Slay It With Flowers: Your views on John Gardner's Never Send Flowers (1993)?

Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
edited July 2023 in James Bond Literature
This is another topic designed to collate mainstream James Bond fan opinion on the work of John Gardner - this time we're going to look at John Gardner's 1993 novel Never Send Flowers. In many ways, this one is the author's most experimental one since The Man From Barbarossa in 1991 and Brokenclaw in 1990. Here, James Bond is on the trail of a crazed serial killer who has struck around the globe, killing numerous high-profile figures over the course of a week. Then, he kills MI5 agent Laura March and this brings James Bond (Dr. No/LALD film style) into the equation. James Bond is portrayed much more as a police detective throughout, which is in fact in keeping with Fleming and in keeping with Gardner - see Scorpius and WLOD for further evidence of this. This is a spy thriller/serial killer novel in the style of Patricia Cornwell (who was friends with John Gardner). It features calling cards in the form of the deathly symbolism of a bleeding rose, mistaken identities, disguises, a theatre museum, a castle called Schloss Drache, the 'madman in the attic' Victorian subplot, the title also recalling the classy Bondian titles of old where DIE, DEATH or KILL were not required to refer to death and danger.

Then there are the critical points - Princess Diana and her sons as real-life targets, the use of Euro Disney as a locations and Bond's general waxing lyrical about Disney and Disneyland througout. Apparently he went to Disney World with a girlfriend and really enjoyed it! Controversial until you start reading the first chapter of Fleming's OHMSS where Bond reviews his childhood.

I'm currently writing a lengthy monograph on this experimental Gardner novel from the later Gardner term and I would really like to hear Bond fan opinions on this one.

Did the experimentation that Gardner increasingly resorted to from 1990 onwards have anything to do with the fact that he was being accused of having an anachronistic secret agent character in James Bond, so-called Cold Warrior of the 1950s and 1960s revived in the 1990s and the New World Order. The reversion to a serial killer plot suggests there may be something worth exploring here!
"The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
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Comments

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    As an update, I think that this is a very timely hour to look afresh at Never Send Flowers by John Gardner as 15 July 2013 marks the 20th Anniversary of its publication in the UK in 1993. It is also timely due to the fact that Never Send Flowers was republished in the UK and the US in November 2012, happily in time for the anniversary.
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Any interest?

    I'm planning a review series called The Year of the Flower on The Bondologist Blog looking at the unnoticed role of flowers in the phenomenally wide universe of James Bond.

    Would really love to hear AJB members' views on this one!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    Sorry...its just a crap book and Gardner was obviously too ill to craft a better story...its clear he just trotted this one out to fulfil his contract...no thought and no imagination used in this one :#
    YNWA 97
  • James SuzukiJames Suzuki New ZealandPosts: 2,406MI6 Agent
    I haven't actually read the book, but because of Silhouette Man and his love of the book, I'm trying to find a copy, is it worth it? Though I have a huge Book list to go through, and I really need to finish Fellowship of the ring.
    “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
    -Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    Is it worth it ? No....for completists only...
    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sorry...its just a crap book and Gardner was obviously too ill to craft a better story...its clear he just trotted this one out to fulfil his contract...no thought and no imagination used in this one :#

    I'd have to disagree with you there - it is a good book, not the best book in the world or anything, it could have benefitted from some tighter editing. But it's an interesting experiment, as I've said before from 1990 onwards Gardner started to experiment with Bond, with some interesting results, to say the least...
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    I haven't actually read the book, but because of Silhouette Man and his love of the book, I'm trying to find a copy, is it worth it? Though I have a huge Book list to go through, and I really need to finish Fellowship of the ring.

    You can get a cheap copy on Amazon for little over a fiver. Go and get it. I'm writing a very lengthy article on this and other things! It'll appear on The Bondologist Blog in July 2013 - 20 years after the publication of Never Send Flowers.
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • James SuzukiJames Suzuki New ZealandPosts: 2,406MI6 Agent
    I haven't actually read the book, but because of Silhouette Man and his love of the book, I'm trying to find a copy, is it worth it? Though I have a huge Book list to go through, and I really need to finish Fellowship of the ring.

