In September of 1990 John Gardner’s ninth James Bond novel, Brokenclaw, the first 007 novel of the ’90’s was published. CBn takes a look back with release dates, publication blurbs, trivia, and forum reactions at the book that had Bond face off with the ‘half-Chinese, half-Indian, all evil’ Brokenclaw.
Brokenclaw is John Gardner’s ninth novel featuring Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
Bond is bored sitting at his desk, pushing paper; and feels that M has let him down, has left him to rot. When M suggests that he take a holiday, Bond is displeased but, in the Californian hills, he catches sight of a man who intrigues him immediately. His name is Brokenclaw Lee.
When Bond discovers that the enigmatic Brokenclaw heads a vast congolmerate of underworld operations, he wonders if M’s idea that he should go on a holiday was the clear-cut proposal it seemed. What has happened to the five scientists whose highly sensitive, secret work is crucial to the security of the American state? Why are Bond’s investigations compelling American agents to handle him as though he were a common criminal?
As ever, Bond finds a worthy partner in a beautiful female agent – Chi-Chi. This time, however, he has the support of the indomitable Ed Rushia of the CIA. Just how much help will these two be able to give Bond when he is pitted against one of America’s most powerful villains?
Brokenclaw is an intriguing and stimulating thriller which will delight old and new fans of Bond. It takes our hero through the slimiest parts of San Francisco to Brokenclaw’s lair, a puzzle house crammed with technological devices, to a spellbinding ending in the heartland of the American Indians.
UK First Edition Hardback
- John Gardner says Brokenclaw was one of his least favorite Bond books. The author was recovering from a serious operation (prostate cancer) and says “there was a lot of serious emotional and ill health-related baggage tired to that book.“
- Gardner modeled the character of Ed Ruisha (pronounced “Roo-sha”) on his good friend and neighbor who came to visit him while he was in the hospital.
- Brokenclaw was the first novel Gardner wrote after moving to the USA.
- James Bond drinks tea in the beginning of Brokenclaw, even though it’s been firmly established in other books that Bond hates tea.
- 1990: 1st British Hardback Edition
- 1990: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
- 1990: 1st American Curley Publishing Large Print Edition
- 1991: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
- 1991: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition
Relationship to the film series
- Brokenclaw: Book: Bond is tortured by heritage-obsessed villian Brokenclaw Lee in an antique Native American torture device.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999) – Bond is tortured by heritage-obsessed villainess Electra King in an antique Turkish torture device.
I really like Brokenclaw. I think the villain is one of Gardner’s best (The two right hands are great.)
I remember some line in it about the plot to mess up the stock markets where he says something like “the rumor was the Japanese were working on something similar.” I always felt that this referred to Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor which was in the works at the time and that Gardner was already bracing for an unfavorable comparison.
I put this one high up on my Gardner rankings.
CBn Forum member B007GLE
Brokenclaw is one of my favourite of John Gardner’s. I especially like the climax opposing Bond and Brokenclaw at the end of the book and the Indian torture sequences.
CBn Forum member Cesari
I thought it was one of John Gardner’s best. I liked the setting on the West Coast and Northwest – my stomping grounds. Bond in Canada (I can’t think of any other time) if I am not mistaken, as well.
CBn Forum member dennisbolt
I enjoyed Brokenclaw, most Gardner’s just seems to blur into one another after awhile, but Brokenclaw is one one remembers well. Loved the title character, equal with the best of the Fleming villians in my opinion (Bond is drawn to getting a closer look at Brokenclaw before he even knows who he is). I also liked Bond’s visit to Chinatown, that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing in a future film. The one thing I didn’t like about is how it seems M withholds information from Bond, and then gets angry at him for not knowing what’s going on, but apart from that, a jolly good read.
CBn Forum member freemo
Well, I wouldn’t say Brokenclaw was Gardner’s best, but I enjoyed reading it.
CBn Forum member General Orlov
Oh yeah, that torture scene is a good one. I just reread the book and the final chapter had me squirming, not an easy task mind you. I also like the beginning with Bond simply investigating out of curiosity rather than being under orders. It would be interesting to see this kind of initial involvement in the next film.
CBn Forum member Genrewriter
I’ve just read Brokenclaw and I got a mixed feeling about it.
The villain is a strong character. Ok, some people might say he’s a slightly modified Mr. Big, i.e. another powerful gangster mastering another black magic. Still, he is strong. He is mysterious. And I liked the Chinese boxes construction of the house. Nice touch to the character of Brokenclaw Lee.
The lack of double-crosses left me a bit dumbfounded, though. Even Wanda turned out to be clear! I can’t even say whether I’m glad of it or not! Accustomed to them I have grown!
The thing that really disappointed me was the final. I agree with those considering it a bit far-fetched. Before the final scene in the village took place I’d thought this novel to be a nearly perfect Gardner Bond novel. But why the hell did Brokenclaw decide to endure this torture himself?
CBn Forum member Grubozaboyschikov
Interesting villain. But the remainder is inane. John’s been watching films again, and this time it’s Dances with Wolves. And The Spy who Loved Me. The wolf thing is stupid. The end isn’t a climax to the story; it’s just at the end of the book. Most of the book seems to be set in a hotel room. Traitor, yeah, yeah. The overwhelming impression created by the book is that the author was bored. Same here. A boring James Bond book. Shame. This, this really is booorrriiinnnggg. Whereas Goldfinger, that’s art. Comparatively.
CBn Forum member Jim
I’ve just finished re-reading Brokenclaw, and it just didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I think I’m nitpicking because I’m getting tired of Gardner’s lack of creativity with his characters. A chinese girl named Chi-Chi, and a guy named Luk-See? Lee was actually a good villain but maybe this was a character that Gardner could have allowed to survive, for a future novel.
The story was good, but somehow I wasn’t riveted to find out if the bad guys got away with the LORDS and LORDS DAY info. I think I know why I was distracted. I was waiting for the double-cross. Happily, there was none, but now when I read Gardner, I don’t even trust M!
CBn Forum member Jriv71
I’m not very fond of Brokenclaw. Brokenclaw Lee, the villian, is excellent though, as for the first few chapters which slightly reminded of Live and Let Die. But other than that I didn’t find it interesting, actually quite poorly written with a too slow tempo and action sequences that just doesn’t felt right. Some nice ideas here and there, but sadly nothing more to it. What first seemed like original and interesting was badly executed and fell flat. Too bad, John Gardner is a great writer and wrote many good James Bond novels, but this one just doesn’t work. Simply put: one of the worst Bond books, though fairly alright.
CBn Forum member Kronsteen
This is one of Gardner’s better books in my opinion, one of the high points in the rollercoaster ride of his later books. We have an interesting villain (something I think was a problem once in while with the Gardner books, No Deals, Mr. Bond, The Man From Barbarossa come to mind) and some good scenes such as the interesting finale.
CBn Forum member Qwerty
I actually really like Brokenclaw. The villain was great, the henchman, and all sorts of other things so as to not spoil things for some. It was actually my first Bond novel. I read it when it first came out, when I didn’t know there was a literary Bond.
CBn Forum member SirMiles83
Guess what, I really like Brokenclaw. I realize I’m painfully alone in this (even Gardner doesn’t like this book), but it’s one of my favorite Bond books! I love the locations, the villain, the Indian torture ordeal at the end… and the book almost has a “Fleming sweep” to it. I don’t understand why this book has a bad reputation because for me it’s the best of the 90’s Gardner novels and one of his best books period.
CBn Forum 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