Gardner's World: John Gardner's James Bond Continuation Novels (1981-1996) General Discussion

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  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters
    edited December 2023

    In the period after Spectre came out I was interviewed on one of James Bond Radio's fan episodes and my response to the question what I would like to see in Bond 25, I answered an adaptation of Nobody Lives Forever. I think my idea was that the Tamil Rahani part would be shifted to Blofeld, and that from prison he would orchestrate the kidnap of Moneypenny (and maybe another MI6 regular instead of May) and the subsequent bounty hunt for Bond. The ending of the film might have had to be quite different to the book, unless Blofeld was able to escape prison and set up camp on an island. And Nobody Lives Forever is quite a quick read, so no doubt an EON adaptation would have added a lot of extra scenes to bulk it out. Hopefully Bond wouldn't have snuffed it at the end though (although with a title like Nobody Lives Forever, it might have fallen right into DC's plans for Bond's demise...)

  • IstvanTheHun007IstvanTheHun007 Posts: 51MI6 Agent

    I don't think having to pay the Gardner estate for adapting his novels into movies should be an obstacle. Making those adaptations would probably also mean a re-print of all his novels and a boost in sales due to a likely resurgence in popularity, or at least curiosity. That alone should be enough compensation for the Gardner estate, don't you think?

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    That's fair enough. You clearly know more about the writing background of the more recent Bond films than I do. I suppose Purvis and Wade are blamed for any perceived missteps the writers/directors/producers have taken en masse since TWINE as their name has been on the writing credits of all the Bond films we've had since then. They're the tallest poppy in a sense so fans and critics are going to have a go at them, whether they're ultimately responsible for the misdeeds or not. In that sense I suppose it's rather unfair to blame them. Bond films have long been written by committee so understanding who wrote or came up with what idea is more complex and of course this is not reflected in the final writing credits.

    On the twins point I suppose it's an example of Gardner trying something different in a Bond novel. His first two novels didn't use the double agent trope as well as Never Send Flowers but I agree he overused that trope to the detriment of his plots sometimes. Genre writing generally and spy thrillers more specifically do have their conventions and these can become rather tiresome over a long series of novels.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,648MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    Yeah I did enjoy reading his books back then, although speaking of repeated tropes in them, does anyone else remember reading that little tidbit about how to look out for enemy agents possibly tailing you in a number of his books? Bond says to check the shoes. It's not the person in smart shoes: they'll always be wearing comfortable old shoes to walk after you - I feel like he put that in every other book 😂

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    Yes, that fits too right enough. Kolya Mosolov of the heirs of SMERSH joins an unholy alliance with the neo-Nazi ex-Finnish SS man Count Konrad von Glöda (Aarne Tudeer) so that the Soviets can get their hands on their old enemy James Bond. It's an interesting change to see two of Bond's oldest foes (the Nazis and the Soviets) put aside their ideological differences, however briefly and cynically, and work together for a common purpose - capturing and killing James Bond. I think Nobody Lives Forever is like SPECTRE's version of the SMERSH Konspiratsia in that they want Bond's head after him defeating the organisation so many times in the past. The way "Nanny" Norwich acts as Bond's guardian angel also recalls 'Red' Grant killing the man at the gypsy camp during the film version of From Russia with Love.

    "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: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    No, I don't think that would be enough compensation for the Gardner Estate at all, actually. With respect, it's rather naïve of you to think that they'd happily give up the rights to one of his Bond novels to be used in a Bond film and all they'd get in return is some new film tie-in editions to sell. That would cost Eon nothing. They would want (and would be legally entitled to) money from Eon to buy the rights to use one of Gardner's Bond novels in whatever capacity. It's still Gardner's intellectual property at the end of the day and Eon can't just promise to let the Gardner Estate flog a few books off the back of their new film. The Amis Estate was paid an undisclosed sum so Eon could use the Colonel Sun torture scene in Spectre so why would the Gardner Estate be treated any differently?

    Anyway, I imagine it's all academic as Michael G. Wilson once said in an interview that although he had read many of the Gardner novels he didn't think they had what was needed to make a good Bond film:

    https://bondfanevents.com/interview-michael-wilson-part-ii/

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,648MI6 Agent

    Shame they didn't dig down into that a bit more, but I guess he probably would have been diplomatic from there on in. As fun as the Gardners are, I don't think there are any ideas in there which are so fresh and striking in there that a producer would deem them worth paying royalties for.

