John Edmund Gardner was an English spy and thriller novelist, best known for his James Bond continuation novels, but also for his series of Boysie Oakes books and three continuation novels containing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional villain, Professor Moriarty.
Gardner, an ex-Royal Marine commando, worked for a period as an Anglican priest, but he lost his faith and left the church after a short time. After a battle with alcohol addiction he wrote his first book, the autobiographical Spin the Bottle, published in 1964.
Gardner went on to write over fifty works of fiction, including fourteen original James Bond novels, and the novel versions of two Bond films. He died from suspected heart failure on 3 August 2007.
In 1979 Glidrose Publications (now Ian Fleming Publications) approached Gardner and asked him to revive Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of novels. Between 1981 and 1996, Gardner wrote fourteen James Bond novels, and the novelizations of two Bond films. Gardner stated that he wanted “to bring Mr Bond into the 1980s”, although he retained the ages of the characters as they were when Fleming had left them.
Even though Gardner kept the ages the same, he made Bond grey at the temples as a nod to the passing of the years. With the influence of the American publishers, Putnam’s, the Gardner novels showed an increase in the number of Americanisms used in the book, such as a waiter wearing “pants”, rather than trousers, in The Man from Barbarossa. James Harker, writing in The Guardian, considered that the Gardner books were “dogged by silliness”, giving examples of Scorpius, where much of the action is set in Chippenham, and Win, Lose or Die, where “Bond gets chummy with an unconvincing Maggie Thatcher”. Whilst Gardner’s Bond novels received a mixed reaction from the critics, they were popular and a number appeared in The New York Times Best Seller list, bringing the author commercial success.
Gardner had an ambivalent view on being the Bond author, once saying that “I’m very grateful to have been selected to keep Bond alive. But I’d much rather be remembered for my own work than I would for Bond”, while saying on another occasion that “I remain proud that my contribution to the Bond saga played a great part in its development”. In the mid-1990s, after discovering he had esophageal cancer, Gardner officially retired from writing Bond novels and Glidrose Publications quickly chose Raymond Benson to continue the literary stories of James Bond.
John Gardner’s 007 production:
- Licence Renewed (1981)
- For Special Services (1982)
- Icebreaker (1983)
- Role of Honour (1984)
- Nobody Lives for Ever (1986)
- No Deals, Mr. Bond (1987)
- Scorpius (1988)
- Win, Lose or Die (1989)
- Licence to Kill (1989) – novelisation of a film script
- Brokenclaw (1990)
- The Man from Barbarossa (1991)
- Death is Forever (1992)
- Never Send Flowers (1993)
- SeaFire (1994)
- GoldenEye (1995) – novelisation of a film script
- COLD (1996) – published in the U.S. as Cold Fall
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