Author: John Gardner

Bond Book Reviews: John Gardner

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton / Coronet / Glidrose Publications )

NB. Have read but not reviewed here: For Special Services ( 1982 ) & Role of Honour ( 1984 ).

Licence Renewed

1) Licence Renewed ( 1981 )

Is it really 20 years since John Gardner took over from Ian Fleming to write his first Bond adventure ? I know it's some time since I originally read the story - how time flys ! Alas I was only able to lay my hands on this '97 Large Print version ( published by Compress Pass ) at my local library - no my eyesight isn't going !

The author has Bond called in by M to look into the activities of Dr. Anton Murik - aka 'Laird of Murcaldy'. After an introduction to the lovely gadget expert Q'ute and an invitation to her flat, Bond sets off in his Saab 900 Turbo to Ascot to get his first sighting of Murik ( shades of the later AVTAK ). There he gets to see his ward, Lavender 'Dilly' Peacock - the story's love interest and by pick-pocketing her jewels joins the Laird's entourage to see his horse, China Blue win the main race ( reminding again of the '85 Moore movie ).

Never one to turn down an invitation Bond heads for Murik's castle in Scotland, where the Laird's assistant Mary-Jane Mashkin takes a shine to him but 007 turns down her advances. Having discovered Murik's nuclear plans, James escapes with Dilly's help but the poor Saab ends up like the Aston in Goldfinger. Captured by the big Scottish henchman Caber ( with a strong accent - I was waiting for "I kanna go any faster captain !" ), Bond & Dilly are taken along for the ride to France as the scheming Murik plans to hold the world to ransom for £40 million in diamonds.

Will Bond and his new love get dropped off in mid-air or will our hero save the world ? Without giving too much away, poor Caber's demise is very similar to TLD's Necros some 6 years later and the author includes James' pal, Bill Tanner in the book's final shoot-out which is amusing.

Still a good first outing for Gardner's Bond.


2) Icebreaker ( 1983 )

Despite no longer part of the old Double-0 section which has been phased out, Bond is given Operation: Icebreaker by M and sent off to Lapland to tackle an organisation called N.S.A.A. ( that's National Socialist Action Army ) led by a Nazi war criminal called Aarne Tudeer but prefers Count von Glöda. He wants to be the next Führer, create the Fourth Riech and follow in the footsteps of dear old Hitler.

With most of the 250 pages of narrative based in Finland and on the Russian Borders, James joins an ice assault team with members from Russia, America & Israel. Their objective to find the heart of the N.S.A.A..

The usual love interests are Finnish Paula Vacker - called Paula Beautiful by James - a past flirtation and the Israeli team member, Rivke Ingber, a blonde beauty. Both ladies have hidden agendas - so beware !

Will Bond save the world again and most importantly will his body stand up to the cold weather ?

Read another chillin' & entertaining Gardner adventure with plenty of icy twists & turns.

NLF Ever

3) Nobody Lives For Ever ( 1986 )

Started re-reading as the second part of the '89 omnibus edition which also contained Gardner's Win, Lose or Die but switched over to the original & lighter '86 book.

The 192 page story has James taking a well-deserved holiday but he is informed that there is a bounty on his head. Who could it be ? None other than his old enemy SPECTRE, now led by Colonel Tamil Rahani, Blofeld's successor.

While driving his Bentley Mulsanne Turbo through Europe, he saves a damsel-in-distress, Principessa 'Sukie' Tempesta. He enforces her to tag along but she has to pick up an old school-friend, Nannette 'Nannie' Norrich. To make matters worse, Bond is advised that his house-keeper, May whom he originally planned to pick up from an Austrian clinic, has been kidnapped along with ( wait for it ) a visiting & caring Moneypenny.

After a few traffic diversions and murders, Bond & the resourceful girls end up in Key West, America ( one of LTK's locations ) and track down the evil Colonel to his Shark Island ( shades of Dr. No ).

Will James rescue his friends or will his head end up on SPECTRE's plate ?

Read Gardner's entertaining adventure for our ageless spy.

NB. Interesting that this 15 year-old book was priced at £9.95.

No Deals ..