  • IstvanTheHun007IstvanTheHun007 Posts: 51MI6 Agent

    What money is the Gardner estate making right now? Probably not much, those books aren't exactly flying off the shelves anymore. Its naive to think they would need to ask for a king's ransom if his mostly forgotten books get a long-deserved spotlight. At least insomuch as to be an obstacle for them to be adapted into movies. WIlson's tenure is also most likely done, anything is possible after that.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    I'm obviously not privy to the sales figures or the profits of the Gardner estate but I'm sure they're still selling books and making money. John's son Simon has done a good job of getting pretty much all of his novels back into print again. Orion republished the Gardner Bond novels back in 2012, the first time they'd been reprinted as single editions since the 1990s. Around the same time Swordfish republished new versions of the Jonathan Cape first edition hardback covers from the first four Gardner novels or so. More recently Orion have again published a new edition of For Special Services, a 40th anniversary edition of Licence Renewed in 2021 with an new introduction and a 40th anniversary e-book edition of Icebreaker with a new introduction in 2023. The famous YouTube Bond commentator Calvin Dyson has also done a review series on the Gardner Bonds and it concluded only recently. So I'm happy to report that the John Gardner flag is still flying high and he's far from forgotten, as you suggest. In the end analysis, they are still James Bond novels so they sell better than many spy novels do because that name has the same draw in spy fiction as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot does in crime fiction.

    If you read my post you'll notice I never said the Gardner estate would ask for "a king's ransom". Those are your words, not mine. I merely said that the Gardner estate would still want some form of fee or payment for Eon to adapt one of Gardner's novels and that just being able to reissue the novels (IFP's decision, not Eon's) wouldn't really cut it on its own. No estate or author worth their salt would hand over the rights to adapt their intellectual property for free. That's never going to happen. I'm not sure why you can't grasp that to be honest. However, as I said above it seems Eon only turn to the continuation novels when they're really stuck for a scene or dialogue and are content to write their own scripts in house the rest of the time.

    "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: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    Yes, I'm sure that many Bond fans find the sheer amount of John Gardner's Bond novels a little intimidating. His earlier novels up to about No Deals, Mr Bond were all bestsellers and made the various bestseller lists in the UK and the US. They were also reviewed in major newspapers and other literary publications. However, as the series went on into the 1990s Gardner started to experiment with the Bond stories more, placing Bond in new types of situations. The reviews also started to dry up and the novels were reviewed less in the bigger publications and were more often only reviewed in more regional newspapers and magazines. I suppose this is what can happen with a long-running continuation novel series in particular.

    It's hard to sustain interest for the general reader across a 16 book series over the course of 15 years from 1981 to 1996. I actually like the 1990s Gardners just as much as the 1980s ones as he took more chances and they more often than not paid off and widened the remit of Bond's adventures and experiences. And as @Golrush007 says, where would I be without Never Send Flowers and David Dragonpol? I'd have no username at another Bond forum, for one thing! It's my little tribute to Gardner and to the weird and the wonderful development of Ian Fleming's hero across his novels and the Bond continuation in general. I, for one, am glad that Gardner wrote as many Bond novels as he did.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Miles MesservyMiles Messervy Posts: 1,748MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    I agree—I’m grateful for so many Gardner novels. Especially as we’re in somewhat of a dark age with the films. With the dismal Spectre and NTTD, and the long gaps in between, my connection to Bond over the last 10 years has been primarily literary. And that’s alright. We’re ages since a decent Bond film and might only get another good one by accident. Gardner looks better every day!

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters

    This tatty old ex-library paperback of Scorpius was the first Bond novel I ever owned. This Gardner chat and the new Mark Edlitz book have me looking to revisit some of these books. I dug this one out of the cupboard and it's first up. It was the first Gardner book I read and I really enjoyed it.

    It's strange to think that when I first read it, I had only read 1 Fleming book and a couple of Bensons.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,648MI6 Agent

    Kind of bonkers how they barely mention James Bond on that cover! 😁

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters

    You're right about that. The US covers for the Gardner books had JAMES BOND in big bold letters, whereas the UK ones in hardback at that time usually just had a fairly discreet 007 somewhere in the art, or the name James Bond in the little tagline in the case of the paperbacks.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff
    edited December 2023

    Hmmm…here are the US first edition, UK first edition and the slightly smaller UK book club edition in hardback…James Bond is fairly large there ☺️ the US version is signed by Gardner too 🍸

    YNWA 97
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters

    I almost mentioned that my observation doesn't apply to the UK hardcover of Scorpius! 😉

