Auric Goldfinger near the end of the novel.

I'm not a big expert on gangsters, though I am learning.

I'd be grateful to hear some views on this one.
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Comments

  • Posts: 12
    Owney Madden could be a possibility. He was British but he became a gangster in New York and ran the Cotton Club during Prohibition. I'm actually reading DAF now so I might come up with more ideas once I finish the book.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited June 2014 Posts: 17,643
    johntitor1 wrote:
    Owney Madden could be a possibility. He was British but he became a gangster in New York and ran the Cotton Club during Prohibition. I'm actually reading DAF now so I might come up with more ideas once I finish the book.

    Thanks, I'll look into him; much appreciated @johntitor1.
  • Posts: 14,767
    Hypothesis:how about the Crays? Sure they were British not American, but still.
  • Posts: 6,396
    Ludovico wrote:
    Hypothesis:how about the Crays? Sure they were British not American, but still.

    They were largely unknown until the early 60's. I think they were just small time hoods during the period that Fleming wrote DAF.
  • Posts: 14,767
    Ludovico wrote:
    Hypothesis:how about the Crays? Sure they were British not American, but still.

    They were largely unknown until the early 60's. I think they were just small time hoods during the period that Fleming wrote DAF.

    Fleming may have heard about them in any case. Will need to read more.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,643
    Ludovico wrote:
    Ludovico wrote:
    Hypothesis:how about the Crays? Sure they were British not American, but still.

    They were largely unknown until the early 60's. I think they were just small time hoods during the period that Fleming wrote DAF.

    Fleming may have heard about them in any case. Will need to read more.

    And rather interestingly, John Pearson wrote an early book on the Krays called The Profession of Violence and later he went on to write two more books on the Krays. Interestingly, they chose John Pearson as their biographer, not the other way around.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,643
    Any other gangster contenders for the Spang Brothers?
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,643
    Two years later does anyone else want to throw their hat into the ring? :)
  • Posts: 2,341
    If I were a betting man I would take an educated guess and just say the Mangano Brothers who ran the Mangano Family from -1931-1951. Just because they were brothers. The Mangano Family eventually came to be known as the Gambino Family.

    The Crays are a good choice though...
  • Posts: 14,767
    Could be a composite of course.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,643
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Could be a composite of course.

    Yes, it probably was.
  • Posts: 14,767
    A thought: DAF was written when American gangsters and especially mafiosi still had an aura of mystery and exoticism. It took a few decades to be stripped down of its glamour. That may be one of the reasons why they are central to DAF, even though the character of the gangster does not really belong to the spy thriller genre.
  • Posts: 2,341
    speaking of gangsters, in the original concept for TB the villains were intended to be Sicilian Mafia (note Emilio Largo's name) ...then Fleming, McClory came up with the idea of SPECTRE.
  • Posts: 14,767
    SPECTRE was more fitting for the spy genre but Fleming never totally abandoned gangsters: you see them in GF of course and the mafia is somewhat featured in TB (is Largo a confirmed Mafioso?) and mentioned in OHMSS.
  • Posts: 2,341
    I just noticed this aside from Largo and TB most of Ernst's cronies and underlings have been Germanic/Teutonic not so much Italiano anymore.
    Look at Irma Bunt, Helga Brandt, Hans, the blond guys at Piz Gloria and so on....
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,643
    Gangsters feature in Fleming's last novel TMWTGG too of course suggesting that he may have been going in a more real-world direction with James Bond.
  • Posts: 14,767
    It might also have been a common archetype or stereotype of the time, just like the serial killer in crime fiction: you just can't completely shake it off. And let's not forget that Fleming was influenced by American crime fiction which featured them heavily of course. Which makes it sometimes odd because Fleming is an old fashioned, sometimes even anachronistic writer.
  • Ludovico wrote: »
    A thought: DAF was written when American gangsters and especially mafiosi still had an aura of mystery and exoticism. It took a few decades to be stripped down of its glamour. That may be one of the reasons why they are central to DAF, even though the character of the gangster does not really belong to the spy thriller genre.

    Real world intelligence agencies have worked "hand in hand" with gangsters in real life, They make great assets and give alphabet groups a buffer and help with the whole plausible deniability issues in certain operations, also good for intel, a-la Draco in OHMSS. Mr. Big in LALD the novel was a gangster but also a SMERSH asset. I would say gangster characters are no where near out of place for a spy thriller.
  • Posts: 2,880
    OHMSS69 wrote: »
    I just noticed this aside from Largo and TB most of Ernst's cronies and underlings have been Germanic/Teutonic not so much Italiano anymore. Look at Irma Bunt, Helga Brandt, Hans, the blond guys at Piz Gloria and so on....

    Fleming was much less interested in Italian villains than in German ones. German blood is basically a guarantee of evil in Fleming's world. Even his evil British and American characters--Major Smythe and Milton Krest--turn out to have German ancestry!
  • Posts: 14,767
    Ludovico wrote: »
    A thought: DAF was written when American gangsters and especially mafiosi still had an aura of mystery and exoticism. It took a few decades to be stripped down of its glamour. That may be one of the reasons why they are central to DAF, even though the character of the gangster does not really belong to the spy thriller genre.