4) No Deals, Mr. Bond ( 1987 )

Sixth outing for Gardner's Bond has him rescuing, with help from a Naval sub, 2 damsels-in-distress from East Germany during a late-night pick-up. Later M explains that these 'ladies' were part of a team targeting senior officials belonging to K.G.B or H.V.A.. Despite relocating the whole team, another member has been found murdered minus her tongue ! Bond is sent 'unofficially' to investigate and bring in the remaining team to safety.

The trail leads James from London to Dublin and surrounding countryside ( where he is called Jacko ) on to a pit-stop in Paris with Hong Kong serving as the final destination - also used by Benson for Zero Minus Ten. Here 007 is re-united with an old enemy, SMERSH ( now Department 8 ) who are still after his head led by General Chernov. Told that M's own head is on the block back in London, James doesn't know who exactly to trust.

The finale has Bond playing a cat and mouse game with the deadly Robinsons and having to save the aforementioned team - a shame that they were given a code name of Cream Cake. Revealing names would probably spoil the intrigue but one girl called Ebbie gets attached to our hero. Helped by more gadgets from the mobile Q'ute, this new assignment gives 007 plenty of twists and double bluffs to solve. Entertaining to the end.

Win ...

5) Win, Lose or Die ( 1989 )

This '89 omnibus edition published by Guild not Glidrose contains two 007 stories by Gardner. For some reason the newer 225 page story is placed before the older '86 story: Nobody Lives Forever ?

This is the story that finally sees our hero James promoted to Captain Bond - it's been a long wait ! Trained to fly a Navy Sea Harrier jet, Bond almost receives a missile up his tail-pipe while out on a training exercise in Yeovilton, England but of course manages to avoid it ( à la Octopussy ).

Before this attempt, the author goes into great detail explaining the training ( Operation: WIN ) & the plot by an organisation called BAST ( an acronym for Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror ) headed by Bassam Baradj to infiltrate the good old Navy and a special Top Secret exercise called Landsea '89.

Along the way James encounters 3 ladies: a Wren called Clover Pennington, an agent Beatrice Maria da Ricci and an up-front Russian Nikki Ratnikov. Alas one of these beauties is a phoney, so of course James will have to get to grips with the dilemma.

Once trained and past a diversion in Italy, Bond is aboard the HMS Invincible and things start to warm up with a murder before the arrival of the 3 Heads of State: UK - Thatcher, US - Bush & USSR - Gorbachev. They are all pleased to meet our hero who is placed in charge of security - but who else ?

Yet again James is asked to save the day - but does he get to shoot the baddie ? Read Gardner's exciting air & sea adventure with a finale in The Living Daylights's Gibraltar, location later used by Benson for the climax of his Doubleshot.


6) Licence To Kill ( 1989 )

Finally found a copy of Gardner's adaptation of Licence To Kill based on the screenplay by Michael G Wilson & Richard Maibaum. Having read the book on the movie's release back in '89, it is now refreshing to find how well the author captures the narrative. As he admits in the introduction ...

"On the bare white page, all screenplays are like lyrics without music, or as my old father used to say, like kissing your sister."

As Bond readers know, the author has to take into account Fleming's previous text ( i.e. Leiter's leg in Live And Let Die ), so he appropriately calls one chapter Lightning Sometimes Strikes Twice. He keeps faithfully to the script, as 007 goes after the drug baron Sanchez, and expands & adds some scenes ( e.g. an active Q leads the cavalry/police to Bond & Pam's rescue ). The ending is slightly different as Lupe explains her plans with the ex- President and saves James a splash in the pool ( see the movie ! ). Well worth a read to remind us of Gardner's writing & Dalton's Bond Days. In the introduction he also comments about the comparsion with the Master ...

"I apologize for not being Mr. Fleming, just as I apologize for the reviewer ... the one who thinks the books are sexually tame because his memories of the Fleming novels are that his parents regarded them as dirty books, so read them in secret. Grow up all of you."

He also states the book "is unique, being the only book-of-the-film I am ever likely to write" ... so read his later GoldenEye - to see a change of mind !


7) Brokenclaw ( 1990 )

This is the book that takes Bond into the Nineties and the author's 218 page narrative opens with an elderly professor's kidnapping in British Columbia. The victim escapes but is shot by mistake. Five miles away in Victoria, a relaxing James overhears a conversation about somebody's death and the trail leads him to his future adversary, Brokenclaw Lee ( aka Fu-Ch Lee ) a part Chinese and part Blackfoot Indian.

