In August of 1991 John Gardner’s tenth James Bond novel, The Man From Barbarossa, a particular 007 novel which has divided fans in their opinion of it for many years. CBn takes a look back with release dates, publication blurbs, trivia, and forum reactions at the author’s personal favourite of his James Bond novels.
A case of mistaken identities pits 007 against a new breed of international terrorists in John Gardner’s tenth contribution to the best-selling James Bond series.
When Joel Penderek is kidnapped from his New Jersey home, the unknown clandestine Russian organization The Scales of Justice takes credit for the abduction. Claiming that Penderek is really Josif Vorontsov, a Ukrainian who had a hand in the infamous Babi Yar massacre and later served with devastating brutality as a guard at the Polish death camp of Sobibor, The Scales Of Justice vows to bring Penderek to trial.
But before the group can do so, James Bond receives word that the undergound movement has snatched the wrong man. The real Vorontsov lives in Florida, where he has been under Israeli surveillance. Further complications arise when The Scales of Justice begins a killing spree within the most secret and protected ranks of the Russian military. Clearly, the renegade group has infiltrated the Kremlin itself, but nobody knows to what end until Bond and his international team of undercover operatives, including the luscious Nina Bibikova, discover a plot by the mastermind behind the criminals, a villain so ruthless that his unscrupulous motives will subject the world to an extreme and unbelievable horror unless Bond can stop him first.
Fraught with nerve-racking deception, explosive action, and double-cross after double-cross, The Man From Barbarossa is a slam-bang thriller that will leave the reader breathless.
US First Edition Hardback
- John Gardner names The Man From Barbarossa as the best of all his James Bond novels. It was also, apparently, the favourite of Glidrose. But the American publisher was not as happy with the book complaining it had strayed too far from the formula.
- It was reported the reason a different 007 silhouette was used on the U.S. cover of TMFB was because Eon complained that the image Putnam had been using (most recently on Brokenclaw) looked too much like Pierce Brosnan. The “Bond of record” in 1991 was Timothy Dalton.
- 1991: 1st British Hardback Edition
- 1991: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
- 1991: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
- 1992: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition
- 1992: 1st American Eagle Large Print/Chivers Large Print Edition
- 1992: 1st American John Curley Large Print Edition
Relationship to the film series
- The Man From Barbarossa: Baku, Azerbaijan is a major location.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999) – Baku, Azerbaijan is a major location.
I don’t like this book at all. So boring.
CBn Forum member Cesari
The Man From Barbarossa Rules! I’ve told this before, and I’m telling this now. Ok, it has some regular Gardner flaws, like his favourite loose ends and far-fetched double-crosses, and I admit that the villain is somewhat weak, but on the other hand, it IS a spy-thriller (!), full of thrilling cloak-n-dagger details.
Some people say the pace of the plot is too slow. Hey! Those must re-read Casino Royale and Moonraker. Too fast for you?
Besides, I’m Russian, and I like the way Gardner describes this country of the 90s.
CBn Forum member Grubozaboyschikov
I think it would work better without the requisite villainous scheme tacked on to the end. Seems to start off with a Soviet coup and show trials, and ends up something about the Gulf War. The two (three?) elements didn’t hang together, in the scales of justice.
And once again, we have Bond seconded to a group of foreign agents, one or more of whom may not be entirely trustworthy.
Yet another one where John didn’t know quite how to end it.
CBn Forum member Jim
I think if I hadn’t been so rushed in reading this one, I may have enjoyed it more. I certainly don’t hate this book, but this isn’t one I plan on re-reading many times over in the future.
CBn Forum member Johnboy007
Go ahead, starting ripping me a new one. I like this book. I do. I just left another thread discussing Gardner, and a recurring thought came to me…I like Gardner much better when he tries to be like LeCarre (or ends up that way), rather than like Fleming (which he cannot), or the screenwriters who need to give the Bond villain a limp, or a deformity, or the overdone evil lair, with a helo-pad.
Fleming never overdid the now-famous hollowed out volcano, that was the writers/producers of the films. When Gardner’s books do that, I tend to tune out a bit. This book was reminiscent of Nobody Lives Forever or No Deals, Mr. Bond (not completely, just in small ways) or some of LeCarre’s stuff (of course not nearly as complex); it just had James Bond acting like a spy, or looking for Russians or other spies. (He’s a spy.) In the wake of so-called ‘Glasnost’ there are now good Russians and bad Russians, throw in the Holocaust angle (always fun), and Bond working with the French, KGB and Mossad, and you don’t need to over-do the bad guy.
This is probably my favorite Gardner novel. It’s the only one I remembered much about after having read them over a decade ago. I can usually gauge my interest by, how long it takes me to read it, and this was a page-turner. Never fell asleep reading it on the subway.
CBn Forum member Jriv71
I did also enjoy The Man From Barbarossa very much. Not the typical Bond story, as you said, but still very intriguing and well-written.
One of Gardners better ones actually…
CBn Forum member Kronsteen
Indeed, this is a case of love it or hate it. Personally, I completely disagree with the notion that The Man From Barbarossa is a failed experiment. It’s one of my personal favorite Gardner novels. In fact, I believe Gardner has said it is his favorite of all of his novels. One cannot become a slave to the 007 formula lest the whole game become stale. One thing is certain: The Man From Barbarossa is unique among the Bond canon.
CBn Forum member MicroGlobe One
I remember the one time I read this. I had only a few pages left at one point, and I couldn’t force myself to do it. I did read them later, but at a different sitting. I was completely bored by this book.
CBn Forum member Neil S. Bulk
Fleming, Amis, Pearson, Wood, Gardner, Benson, etc… this novel is my least favourite of them all. I’ve tried several times to like it: still haven’t succeeded. Perhaps sometime in the future.
CBn Forum member Qwerty
I’ve read it twice and I just can’t seem to get into it. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad Bond book. It just doesn’t work for me. But I’m happy to hear why people like this book because maybe that will help me see it in a different light.
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