In May of 1981 John Gardner’s first James Bond 007 novel, Licence Renewed, was published. It represented the return of literary Bond and the entrance of Bond into the 80s. Read by many fans, it is generally regarded as one of his better continuation novels. CBn looks back at the first of ultimately 16 novels in total written by Gardner in the 80s and 90s. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions.
I would like, especially, to thank the Board of Directors of Glidrose Publications Ltd, the owners of the James Bond literary copyright, for asking me to undertake the somewhat daunting task of picking up where Mr. Ian Fleming left off, and transporting 007 into the 1980s. In particular, my thanks to Mr. Dennis Joss and Mr. Peter Janson-Smith; also to H.R.F.K., who acted as the original ‘Go-Between’.
We have become so used to James Bond gadgets which boggle the mind that I would like to point out to any unbelievers that all the ‘hardware’ used by Mr. Bond in this story is genuine. Everything provided by Q Branch and carried by Bond – even the modifications to Mr. Bond’s Saab – is obtainable on either the open, or clandestine, markets. For assistance in seeking details about such equipment I am especially indebted to Communication Control Systems Ltd and, more particularly, to the delicious Ms Jo Ann O’Neill and the redoubtable Sidney.
As for the inventions of Anton Murik, Laird of Murcaldy, only time will tell.
– John Gardner, 1981
- Working title/originally announced as: Meltdown
- Published in France as Operation Warlock
Relationship to the film series
- Licence Renewed: James Bond gets his first glimpse of villain industrialist Anton Murik at England’s famous Ascot racetrack.
- A View to a Kill (1985): James Bond gets his fist glimpse of villain industrialist Max Zorin at England’s famous Ascot racetrack.
- Licence Renewed: Bond poses as a weekend party guest at Murik’s large country estate in Scotland.
- A View to a Kill (1985): Bond poses as a weekend party guest at Zorin’s large country estate in France.
- Licence Renewed: Bond’s SAAB ejects tear gas from its vents when surrounded by henchmen. li>
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Bond’s BMW ejects tear gas from its vents when surrounded by henchmen.
- Licence Renewed: Bond fights henchman Caber in the cargo hold of C-130 over Spain in the book’s climax.
- The Living Daylights (1987): Bond fights henchman Necros in the cargo hold of C-130 over Afghanistan in the film’s climax.
- 1981: 1st British Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition
- 1981: 1st American Richard Marek Hardback Edition
- 1981: 2nd British Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition
- 1981: 1st British Book Club Associates Hardback Edition
- 1981: 1st American G.K. Hall Large Print Hardback Edition
- 1981: 1st Merved ‘Licens Fornyet’ Edition (Denmark)
- 1982: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition
- 1982: 1st British Coronet Paperback
- 1986: 18th American Berkley Paperback Edition
- 2004: 1st British Coronet Omnibus Paperback Edition
‘What is your favourite Gardner Bond novel?’
Probably Licence Renewed, as it had that “first book in a long time” event element to it and it was also a straight forward thriller without all the double, triple, quadruple crosses that plagued the later novels.
CBn Forum Member, Simon
Have just read my first Gardner, Licence Renewed. My verdict? Not bad at all, on the whole. The book is slow-starting (with a false “gripping start” that makes you think a character applying an elaborate disguise at an airport is going to hijack a plane or do something exciting – nothing happens), but once it gets going you know you’re in the hands of a professional thriller writer who knows how to keep you turning the pages.
It’s Gardner’s writing skill that really makes Licence Renewed , since the plot is nothing revolutionary (and struck me as a retread of that of Thunderball, while the ending borrows heavily from Goldfinger). However, Murik’s scheme seems very credible by Bond standards, and is genuinely horrifying. Gardner does a fine job of putting 007 in situations that seem convincingly dangerous. He’s great at atmosphere and action. There’s a drug-assisted torture/interrogation scene that’s somehow all the more frightening for not being brutal and bloody, and the scenes during the Perpignan festival are superb.
It’s not a million miles away from Fleming, but neither do we get the sense of great fidelity to Fleming’s creation. In places, Gardner tries too hard: bones thrown to the purists with train spotting references to Casino Royale and From Russia With Love. Q’ute’s bedroom scene with Bond, presumably intended as a jokey, pre-emptive acknowledgement that Bond has been updated for the 80s, comes across as laboured and more appropriate to an Austin Powers film.
CBn Forum Member, Loomis
Licence Renewed is a pretty good place to start but I wouldn’t call it his best. It has it’s moments but there are a few dull patches where you’ll probably stop reading.
CBn Forum Member, Tanger
I really like Licence Renewed. It’s a good, straight-forward, PG-13 Bond adventure with all the elements in harmony (good locations, good car, good villain, henchman, girl…). Bond’s mission is very straightforward, and I especially like that he doesn’t have a foil or sidekick. He’s on his own, and this keeps most of the dialogue inside his head. I also really like the sense that he’s a knight sent to a castle to slay the ogre and free the maiden. And speaking of the maiden, I really like Lavender. She’s in the Domino mold. An exquisite beauty held in bondage by a sadist. These types of Bond girls are too few and far between, IMO (we wouldn’t get another until Benson’s Never Dream Of Dying).
CBn Team Member, Zencat
The Looking Back at John Gardner Series:
- Licence Renewed
- For Special Services
- Role Of Honour
- Nobody Lives Forever
- No Deals, Mr. Bond
- Licence To Kill
- Win, Lose Or Die
- The Man From Barbarossa
- Death Is Forever
- Never Send Flowers