Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Adam Diment

"Adam Diment is 23; his hero Philip McAlpine is based on himself. That is to sat he's tall, good-looking, with a taste for fast cars, planes, girls and pot"

So it says in the back cover blurb of my copy of the 1967 spy novel The Dolly Dolly Spy; the debut thriller by Adam Diment.

From 1967 to 1971, he was responsible for four novels all featuring the hip hashish smoking reluctant spy based on himself, Philip McAlpine; The aforementioned debut,  The Bang Bang Birds, The Great Spy Race (both 1968) and Think Inc. (1971)

The series was a huge hit internationally, and the novels translated into other languages 

I picked up a slightly tatty edition of The Dolly Dolly Spy (with the second cover design shown above) on the recommendation of a friend a few years ago now and I recall reading it and rather enjoying it. It's a great read, literaly soaked in the atmosphere of the 1960s with mentions of Dylan, The Beatles, Kings Road and hetero male characters talking camp; calling one another 'luv' and 'dearie'. Right up my street! Indeed, the cultural references held within-it really must have read as totally up to the minute in it's day-and the notion of an establishment figure switched on to the counter culture gave me and my writing partner Nick Donald (writing as Manik) inspiration for our own character, the Special Branch counter culture expert Jonathan Strange in our Psychedelic Policeman pair of novels.

But I regret to say I've never read another. Something which I'm determined to rectify, as having re-read Dolly Dolly in the last couple of days, I went looking on Amazon and have picked up a reasonable cheap edition of The Great Spy Race.

The books have never been reprinted and only second hand copies exist at varying prices on the aforementioned Amazon or, if you're lucky, going for a song in musty book shops.

But what of Diment himself? And why after four successful novels is he largely and somewhat criminally unheard of?

Well, simply put; he disappeared, and his present whereabouts are unknown. Some say he simply grew bored of writing-he's on record as saying as early as 1968 that he is tiring of McAlpine-and that he simply retired from public life. But perhaps more tellingly, and certainly more intriguingly, is the fact that Diment was seemingly involved in a huge currency swindle!

Anonymous letters dated 1969 released from The National Archive inform The Bank Of England that he was involved in exporting 2400 dollars paid by a film producer Sidney Canter who was keen to adapt The Dolly Dolly Spy for United Artists with Blow Up star David Hemmings as McAlpine. There was even a suggestion that Diment was involved in some kind of drug deal.

A suitably mysterious situation I'm sure you'll agree-it could have come straight from one of his own novels!

But I can't help thinking what might have been, certainly if the film had come to fruition. McAlpine is far hipper than Bond, indeed he comes off like a  more turned on tuned in and copped out version of Len Deighton's anonymous hero from The Ipcress File etc, named Harry Palmer for the trio of films starring Michael Caine.

David Hemmings was an actor I have always admired and he would have been perfect in the role (my own personal second choice? Hywel Bennett) Diment certainly seemed to agree, as this photo of them both in 1967 shows

I wonder if they'd have had the balls to show McAlpine's penchant for pot though? 

It is, as I say, another of those 'what might have been' moments I guess, to coexist with the greater mystery of Diment since 1971.

Wherever he is, I raise my glass to him, and as he might say; 'Chin chin luv'

(I am indebted to Nickel In The Machine et al for some of the key image posts used here)


  1. I wasn't aware of any of this stuff. Very interesting, and some of those book covers are amazing. Time for a wee look on Ebay, methinks.
    Cheers Mark; good find.

  2. He is criminally largely unknown or forgotten now, great shame. I believe both he and Jerry Cornelius are the inspiration for a comic book character called Gideon Stargrave too