Tuesday, August 07, 2007

John Gardner RIP

Oh dear, it seems it one author after another at the moment. John Gardner, author of numerous books including 14 James Bond titles died on 3 August.

The Independent Obituary begins:
John Gardner, author of more than 50 thrillers, including 14 James Bond books, was a workaholic and recovered alcoholic who even in his 81st year was still writing at all hours. He worked every day - even a little on Christmas Day. "I work because I am scared stiff of losing the ability to put words together," he said. "Touch wood, it's never happened, but I have nightmares that it might."

His fictional characters included the cowardly secret agent Boysie Oakes (introduced in The Liquidator in 1964, the first of a series of books Gardner described as "born in the hope of being an amusing counter-irritant to the excesses of the many imitators of 007") and Big Herbie Kruger (who first appeared in The Nostradamus Traitor in 1979). He also expanded and developed Arthur Conan Doyle's Moriarty in The Return of Moriarty, 1974; The Revenge of Moriarty, 1975; and a third volume, provisionally titled The Redemption of Moriarty, which he had just completed before his death.

Gardner took over the Bond books in 1981 after being approached by the literary copyright owners, Glidrose. (Kingsley Amis had written just one Bond book after Ian Fleming's death in 1964.) "What I wanted to do," he said, "was take the character and bring Fleming's Bond into the Eighties as the same man but with all he would have learned had he lived through the Sixties and Seventies." The first new Bond was Licence Renewed (1981) in which M reminds Bond that the 00 section has been abolished; however, M retains Bond as a troubleshooter, telling him "You'll always be 007 to me." Other titles included Nobody Lives Forever (1986), Win, Lose, or Die (1989) and, the one Gardner considered his best, The Man from Barbarossa (1991)

Gardner was ambivalent about Bond, regarding the character as "one- dimensional", and was at first reluctant to write about a character he had not devised himself. He said: "I'm used to putting a lot more flesh on my characters. And of course with Bond I can't. It wouldn't be in keeping with the way Fleming depicted him." However, he refused to "dumb down" Bond. "What the Americans wanted," he said, "was: 'Bond goes to see M, flirts with Moneypenny, goes off, Bond loses the baddy, baddy gets Bond' and then 'Bond triumphs'. And I thought, 'erm, no'". But he enjoyed the trappings, including a Bentley (his second) and a silver Saab 900 Turbo, which his version of Bond switched to later.
The obituary concludes with:
During his Bond period, Gardner told friends: "Unhappily, I feel I'm probably going to be remembered as the 'guy who took over from Fleming'. 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."
Read the whole obituary here.

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