    You can get a cheap copy on Amazon for little over a fiver. Go and get it. I'm writing a very lengthy article on this and other things!
    I'll try and get a hold of it via Book Depositry, and I'll post a,review on it. But it won't be till about March if I'm lucky
    “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
    -Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sorry...its just a crap book and Gardner was obviously too ill to craft a better story...its clear he just trotted this one out to fulfil his contract...no thought and no imagination used in this one :#

    I'd have to disagree with you there - it is a good b ook, not the best book in the world or anything, it could have benefitted from some tighter editing. But it's an interesting experiment, as I've said before from 1990 onwards Gardner started to experiment with Bond, with some interesting results, to say the least...

    I think the book would have benefited from burning....but I'm happy to agree to disagree :D
    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    I haven't actually read the book, but because of Silhouette Man and his love of the book, I'm trying to find a copy, is it worth it? Though I have a huge Book list to go through, and I really need to finish Fellowship of the ring.

    You can get a cheap copy on Amazon for little over a fiver. Go and get it. I'm writing a very lengthy article on this and other things!
    I'll try and get a hold of it via Book Depositry, and I'll post a,review on it. But it won't be till about March if I'm lucky

    That's great - I'd like more Bond fans to set aside some time and read this Bond novel. You could do a lot worse - I've studied it for years!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • James SuzukiJames Suzuki New ZealandPosts: 2,406MI6 Agent
    Okay, If I have any questions about the book, I'll know who to ask.
    “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
    -Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sorry...its just a crap book and Gardner was obviously too ill to craft a better story...its clear he just trotted this one out to fulfil his contract...no thought and no imagination used in this one :#

    I'd have to disagree with you there - it is a good b ook, not the best book in the world or anything, it could have benefitted from some tighter editing. But it's an interesting experiment, as I've said before from 1990 onwards Gardner started to experiment with Bond, with some interesting results, to say the least...

    I think the book would have benefited from burning....but I'm happy to agree to disagree :D

    Blashpemy! The Devil take thee, you film Bond fiend!!! :)) :))
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Okay, If I have any questions about the book, I'll know who to ask.

    Yes, I'm a NSF nut - I've had this article in mind since about 2007 - been working on it since 2009, on and off, of course. Read it after Tolkien, if you can, at all! :)
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    Blashpemy! The Devil take thee, you film Bond fiend!!! :)) :))

    Not true...I would wager I've read more Bond books than yourself -{
    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sorry...its just a crap book and Gardner was obviously too ill to craft a better story...its clear he just trotted this one out to fulfil his contract...no thought and no imagination used in this one :#

    I'd have to disagree with you there - it is a good b ook, not the best book in the world or anything, it could have benefitted from some tighter editing. But it's an interesting experiment, as I've said before from 1990 onwards Gardner started to experiment with Bond, with some interesting results, to say the least...

    I think the book would have benefited from burning....but I'm happy to agree to disagree :D

    In the spirit of AJB literary Bond revivalism that I've been pursuing, "Give it another go". Join The Never Send Flowers Appreciation Society, of which I am the President on Facebook, today!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Blashpemy! The Devil take thee, you film Bond fiend!!! :)) :))

    Not true...I would wager I've read more Bond books than yourself -{

    I don't bet, so forget the wager. I'm still haunted by 'The Man From the South' - "a good BIG BET...." :))
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    Sir Miles wrote:

    I'd have to disagree with you there - it is a good b ook, not the best book in the world or anything, it could have benefitted from some tighter editing. But it's an interesting experiment, as I've said before from 1990 onwards Gardner started to experiment with Bond, with some interesting results, to say the least...

    I think the book would have benefited from burning....but I'm happy to agree to disagree :D

    In the spirit of AJB literary Bond revivalism that I've been pursuing, "Give it another go". Join The Never Send Flowers Appreciation Society, of which I am the President on Facebook, today!

    I've read it three times or so already....its not high up on my list for another read...
    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:
    Sir Miles wrote:

    I think the book would have benefited from burning....but I'm happy to agree to disagree :D

    In the spirit of AJB literary Bond revivalism that I've been pursuing, "Give it another go". Join The Never Send Flowers Appreciation Society, of which I am the President on Facebook, today!

    I've read it three times or so already....its not high up on my list for another read...

    Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, GO ON!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    I'd really like to get more interest going in this overlooked James Bond novel Never Send Flowers. Feel free to follow my The Bondologist Blog on Twitter @Dragonpol.

