30 years ago, the first review of John Gardner's debut James Bond continuation novel "Licence Renewed" was published in America...

First Licence Renewed Review

12th May 2011

On April 24th, 1981, the Miami News published the first review of "License Renewed", John Gardner's debut outing as James Bond continuation author. MI6 has extracted the text from the archive as the book celebrates its 30th anniversary and return to print.

Bond's Back With '80s Image - Miami News - April 24th, 1981
There's great news for 007 aficionados. James Bond is back after a 14-year absence, with his license to rub out foreign spies intact. M, the cold-eyed chief of the Secret and Security Services, is angry with attempts by the government to tie the hands of his agents, but he tells Bond, "As far as I'm concerned, 007, you will remain 007."

"They can issue their pieces of bumf," M goes on, "and abolish the Double-O section. We can simply change its name. It will now be the Special Section, and YOU are it. Understand, 007?"

Thus opens "Licence Renewed" by John Gardner, sitting in for the late Ian Fleming, originator of the James Bond secret agent series. It established new standards in spy novels and dominated that international market for years.

Gardner is an old hand in that field. Some 20 years ago, when the James Bond cult was riding high, Gardner wrote "The Liquidator," which became a best-seller of the spy genre. His first novel, it was made into an international film and opened a series in which the adroit Boysie Oakes capered. It was followed over the years by 22 other books, including thrillers, suspense and adventure stories.

Gardner was selected by the holders of the James Bond literary copyright to resume the series where Ian Fleming left off, and the pace is a fast one.

 


Above: John Gardner pictured with a portrait of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

M assigns Bond to tackle a terrorist called Franco and a wealthy nuclear scientist names Dr. Anton Murik, the Laird of Murcaldy. He has supposedly invented a new type of reactor which not only delivers tremendous nuclear power, but also abolishes its nuclear waste. Other characters in the Bond tradition are Dr Murik's mistress, beady-eyed, sinister Mary Jane Mashkin; and his ward, lively Miss Lavender Peacock, who collects boyfriends with a habit of disappearing.

In briefing Bond, M warns him not to be taken in by his old enemies, SMERSH, now allegedly replaced by the more benevolent-minded Soviet agents called "Department Viktor" It's the same old gang of murderers, assassins, kidnappers and saboteurs, M declares.

Under author Gardner's ministrations, Bond has changed - somewhat. He goes easier on the booze, smokes special low-tar cigarettes, and drives a fuel-efficient Saab instead of a gas-guzzling Bentley. But the ladies? Hmmmmm.

Gardner is a native of the north of England, son of an Anglican priest, and has served in the British Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Marines, where is was commissioned. After World War II service, he studied for the priesthood, attended Cambridge University, was ordained, but finally left the church. He was a newspaper theater and film critic, then began a full-time writing career. He now lives in Dublin.

In his new assignment, Gardner says, Bond remains the same tough, world-wise, poker-faced, charming hero - with changes, made because the world and its attitudes have changed. He has read again all the original Ian Fleming novels, and the new Bond, like the old one, has been around and leaned a lot - knowing how to handle people, head waiters, wine stewards and menus. He is aware of the feminist movement, aware of the financial pressure on governments and government departments, and the way the world works today.

"Look," Gardner says, "what I really hope is that people who either loved or loathed Bond in the '50s and the '60s are going to say, 'Yes, that's the man we remember - it's the same fellow -and he's grown up right along with us.'"

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