Ian Fleming, Diamonds Are Forever and Saratoga Springs

In August 1954 he flew to the US for research his next novel – Diamonds Are Forever – visiting Saratoga Springs after his friend, William Stephenson, sent him a magazine article about the spa town. In the US, Fleming travelled with two friends, Ivar Bryce and Ernest Cuneo, whose name was changed to ‘Ernie Cureo’ for the role of Bond’s taxi-driving ally in Las Vegas (Bryce’s name had already been used as an alias for Bond in Live and Let Die).

While not far from Black Hole Hollow Farm in Vermont where he was staying, Jo Bryce (Ivar Bryce’s wife) was anxious for Fleming to go during the few days in August for “the smartest race meeting in America, crawling with Vanderbilts and Whitneys.”  

In the novel, James Bond and Felix Leiter head up to the city of Saratoga, where Bond is to receive a payoff, while Leiter is investigating some shady racing practices. Bond stays at The Sagamore Motel – perhaps based on the Sagamore Resort – and heads down to the racetrack the next morning with Felix.

Saratoga Racetrack in the 1950s

Saratoga Racetrack in the 1950s

Fleming also visited the Acme Mud and Sulphur Baths in his research, which featured in another famous scene in the novel. Bond has agreed with Leiter to give the payoff to the jockey of Shy Smile for ditching the race and so has to meet him there to Bond’s disgust:

Outside the bus the smell of sulphur hit Bond with sickening force. It was a horrible smell, from somewhere down in the stomach of the world.

Saratoga sulphur and mud baths, Eureka Park, Saratoga Springs, N. Y.

Saratoga sulphur and mud baths, Eureka Park, Saratoga Springs, N. Y.

After writing the novel however, Fleming believed he had hit the wall with Bond, although he is quoted as saying he thought Diamonds Are Forever to be better than Moonraker:

“My talents are extended to their absolute limit writing a book like Diamonds Are Forever” he told Raymond Chandler. “I am not shortweighting anybody and I have absolutely nothing more up my sleeve.”

William Plomer a friend and reader for Fleming’s publisher, Jonathan Cape, read the manuscript and singled out Fleming’s description of the racing stables in Saratoga: “The work of a serious writer”.


In October 1956, Diamonds Are Forever came out in America and was well received. Even the The New York Times’Anthony Boucher—described by a Fleming biographer, John Pearson as “throughout an avid anti-Bond and an anti-Fleming man” noted that “Mr. Fleming’s handling of American and Americans is well above the British average”.

High praise indeed.

Incidental Intelligence

‘From Vermont with Love’ – Ian Fleming’s Love Affair with Vermont

You Only Live Once: Memories of Ivar Bryce and Ian Fleming

Exclusive Interview With Raymond Benson

Saratoga Springs (Fleming’s Bond)


3 thoughts on “Ian Fleming, Diamonds Are Forever and Saratoga Springs

  1. It’s been two (or is it three?) decades since I read “Diamonds Are Forever” and I had forgotten about the Saratoga Springs scenes. Might be due for another read.
    That font looks nice, too. Works a treat. Nice write-up!

  2. Pingback: Exclusive Interview With Raymond Benson – Part 1 | Artistic License Renewed

  3. Pingback: Philip Larkin on Gardner, Amis, Fleming, and the “Batman from Blades” | Artistic License Renewed

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