    If you haven't already read it, go out and get a copy now on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Never-Send-Flowers-John-Gardner/dp/140913573X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358199486&sr=8-1

    You can get a copy in the UK for as little as £2.94 new! not including P&P at £2.80.
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    This is what I want you all to do - read Never Send Flowers by John Gardner!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=lLofosx3370&NR=1
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    I read this when it was published, then again a few years ago. It's not my favourite Gardner (that came earlier) but it's not the worst (that came later). Flicka I liked, and Our Man was a shade less cardboard here than in other continuation novels.
    I wouldn't mind giving it another read then commenting here, but that would be after I finish The Hobbit... again. (Can't escape Tolkien here, SM!)
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    I read this when it was published, then again a few years ago. It's not my favourite Gardner (that came earlier) but it's not the worst (that came later). Flicka I liked, and Our Man was a shade less cardboard here than in other continuation novels.
    I wouldn't mind giving it another read then commenting here, but that would be after I finish The Hobbit... again. (Can't escape Tolkien here, SM!)

    Thanks, Barbel, I look forward to your views!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    In progress right now- started it yesterday, and am about 2/3 through. Whatever one may feel about Gardner as a James Bond writer, he's a professional writer and knows his stuff.

    As I said before his 007 is more rounded this time, less one-dimensional than he can be in the non-Fleming novels. As a first for me, I actually could see Craig as Bond in the sequences set in his Chelsea flat. Most of the time, though, he's Dalton (perhaps because of the time the book was written?).

    Flicka has always been one of my favourite female lead characters, and she truly is a schöne Grüße- the reverse of a Goodnight :)) ?

    One thing grates though (not just in this book) - "Captain Bond".... yuck!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    Gardner can't be accused of being light with his symbolism. Most Bond stories, as pointed out in the sixties by such writers as Kingsley Amis and Ann S. Boyd, are variations on the theme of St George slaying the dragon and saving the beautiful princess. Sometimes there are little pointers along the way (Drax's real name being "Drache", which translates as dragon; Blofeld's kimono; Tatania's being distantly related to the Romanovs; etc) but it's fairly well hidden as a rule. In NSF the reader is hit over the head with the concept fairly thoroughly, as 007 rescues a beautiful real-life princess from the evil Dragon Head who lives in Dragon Castle. This to be done in fairyland. Specifically referred to by M as a white knight, in a chapter called "The White Knight", Bond of course fills the hero's shoes.

    This theme, however, only dominates the novel towards the end. James Bond is partnered with Swiss agent Flicka von Grüsse as they track down an international assassin. Chief suspect is acting megastar David Dragonpol ("Dragon Head"), who has retired early and lives in a magnificent castle on the Rhine, Schloss Drache ("Dragon Castle"). Late in the story Bond races to save Princess Diana and her sons from assassination in Euro Disney.

    There's an excellent sibling subplot which could carry an entire story in itself
    The Prestige
    - unfortunately this isn't fully developed and in the end comes to very little. Much the same could be said for the Grant and Chantry characters- good potential, but it only comes across as padding.

    There's an effective technique of starting a chapter in the middle of the action, often dramatically, then flashing back to an earlier point in the narrative and progressing until the opening point is reached. Fleming was fond of this- the openings of CR and YOLT, for example, as well as Risico- and it's certainly not unique to him. Gardner's first Boysie Oakes novel opens in this way, too. In NSF, though, Gardner over-uses the technique to predictable levels; once or twice, perhaps, not a half-dozen or so.

    The Diana, William, Harry angle does certainly put NSF firmly in its time, but Gardner is very clear again and again that the story is taking place in 1992 (or, as he writes dates, nineteen-ninety-two) and makes no bones about it.

    M, Moneypenny, Tanner, Q'ute ( :s ) make their regulation appearances, some even turning up in the field as the movie characters do more than their literary counterparts . Only M has a fair-sized role, alternating between crusty and avuncular modes.

    I enjoyed re-reading NSF, but my opinion of it hasn't changed- it ranks in the middle of Gardner's James Bond novels.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,816Chief of Staff
    That's an even handed review there, Barbel.....pretty much sums it up for me (although it is quite a few years ago that I last read this)....
    Gardner was anything but subtle around this period in his Bond books, and he did love to tinker with the framework of Bond's world as set by Fleming....
    NSF IS a pretty dire novel - and you place it higher in his Bond work than I do - although most of his latter Bond books are all pretty poor....the best thing about NSF..?...the first edition hardback is worth a few bob :))
    YNWA 97
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    Sir Miles wrote:
    the first edition hardback is worth a few bob :))

    Glad to hear that- though it's my kids who'll reap the benefit since I ain't selling!
  • BleuvilleBleuville Posts: 384MI6 Agent
    Any interest?