    I was thinking particularly of the Hodder & Stoughton hardbacks from Win, Lose or Die to Never Send Flowers, and the Coronet paperbacks from the late 80s/early 90s.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    Very true…but some of them had decent artwork on the covers 🙂

    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited January 10

    So to wrap up the Gardner's World thread for 2023 (though not for good of course!) here is a rare chance to see John Gardner on ATV back in (I think) May 1981 promoting his first James Bond continuation novel, Licence Renewed. Gardner does so with the help of a fully kitted out Saab 900 Turbo. Please ignore all the little mistakes they make during the piece, right down to the spelling of the author's name (honestly!):



    Thanks to you all for making this thread such a success in 2023 and I look forward to more discussion on Gardner's Bond novels in 2024. Happy New Year everyone! 🙂

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,408Quartermasters
    edited January 3

    I recently finished my re-read of Scorpius, which as I mentioned in an earlier post was one of the first Bond novels that I read and I’ve had a certain fondness for it over the years. However, with all the time and reading that had passed since that first time (and I had only ever read one Fleming book at that point in time) I was uncertain how it would hold up on rereading it 20 years later. Thankfully, it held up pretty well and I enjoyed it as much as I remember enjoying it first time around.

    One of the unusual features of the novel is that about ⅔ of it is set in the UK, which reminded me a bit of Moonraker on this re-read. I enjoyed seeing Bond on home turf and interacting with other British services, like Special Branch and SAS. Another similarity to that novel is that Bond doesn’t end up ‘getting the girl’ at the end of this one, although the circumstances are quite different. This novel also benefits from having a few characters which I found more memorable than most of those inhabiting the Gardner canon, namely the villain Vladimir Scorpius, aka Father Valentine, the Bond girl Harriet Horner, and SAS man John ‘Pearly’ Pearlman. Villains with multiple names seemed to be a bit of a trope with Gardner, and I think often a confusing and annoying one. In this case, the dual identities are a much more integral part of the villain’s character and as a result, it wass neither confusing nor annoying. 

    The action finally shifts to America during the last third, and to be honest I enjoyed the UK-based sections more. The American part has Bond in the ‘lair’ of Father Valentine’s religious cult The Society of the Meek Ones, and ‘marrying’ Harriet in a Meek Ones wedding ceremony. Those passages were a bit less exciting to me, but the American setting does have a memorable feature, which is a swamp full of deadly Water Moccasin snakes blocking Bond's passage of escape from the villain's headquarters...flesh crawling stuff which reminded me a bit of some of Dr No's lethal creatures.

    I don't think Scorpius is one of the very top Gardner novels, but perhaps one of the best of the middle ranking books, and I enjoyed it very much on re-reading.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    That's not a bad summing up @Golrush007 and I agree. It is a long time since I read Scorpius, but it isn't a wholly successful outing. There were little sections I enjoyed - like the visit and fight at the credit bank, the moment Bond recognises Scorpius' watch, the water moccasins - but as you say, it tails off dramatically and the last quarter is humdrum at best. And yeah, Gardner and character names is a recurring nightmare.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited January 22

    Schlock Horror! - A James Bond Location...in Kilkenny? 



    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • SeanIsTheOnlyOneSeanIsTheOnlyOne Posts: 376MI6 Agent

    Just reread The Man From Barbarossa. Still don't get Yuskovich's strategy. He counts on the fact the Americans will attack Irak after the ultimatum expiry and Iran will retaliate nuking Washington with the stolen Scapegoats. But such a response would lead to the destruction of the whole region, which makes the use of the missiles very unlikely, not to say irrelevant.

    Furthermore, I don't understand the purpose of this picture showing Bond, Natkowitz (from Mossad) and Adoré (from the DGSE) carrying the missiles. What is it supposed to prove from Yuskovich's POV ?

    Perhaps it's me but I think Gardner did a terrible job to make this plot both clear and ingenious.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    I agree with you @SeanIsTheOnlyOne that book is one of Gardner's lesser entries, too confusing and too dialogue driven

  • SeanIsTheOnlyOneSeanIsTheOnlyOne Posts: 376MI6 Agent

    Thx ! I really tried to convince myself this book was much more interesting than in my memories, but it was vain. Apparently this was Gardner's favourite novel, the one he had the most enjoyable writing experience with, mainly because there were very few constraints from Glidrose plotwise. But I think that's precisely what lacks here: structure.

    He wanted a dark thrilling story but what he wonderfully succedeed with Icebreaker turns to be a big failure here, although I must admit the beginning of the book is excellent. The rest is very poor and uselessly convoluted.

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