author of 14 James Bond novels and 2 movie novelisation's,
talked to MI6 recently about his career
as the official 007 author.
In the sixth part of this series, we talk to John
Gardner about updating 007 to the 1980's and 1990's,
and the titles that didn't make it...
In Conversation With John Gardner (6)
29th May 2004
You shifted Bond from Fleming's 60's to the (then) modern
day 80's. Which elements of the Bond universe did you try to update
in this decision to `time warp` the character forward 20-30 years?
Obviously the weaponry changed. The threats Bond had to face
changed. What they used to call the `gee` technology changed.
The advance in technology was I suppose the biggest thing. the
trick was getting hold of stuff that was still classified.
In your books Bond seems to be more reliant on gadgets than
Fleming’s Bond - do you think the film series influenced
the readers’ expectations of James Bond, and if so, how
did you adapt to that? Or was this just part and parcel of updating
Bond into the 80s/90s?
I'd prefer to put it as, `reliance on technology`. That was essential
because they were the things being used by the real people in
Putting 007 in a Saab seems a surprising choice - why did
you choose this over his favoured Bentley or put him in an Aston
Martin, which the general public will always associated with 007?
Was this part of a conscious effort to move away from the film
series or in a different direction?
The Bentley was ridiculous. I mean, come
on, the Bentley was ridiculous. In many ways so was the
Aston Martin, because I regarded the Aston Martin as a fairly
flash motorcar. Everyone else says "wow", "wonderful",
"yippee", but I had to get away from that.
I liked the Saab. It's a very safe motorcar, a very safe
motorcar indeed. You can clock up the miles on it, you can
clock up the speeds on it.
I had one myself, so it was written from my experiences.
I've had a Saab right up until I stopped driving about two
years ago, and loved them, and I only stopped driving because
I don't need to drive anywhere anymore.
Above: John Gardner and the Saab Turbo
"The American's wanted: `Bond
goes to see M`, `flirts with Moneypenny`, `goes off`, `Bond
loses the baddy`, `Baddy gets Bond`, then `Bond triumphs`.
And I thought, erm, `no`."
Which was your favourite Bond novel, or which are you most
The Man From Barbarossa.
Is that because you had switched the
style slightly from what people were used to?
Well it was more that I had hit on the style I had strived
for since the beginning. Much to the consternation of much
of the American public! They said, "my God, this is
not the same mixture as before!", which was the idea.
So they were just expecting more of the same?
Yes, they wanted: "Bond goes to see M", "flirts
with Moneypenny", "goes off", "Bond
loses the baddy", "Baddy gets Bond", then
"Bond triumphs". And I thought, erm, "no".
You have to mix it up occasionally.
Left: Dutch artwork for "The Man From
Do you think the “sex, snobbery and sadism”
label was fair to either Fleming or his work?
Yes the label is very fair on Fleming! You only have to read
Casino Royale to see how fierce the sadism is. It's terribly brutal.
But of course the sex is teenage sex, he admitted that himself.
I don't know if he admitted he was a snob too, but he was. But
he hit on this wonderful thing of trading on labels, and it worked,
and they're still doing it today, more and more and more...
How many of the titles were your creation?
How much interference/suggestion came from the publishers?
How bad were some of the titles that didn't make it?
I can't remember exactly... the bulk of the titles were
mine I think
But it was the first stupid rubbing point, I mean, it was
ridiculous. I remember when I came up with "Icebreaker"
they were all "no, no, no, that's going to be no good..."
Did they prefer more `obvious` Bond titles?
Yes, the Americans did. They supplied the one with the
word "Bond" in it, they wanted them all to have
the word "Bond" in. "Good morning, Mr Bond!"
[Laughs] I don't think it was quite as brash as that, but
they tended to be a bit like that.
Some they hated, but then I put them on paper anyway...
I had a title I thought would be very good, and Glidrose
thought would be very good, which was "Blondes Prefer
Gentlemen". That got shouted down by Cape, but I thought
it was a rather Bond-ish title, but no, I wasn't allowed
I've always maintained that if an editor who sits down
with you says, in the opening gambit, "I'm not quite
sure about the title", you know they don't have much
to say about the book either. You've got to make them work,
because authors depend on editors. You get your first reaction
from an editor, and I don't want a reaction about the title.
Were there some really, really bad ones that were suggested
Oh I think so, yes.
Did you have any ideas you liked for storylines or
characters that never made it into your novels?
Yes, I have one very good one and I'm not going to tell
you what it is because I'm going to write it! [Laughs] But
with a different character. It's an excellent one.
Will you tell us when you've done it?
Yes, absolutely, as soon as I've done it I'll let everyone
Above: Japanese cover art for "Brokenclaw",
"No Deals, Mr. Bond", "For Special Services".
I've just finished a third one in a new series, that's coming
out in the spring.
As we have no continuation author at the moment since Benson
stepped down, a lot of fans who missed your generation of books
first time around now have chance to go back..
Yes... Well you know they are republishing me, the first three,
in a omnibus edition. I gather that if they get reasonable results
from that, we'll do more. [Laughs] I found that out by accident!
It's going to be good to see them all out again, after the
Fleming's have been republished...
Yes, that's what we are trying to do too. In fact I'll be finding
out what the plans are for the future soon...
...It must be good to have the royalties coming back in again
[Laughs] Yes, it all helps! Why not?
Thanks to John Gardner.
In Conversation With John
Conversation With John Gardner (2)
Conversation With John Gardner (3)
Conversation With John Gardner (4)
Conversation With John Gardner (5)
John Gardner Literary 007 Section