On return to his hotel, he is instructed by M to go to San Francisco ( AVTAK's location ) to 'take a rest' but James still gets into trouble with the FBI after a walk in Chinatown. Later all is explained by M on a US Naval boat that the death is connected to a project called Lords and Lords Day ( LOng Range Deep Sea Detector And Yaffer ) - shades of device used in TSWLM. While at sea he meets up with his new helpers Commander Ed Rushia, a resourceful Navy Intelligence Officer & good American buddy like Felix Leiter and CIA Agent, Sue Chi-Ho known as Chi-Chi who is the story's love interest. Also working undercover is Lt Commander Wanda Man Song Hing due to a parent's gambling problems.

Bond & Chi-Chi are sent on their mission to impersonate two buyers of the project and meet up with Lee at his lair which has some interesting features ( e.g. an update on the Dr. No's room with a view ). Will they succeed or will Lee see through their cover ?

Alas no Moneypenny but I like Ann Reilly - aka "Q'ute", Q's assistant who pops up in Gardner's books to supply our hero his gadgets. This time she appears briefly to give 007 a tracking device similar to his Goldfinger's shoe device. Nice to see Bond's pal, Bill Tanner out in the field at the book's near final shoot-out. The climax is a bloody Indian ritual where James gets the point 4 times ! Shame this final mountain confrontation isn't give more pages.

Still in the style of Lee's wolves, the book is a 'lip-smacking' good adventure.

The Man ...

8) The Man From Barbarossa ( 1991 )

An abduction of an old man in New Jersey leads to M answering a request from Russia's KGB to send Bond andan Israeli agent called Pete Natkowitz after an organisation called the Scales of Justice ( see cover ) aka Chusi Pravosudia.

Alas with all the politics going on and the Nazi criminal's past, this didn't grab my attention for very long. There's little excitement or suspense despite the big bang ending for the villain of the piece called Marshal Yevgeny Yuskovich and his pretty accomplice ( no I won't spoil it ). A French agent called Stephanie Adoré provides the glamour but she drops in and out of the story.

The author has one chapter called The Death of 007 - could our hero have finally met his maker after posing as a British tv cameraman ? M tells Tanner that he would prefer to tell Moneypenny as "she was damned fond of James". Will he rise from the ashes and save the day again ? Sorry read at your own desire as not the author's best. There's more intrigue in a tagged-on last chapter with a 'Jumbo' plot which is more sinister than earlier happenings.

Death is Forever

9) Death Is Forever ( 1992 )

Following mystery murders of members of a successful Western Intelligence network in the Eastern Bloc called Cabel, 007 is sent with CIA agent Elizabeth Zara St John ( no relation to Bond actress Jill ) to retrieve the remaining members. The agent explains to a bemused M & James during briefing that her nickname is Easy due to her initials 'EeZee' - which she is called during this fateful assignment.

Unfortunately the first half of the book concentrates on retrieving these agent with 'exotic' [?] names like 'Crystal, Ariel, Caliban, Cobweb' etc. Due to the book's title, the author puts Death in each chapter title e.g. 'Talk of Death and Disaster' & 'Death in Venice' [ original eh ! ] of this 248 page adventure.

The narrative picks up in the 2nd half with some action when Bond finally meets the villain of the piece - Wolfgang 'Wolfie' Weisen aided by Monika Haardt. The latter has a FRWL movie type ending. The other female interest for James is the Cabal leader, Praxi Simeon who stays for the conclusion at the Channel Tunnel end in Calais, France. Earlier James falls too easy [ no pun intended ] for Miss St John thinking that he's found the new love of his life ! Another train journey for the pair to remind us again of FRWL.

Alas not one of Gardner's best but worth a read from the library.

Never S F

10) Never Send Flowers ( 1993 )

A murder in Swizterland of Laura March with MI5 connections follows assassinations in Rome, London, Paris & Washington. Left at each scene a rose with marks of drops of blood on the petal. James is sent to investigate where he meets the lovely Swiss agent Flicka von Grüsse whom he later calls Flick when on better terms.