    Real world intelligence agencies have worked "hand in hand" with gangsters in real life, They make great assets and give alphabet groups a buffer and help with the whole plausible deniability issues in certain operations, also good for intel, a-la Draco in OHMSS. Mr. Big in LALD the novel was a gangster but also a SMERSH asset. I would say gangster characters are no where near out of place for a spy thriller.

    Good observations and I understand the line gets blurry sometimes.
  • Posts: 2,341
    Revelator wrote: »
    OHMSS69 wrote: »
    I just noticed this aside from Largo and TB most of Ernst's cronies and underlings have been Germanic/Teutonic not so much Italiano anymore. Look at Irma Bunt, Helga Brandt, Hans, the blond guys at Piz Gloria and so on....

    Fleming was much less interested in Italian villains than in German ones. German blood is basically a guarantee of evil in Fleming's world. Even his evil British and American characters--Major Smythe and Milton Krest--turn out to have German ancestry!

    Good point @Revelator. considering that Fleming's father died in the First World War and he himself served in the Second would explain much. Many Brits who had memories of the two wars felt this way. Even the Queen Mother harbored a deep seeded prejudice against Germans.
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,928
    Revelator wrote: »
    OHMSS69 wrote: »
    I just noticed this aside from Largo and TB most of Ernst's cronies and underlings have been Germanic/Teutonic not so much Italiano anymore. Look at Irma Bunt, Helga Brandt, Hans, the blond guys at Piz Gloria and so on....

    Fleming was much less interested in Italian villains than in German ones. German blood is basically a guarantee of evil in Fleming's world. Even his evil British and American characters--Major Smythe and Milton Krest--turn out to have German ancestry!
    So does red hair (Le Chiffre, Goldfinger, Drax, just on the top of my head).
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    He didn't like people who used the Windsor tie knot. I think he
    Also mistrusted people with moustaches
  • stagstag In the thick of it!
    Posts: 1,053
    IMO the Spang brothers were most likely a composite of real & fictional gangsters (Chandler gangsters). Here's an interesting link:

    http://www.openculture.com/2011/01/raymond_chandler_ian_fleming_in_conversation.html
  • Posts: 14,767
    Revelator wrote: »
    OHMSS69 wrote: »
    I just noticed this aside from Largo and TB most of Ernst's cronies and underlings have been Germanic/Teutonic not so much Italiano anymore. Look at Irma Bunt, Helga Brandt, Hans, the blond guys at Piz Gloria and so on....

    Fleming was much less interested in Italian villains than in German ones. German blood is basically a guarantee of evil in Fleming's world. Even his evil British and American characters--Major Smythe and Milton Krest--turn out to have German ancestry!
    So does red hair (Le Chiffre, Goldfinger, Drax, just on the top of my head).

    That's a common trope in fiction. Didn't Serafino Spang have red hair too?
  • edited July 2016 Posts: 2,880
    Ludovico wrote: »
    That's a common trope in fiction. Didn't Serafino Spang have red hair too?

    No, but Scaramanga did. The list is long enough to suggest that Fleming had a definite dislike of red hair. None of the Bond girls has it. The film of DAF is oddly true to Fleming when Connery's Bond expresses distaste for redheads.
    OHMSS69 wrote: »
    ...considering that Fleming's father died in the First World War and he himself served in the Second would explain much. Many Brits who had memories of the two wars felt this way. Even the Queen Mother harbored a deep seeded prejudice against Germans.

    And she was from a German family! The Thrilling Cities chapter on Berlin confirms your comment: Fleming writes "From this grim capital went forth the orders that in 1917 killed my father and in 1940 my youngest brother." His girlfriend Muriel Wright was also killed by German bombers.
    Fleming's understandable grudge against the Germans was balanced by a degree of cultural affinity--he was fluent in German (his desert island book was a German translation of War and Peace), enjoyed German culture, and in Thunderball called the Germany "the most gifted country in Europe." Yet I cannot think of many good Germans in the Bond books, aside from Oberhauser. Even Vivienne's boyfriend Kurt in TSWLM is a stereotypical German: inhumanly efficient and creepy.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited December 2016 Posts: 17,643
    Something that I have been wondering of late is whether Seraffimo Spang in the DAF novel could be classed as a dude?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dude
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 5,878
    Maybe Bugsy Siegel? Very Vegas.
  • Posts: 4,622
    Fleming did seem very respectful of the danger American gangsters posed, even for a man of Bond's talents. Was it M maybe, but someone in the DAF novel, did worry that Bond was up against
    a very formidable adversary in the American gangsters.
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    The Spangs are very much inspired by the Detroit Purple Gang and hoodlums from Chicago like John Dillenger and Al Capone.
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