    I'm planning a review series called The Year of the Flower on The Bondologist Blog looking at the unnoticed role of flowers in the phenomenally wide universe of James Bond.

    Would really love to hear AJB members' views on this one!

    I'm re-reading NSFlowers currently with the Orion books paperback published recently.
    I bought several of the Gardner books with the new graphic design covers.
    It's more like a detective novel, but I like Flicka von Grusse.

    I should say originally I've bought at the time all the continuation Bond novels of
    Garner, Benson, Faulks and Deaver.

    Bleuville.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    Bleuville wrote:
    Any interest?

    I'm planning a review series called The Year of the Flower on The Bondologist Blog looking at the unnoticed role of flowers in the phenomenally wide universe of James Bond.

    Would really love to hear AJB members' views on this one!

    I'm re-reading NSFlowers currently with the Orion books paperback published recently.
    I bought several of the Gardner books with the new graphic design covers.
    It's more like a detective novel, but I like Flicka von Grusse.

    I should say originally I've bought at the time all the continuation Bond novels of
    Garner, Benson, Faulks and Deaver.


    Bleuville.


    Thanks for your review, Barbel.

    I look forward to your views also, Bleuville!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • BleuvilleBleuville Posts: 384MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    I read this when it was published, then again a few years ago. It's not my favourite Gardner (that came earlier) but it's not the worst (that came later). Flicka I liked, and Our Man was a shade less cardboard here than in other continuation novels.
    I wouldn't mind giving it another read then commenting here, but that would be after I finish The Hobbit... again. (Can't escape Tolkien here, SM!)

    Yes I've read all the Flemings and the continuation authors books.
    So had read NSFlowers when it came out in paperback, and recently bought the new cover Gardner paperbacks.
    So I just finished reading it (2nd time in 20 years) and it's a good way of absorbing the story again.
    I also liked Flicka von Grusse who reminds me of the actress Elke Sommer (mit Sherman accent ! )
    Because it involves a serial killer, it inevitably gets classed as a detective story.
    There are some interesting characters amongst the law officers, apart from the deceptive villain David Dragonpol.

    While it mentions a Princess and her sons as targets, they don't spell out Lady Diana-but it's heavily implied.
    When they're moving around the castle, there are good descriptions of Dragonpol's construction of a History of Theatre with automatons in famous scenes. You can picture this in your mind.

    I think the end fight stopping Dragonpol was a bit "short and sweet", over before it started!
    I enjoyed it and would give it 7 out of 10.
    but I'm moving on to Dr. No book now, and Quarrel's word pronounciation! hex trod nary Cap'n !

    Bleuville.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,722MI6 Agent
    edited July 2023
    Bleuville wrote:
    Barbel wrote:
    I read this when it was published, then again a few years ago. It's not my favourite Gardner (that came earlier) but it's not the worst (that came later). Flicka I liked, and Our Man was a shade less cardboard here than in other continuation novels.
    I wouldn't mind giving it another read then commenting here, but that would be after I finish The Hobbit... again. (Can't escape Tolkien here, SM!)

    Yes I've read all the Flemings and the continuation authors books.
    So had read NSFlowers when it came out in paperback, and recently bought the new cover Gardner paperbacks.
    So I just finished reading it (2nd time in 20 years) and it's a good way of absorbing the story again.
    I also liked Flicka von Grusse who reminds me of the actress Elke Sommer (mit Sherman accent ! )
    Because it involves a serial killer, it inevitably gets classed as a detective story.
    There are some interesting characters amongst the law officers, apart from the deceptive villain David Dragonpol.

    While it mentions a Princess and her sons as targets, they don't spell out Lady Diana-but it's heavily implied.
    When they're moving around the castle, there are good descriptions of Dragonpol's construction of a History of Theatre with automatons in famous scenes. You can picture this in your mind.

    I think the end fight stopping Dragonpol was a bit "short and sweet", over before it started!
    I enjoyed it and would give it 7 out of 10.
    but I'm moving on to Dr. No book now, and Quarrel's word pronounciation! hex trod nary Cap'n !

    Bleuville.

    Thank you for your great review, Bleuville. On the princess point, my UK edition specifically mentions Princess Diana and her two sons, Princes William and Harry. Perhaps you just missed these details or has the Diana reference been removed for the Orion reprint? Please get back to me on this, as a big NSF fan. I've also got the Orion edition, but have yet to read it! :)
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
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