Trails lead to a former international stage actor, David Dragonpol, a friend of March who lives in a castle on the Rhine called Schloss Drache which he is turning into a theatre museum. They also meet a widow & flower grower, Maeve Horton.

An open & shut case ? Alas no after escapades for the duo in Milan & Athens, Bond goes after the villain at Euro Disney ( now Disneyland Paris ). Still puzzled by baddie's earlier motives but the final target: the late Princess Di & her sons on a day out at the theme park. Strange that Benson also includes Royals in his later adventure Never Dream Of Dying. Will Bond save the day ? Why has M a soft spot for Flicka following an earlier telling-off and now suggesting marriage to our hero ?

Despite written 8 years ago the adventure holds up well as Gardner's Bond entertains this reader more than Benson's mentioned book. I agree that it's not the best of the author's 007 books but it still worth a (re-)visit.


11) SeaFire ( 1994 )

With the help of his latest & serious girl-friend Flicka von Grüsse, James goes after billionaire, Sir Maxwell Tarn who thinks he's the next Hitler. Captain Bond now works for MicroGlobe One rather than an ill M whom he visits to cheer up and keep informed of the plot. The global trail takes 007 to Puerto Rico via Spain, Israel & Germany. The book's title comes from Tarn's weak plot which is helped by his goons who include a few nasty ladies who aren't what they seem to the fate of Mrs. Tarn.

During the story Bond proposes to Flicka ( memories of Tracy come to mind ) which adds to ending tensions. Like OHMSS, it's a shame Flicka doesn't get to the wedding aisle but for a different reason. To make the narrative more reflective an old friend reappears to aid James and to split up this spy twosome. Another submarine drama brings back movie memories of TWINE.

Despite seven years old the story is an 'ok' but not over gripping adventure. This reviewer when re-reading likes to picture one of the famous five in the role but still not sure which actor could be a Gardner Bond.

Worth checking out to make literary comparisons to Fleming & Benson.


13) GoldenEye ( 1995 )

When I first read Gardner's adaptation of Michael France & Jeffrey Caine's screenplay, the 007 Bond Supplement hadn't started, so I re-read the book again. the author captures the plot and adds some extra scenes like explaining how James & Natalya get from Russia to Cuba ... James 'greys' up and Natalya goes back to her school-days. Other small differences Xenia drives a yellow Ferrari in the book but on screen wasn't it red ? In the Turkish Baths fight scene Xenia goes 'naked' during her grapple with Bond. Meanwhile M's outfit appears to be different and there is a BMW but not a Z3 with gizmos despite Bond's warning to CIA agent Jack Wade. The latter gets more dialogue and takes 007 on a guided tour of St. Petersburg which explains how Bond finds Janus' train later in the plot.

It's a good read but I wish that the publisher's would follow Star Trek: First Contact's example and include more centre photos and a brief behind the scenes look at the movie. Yes I know that there is another book that covers the making of GoldenEye but keeping everything under one roof makes this book more of a memento to keep.


14) Cold ( 1996 )

Another re-visit as first read when published in '96, John Gardner's last outing as Bond author before handing the baton to Mr. Benson. The novel is split into 2 books, one called Cold Front and two called Cold Conspiracy. The time between each books appears to be Gardner's previous Bond outing SeaFire.

The story opens with the crash of a Boeing 747-400 at Washington's Dulles Airport and the apparent death of Bond's friend & lover, the Principessa Sukie Tempesta. He is sent by M to the airport with an investigation team which leads to meetings with FBI agent, Eddie Rhabb.

The main action takes place in Italy at the home of the Tempesta brothers, Luigi & Angelo where Bond gets caught in the act with one of the brother's wives. As James later explains to M, the lady made the advances.

The enemy of the story is provided by a terrorist army called COLD which stands for Children Of the Last Days. Without giving too much away about the ending, the main villain is a General Brutus Brute Clay who reminds me towards the end of Hank Hill's father in tv's King of the Hill.

During the narrative, dear old M is kidnapped and that is where the helicopters on the cover appear during a chase over the mountains. Needless to say this is Sir Miles' swan song before James is dragged off to meet the new female M. The ladies come & go in this adventure but the only clue to Bond's final conquest is B & B .. that's not Bed & Breakfast !

Still worth a visit to your library to enjoy this Bond excursion.