Crime-noir author Marvin Albert (1924-1996) began writing stylish, high-adventure novels in the 1970s under the pseudonym Ian MacAlister. It was a commercialized combination of successful writers such as Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean. I especially liked Albert's writing style and I've been on an adventure-fiction kick of late. It was this motivation that led me to try out the 1973 Fawcett Gold Medal paperback Driscoll’s Diamonds.
In the middle chapters of the book, it is explained that the mercenary Driscoll, his partner Royan and three other hardmen ambushed diamond smugglers in Africa. Following the shooting, the diamonds were successfully stolen and the gang fled the scene. En route to the getaway plane, Royan betrayed the group and killed all but Driscoll. In the bloody exchange, Driscoll took the diamonds, left on the plane, but then crashed near a shore in the Middle East. Having survived the accident, Driscoll’s diamonds were stuck in the pilot's seat that was now underwater.
Albert's narrative is a sprawling adventure yarn as Driscoll attempts to reclaim the diamonds from the sunken aircraft. He is in love with a woman named Shana and both have a big future planned based on recovering the diamonds. Unfortunately, Driscoll and Shana are both taken hostage by Royan and several hardened mercenaries. They have to lead Royan to the diamonds in return for their lives. Driscoll knows that he and Shana are dead anyway, so he's fighting tooth and nail along the way. There's a multitude of escape attempts, gun battles and the obligatory tough guy talk as Royan and Driscoll recount some of their old missions together.
I loved this novel and found it better than Albert's other Middle East scavenger hunt novel, Valley of the Assassins. Driscoll and Shana are two admirable characters and I liked the heated tension between the various characters. There's a surprise when two other parties join the hunt, but I'm going to leave that unexplained in the hope that you read this book. If you love desert climates with tough men betraying other tough men looking for dirty money, then you are going to love Driscoll’ Diamonds. It's a gem.
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