James Bond continuation novelist John Gardner has
died at the age of 80. MI6 looks back
John Gardner (1926-2007)
6th August 2007
Bond continuation novelist and thriller
writer John Gardner has passed away at age 80. He died on Friday
3rd August 2007 from suspected heart failure. Gardner collapsed
at his home in Basingstoke, and thinking he had fainted, called
his daughter Alexis. He took a turn for the worse and was rushed
to hospital where he later died.
John Gardner was born in Northumbria
on November 20th, 1926. He graduated from St. John's College,
Cambridge and did postgraduate study at Oxford. Gardner
volunteered for service in the Royal Marines during World
War II, became
a stage magician
and served briefly with the American Red Cross.
father was a clergyman in the Church of England and encouraged
him to follow his example. Gardner
was ordained and served as a priest in Eversham for seven
years and then
became a chaplain to the Royal Air Force, before taking
the rare step of ceasing to be ordained and
from the clergy.
He then worked as a journalist and theatre
critic for The Herald from 1959 to 1964, chronicling the
years when Sir Peter Hall was reorganising the Royal Shakespeare
in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was another year until
the ultimate climax of his alcoholism. He managed to overcome
his addiction through a combination
of aversion therapy and hypnosis, and was proud that
he hadn't drunk a drop since. Gardner also lectured
in Shakespearean production in Canada and the United States.
Above: Author John Gardner
In 1964, Gardner began his novelist career with
"The Liquidator", in which he created a richly comic character
named Boysie Oakes who inadvertently is mistaken to be a tough,
pitiless man of action and is thereupon recruited into a British
Above: John Gardner pictured with a
portrait of Ian Fleming, circa 1981
Oakes is, in actuality, a devout coward
with many other character failings who wants nothing more
than to be left alone and is terrified by the situations
into which he is constantly being forced. The book appeared
at the height of the fictional spy mania and as a send-up
of the whole business was an immediate success. It was
made into a movie, and another seven light-hearted novels
about the cowardly Oakes appeared over the next 12 years.
Following the success of his Oakes books,
Gardner continued to write with new characters; Derek
Torry, Herbie Kruger, and the Railton family, which he
as more serious works in the spy novel genre.
also wrote three novels (the third of which was never
released due to a dispute with the publisher) using the
of Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series.
During this period, Gardner made his home in the Republic
of Ireland - a location which would feature in his
In 1981, Gardner was the first on a list of
six potential authors approached by Glidrose Publications (now
Ian Fleming Publications) to revive Ian Fleming's James Bond
series of novels.
His initial reaction was to turn down the offer, but his refusal
letter was never mailed and Gardner had a change of heart. Between
1981 and 1996, he wrote fourteen
James Bond novels and two film novelisations. While the books
were commercial successes, Gardner was sometimes ambivalent about
writing novels with a character
he hadn't created.
Above: Licence Renewed (1981). British
1st edition Jonathan Cape UK hardback.
During his tenure as James Bond novelist,
Gardner lived in the USA for nine years where he was diagnosed
with cancer. The costs of private healthcare proved a tremendous
burden. After penning his fourteenth 007 adventure "Cold" and
a second film novelisation "GoldenEye", Gardner
officially retired from writing Bond novels in 1996 due
to his prolonged battle with cancer. Glidrose Publications
chose Raymond Benson to continue the literary stories of
James Bond Novels
Licence Renewed (1981)
Role of Honour (1984)
Lives For Ever (1986)
No Deals, Mr.
Win, Lose or Die (1989)
Licence to Kill (1989) - novelization
The Man from Barbarossa (1991)
Death is Forever (1992)
Never Send Flowers (1993)
GoldenEye (1995) - novelization
COLD aka Cold Fall (1996)
Shortly thereafter, his first
wife of 45 years, Margaret, passed away in 1997 having suffered
illness she concealed
from him during his cancer treatment. Gardner moved back to the
UK and stopped writing for several years, but recovered and returned
to print in 2001 with a new novel, "Day of Absolution", which
was widely praised by critics.
Gardner also began a series of books
with a new character, Suzie Mountford, a 1930's police
detective. It was this fictional creation that reconnected
him to his university sweetheart, Patricia, who split from
in 1949. Gardner had used her maiden name for his latest
character. The couple got engaged for a second time in
2004. His last published work was "Troubled Midnight",
the fourth book in the Suzie Mountford series. The fifth,
Human Enemy", is scheduled to be published posthumously
on 27th August 2007.
"It started when I was eight.
I announced that I wanted to be a writer so my
Father gave me
a notebook and some pencils that he'd probably liberated
from the school where he was chaplain. I took them
up to bed. The story goes that he came up an hour
later and found me fast asleep while the notebook
was still virgin white except for the first page
on which I had written – The Complete Works
of John Gardner."
John Gardner will be fondly remembered by Patricia,
his two daughters and a son (with Margaret), and fans everywhere
who have enjoyed his many published works including the James
Bond continuation novels.
In recent years, MI6 had the honour of talking to John Gardner
about his life and work. It was the last interview he gave about
his tenure as James Bond continuation author.
James Bond Literary Coverage
- John Gardner
Conversation With John Gardner (1)
Conversation With John Gardner (2)
Conversation With John Gardner (3)
Conversation With John Gardner (4)
Conversation With John Gardner (5)
Conversation With John Gardner (6)