• Flight of the Diamond Smugglers

  • A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa
  • By: Matthew Gavin Frank
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
  • Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For nearly 80 years, a huge portion of coastal South Africa was closed off to the public. With many of its pits now deemed "overmined" and abandoned, American journalist Matthew Gavin Frank sets out across the infamous Diamond Coast to investigate an illicit trade that supplies a global market. Immediately, he became intrigued by the ingenious methods used in facilitating smuggling - particularly, the illegal act of sneaking carrier pigeons onto mine property, affixing diamonds to their feet, and sending them into the air.

Entering Die Sperrgebiet ("The Forbidden Zone") is like entering an eerie ghost town, but Frank is surprised by the number of people willing - even eager - to talk with him. Soon he meets Msizi, a young diamond digger, and his pigeon, Bartholomew, who helps him steal diamonds. It's a deadly game: Pigeons are shot on sight by mine security, and Msizi knows of smugglers who have disappeared because of their crimes.

From the mining towns of Alexander Bay and Port Nolloth to Kleinzee's shores littered with shipwrecks, Frank investigates a long overlooked story. Weaving interviews with local diamond miners who raise pigeons in secret with harrowing anecdotes from former heads of security, environmental managers, and vigilante pigeon hunters, Frank reveals how these feathered bandits became outlaws in every mining town.

©2021 Matthew Gavin Frank (P)2021 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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A boy, his pigeon and the curse of diamonds

Flight of the Diamond Smuggler illuminates the life of a young boy, his pigeon, and the stranglehold that the diamond behemoth DeBeers keeps on a community during and after it lands in a subsaharan country to mine its riches and ferry them away. In beautiful Namibia, we see people that will never find environmental justice for the decimation of their ancestral lands. Where the bones of workers are left in abandoned and guarded sands that family members can never find. Where according to the World Bank, 17.4 percent of Namibians live below the poverty lines and many children are unable to afford to attend school. The book reads like surreal historical fiction, a story of love and unmet dreams, but it is based on the current realities. I highly recommend this novel, really enjoyed the read and became immersed in “another world.”

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Interesting subject, mediocre delivery

I really wanted to like this book because the combined subject of pigeons and diamonds had at once seemed unlikely and obvious. In the end, it just lost interest. More like a personal travel journal.

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Boring

I felt like it was a travel journal turned book, with a minimum word count requirement from the publisher. It was repetitive and boring.

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A heart-wrenching, immensely personal, beautifully written story.

I highly recommend this book. It sheds light on a dark portion of a trade of which many are unaware. Frank’s highly descriptive, emotive writing style pulls the reader in and makes you really feel for each person and bird involved.