Flight of the diamond smugglers A tale of pigeons, obsession, and greed along coastal South Africa

Matthew Gavin Frank

Book - 2021

"Blending elements of reportage, memoir, and incantation, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers is a stunning investigation into the role of carrier pigeons in South African diamond smuggling. Nearly every town along South Africa's infamous diamond coast has been deemed "overmined." Before the area fully becomes a series of abandoned outposts, journalist Matthew Gavin Frank drives from Oranjemund, Namibia to the De Beers mining towns of Alexander Bay, Porth Nolloth, and Kleinzee. W...hat begins as an attempt to peer behind the curtain cloaking the global diamond trade soon becomes a tale of obsession, as Frank learns about the various and ingenious methods used in illicit diamond smuggling-particularly, the sneaking of carrier pigeons onto mine property, affixing diamonds to them, and sending them into the air to fly home. So rampant is this method that a law in 1998 made it illegal to not shoot a pigeon on sight. Frank juxtaposes the endangered lives of local diamond diggers (whose average lifespan is 37 years) who raise pigeons in secret with the corporate boardrooms of De Beers, while also synthesizing myths across histories and cultures in which diamonds and gems intersect. As he speaks with miners, former heads of security, environmental managers, and more, he gets ever-closer to the elusive Mr. Lester-a tall-tale villain meant to frighten would-be smugglers, and the only person who can answer Frank's questions, if he is indeed real. Written in atmospheric and lyrical prose, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers becomes an urgent portrait of labor, greed, and our penchant for ownership"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 364.1336/Frank Checked In
True crime stories
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation [2021]
First edition
Physical Description
208 pages : map ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 198-208).
Main Author
Matthew Gavin Frank (author)
  • Prologue
  • Msizi and His Bird
  • Isaac Newton Co.
  • Bartholomew Variation #1
  • Beyond the Pits of Alexander Bay
  • Port Nolloth and the Halfway Desert
  • Bartholomew Variation #2
  • Riding with the Faceless
  • Driving to Kleinzee Amid Shipwrecks and Snakes
  • Bartholomew Variation #3
  • New Rush and Kimberley: The De Beers Origin Story
  • Beyond the Boom Gate, Touring the Erasure
  • Bartholomew Variation #4
  • Pilgrims and the Mountain of Light: A Link Between Myth and Human History
  • Odyssey to Die Houthoop
  • Champagne and Death at Dark: The Origins of a Pigeon Obsession
  • Bartholomew Variation #5
  • This Security Thing
  • Bartholomew Variation #6
  • Epilogue.