Behind the scenes on efforts to film Fleming’s The Diamond Smugglers

Jeremy Duns of The Sunday Times has an article about the unsuccessful efforts to turn Ian Fleming’s non-fiction book The Diamond Smugglers into a movie.

Duns first provides some background on the book, which centered on John Collard, a one-time MI5 operative who was part of the International Diamond Security Organisation. In the book, Collard was given the given the pseudonym John Blaize.

Fleming portrayed Collard/Blaize as a quieter, shyer character than Bond, although readers would learn that Blaize owned 24 fine white silk shirts and intended to spend 48 hours gambling intensively in Monte Carlo, “to wash the last three years and the African continent out of his system”. This was familiar territory: Bond had put in time at the baccarat and bridge tables in the novels Casino Royale and Moonraker. Diamonds Are Forever had mostly been set in America; now Fleming had locations such as South Africa and Sierra Leone to play with, and he had great fun describing real-life villains every bit as larger-than-life as those Bond had faced, such as “Monsieur Diamant”, whom Fleming called “the biggest crook in Europe, if not in the world”.

In September 1957, the articles began to be serialised in The Sunday Times. They were published as The Diamond Smugglers in book form in November, with an introduction by Collard (under the Blaize pseudonym).

Duns writes that a number of efforts were made to turn the episodic book into a movie but coming up with a dramatic narrative proved problematic. One production team wanted to get Steve McQueen for the lead to give the proposed movie some star power. Not much came of that but Duns tracked down a copy of a screenplay by Jon Cleary, whose novel The Sundowners had been turned into a successful 1960 movie with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.

The putative “Bond” has been renamed once more: no longer John Blaize, he is now Roy O’Brien, a secret agent sent to a diamond mine in Johannesburg under cover as a pilot. His mission: to infiltrate and break up a ring of smugglers preparing to make a huge deal with the Red Chinese. O’Brien is American, and his part reads very much as if written with McQueen in mind. We are told he is “marked with the sun and the scars of a man who has spent a good deal of his life in the outdoors”, and that “he was a boy once quick to smiles”, but is now “a man who has seen too much of sights that did not provoke laughter”. He is quick-witted, laconic, but very likeable.

To read the entire article, JUST CLICK HERE.

Appreciating Thrilling Cities

IFP thrilling citiesThe cultural-observer website, When Falls the Coliseum, has posted today really terrific column by crime and espionage journalist, Paul Davis. In Through a Thriller Writers Eyes: The Life and Work of Ian Fleming, he celebrates Fleming’s two nonfiction books, Thrilling Cities and The Diamond Smugglers. The former volume, a collection of pieces on cities the author found particularly fascinating, was reprinted this year by Ian Fleming Publications.

Mr. Davis has a unique appreciation for the Fleming travelogue:

I carried a paperback copy of carried a paperback copy of Thrilling Cities with me throughout my time in the U.S. Navy in the early and mid-1970s. I was thrilled that I was able to visit many of the cities Fleming wrote about two decades before me.

The article concludes with an interview with the Bond creator’s nephew, Fergus Fleming; you can read it all RIGHT HERE. Mr. Davis’website, Paul Davis on Crime has his comments about the column, and a recently posted appreciation of the 1969 James Bond film classic, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as well as a plethora of other interesting goodies.