After his seventh James Bond adventure 'Scorpius' was published in 1988, author John Gardner talked about his work on the series so far...

Gardner Keeps Bond Alive

12th January 2012

By the summer of 1988, author John Gardner had seen his seventh of his James Bond continuation novel 'Scorpius' published, was preparing the next ('Win, Lose Or Die') and had a new contract to provide the novelization to the new Timothy Dalton film "Licence To Kill". He gave an interview to the AP about his Bond duties so far..

Gardner Assumes Ian Fleming's Pen To Keep James Bond Alive - Associated Press - June 1988
John Gardner is not just a thriller writer but a master of a very special art: the posthumous sequel. At his home in the English village of Bloxham, west of London, the 61-year-old author writes James Bond novels, having picked up where 007's creator, Ian Fleming, left off when he died in 1964.

While American writer Alexandra Ripley is just beginning a sequel to Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind", Gardner has already turned out seven Bond novels, each a best seller in the United States. The most recent, "Scorpius", is in its sixth consecutive week on the New York Times best-seller list.

"It was a challenge, a little honor," Gardner recalled of his decision to accept a publisher's offer in 1979 to write a Bond sequel.

He had already made a name with his books about the adventurer Boysie Oakes, and with such clock-and-dagger yarns as "The Dancing Dodo" and :The Nostradamus Traitor." He had also written two novels featuring Sherlock Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriaty.

So when Glidrose Publications, Bond's literary copyright owners, offered him a shot at 007 himself, he thought, "Why not? If I don't do it, somebody else will."

Gardner was then living in Ireland as a tax exile, and already on Bond sequel, "Colonel Sun," had been published in 1968 by author Kingsley Amis, writing under the pseudonym Robert Markham.

 


Above: Cover artwork for the UK first edition hardback published in June 1988 by Hodder & Stoughton.

Gardner first encountered Bond while in bed with the fly in the early 1960, when his wife, Margaret, brought "Casino Royale" and "Dr. No" from the library. "I was absolutely enchanted," he recalled.

"Fantasy, formula and fun are the three F's of Bond writing," he said. The exploits of the suave, self-possessed hero, a man both dressed and licensed to kill, demand a lot from a writer, Gardner said. The trick, he says, is to make the Bond novels "look as if they've been thrown off in one afternoon. You can't let readers see the joints anywhere."

"I sit down to do Bond and within about four days, I'm cutting lines out and making it run very fast," he said. "Every chapter I write I have to go back and say, 'no, you can take two lines out there and you can say that in three words.' It has to be tight. These are books to be read in an airplane or on a beach."

Above: Cover artwork for the large Print (left) and UK paperback first edition (right).

His contract calls for two more Bond novels. Under a separate agreement he is writing the book of the forthcoming "License Revoked" [Note: The 1989 film would ultimately be titled "Licence To Kill"] the first Bond movie not drawn directly from a Fleming book.

Movies, Gardner said, post the greatest obstacle to sequel-writing. "People remember the movies far better than the books," he said. "There's a universal myth that Bond drove an Aston Martin. He didn't, except for a very short time in 'Goldfinger.' He drive a very old Bentley."

Above: German and Italian covers for 'Scorpius'.

Gardner said he had tried to bring his champagne-drinking hero up to date with AIDS and glasnost. "You can make him a man of the '80s, make him adapt to the women's movement, the structures under which we live, all that," he said. "But I've had to get round the business of him transporting arms on normal flights, and of course the technology has changed so greatly."

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome posed specific problems for the libidinous Bond. He tried to work in a joke about condoms but his publishers rejected it. Nor is he allowed to give Bond depth: "I can't in any way relate to him as a character like I can to my own. Bond is one-dimensional: that is one of his successes. His novels are kiss kiss, bang bang adventures."

He is reticent about his earnings from the Bond books, saying: "I get a percentage of a percentage of a percentage. It puts a tiny bit of jam on top of the money I earn through my other writing."

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