John Gardner, author of 14 James Bond continuation novels, has passed at the age of 80. He died on Friday, 3 August 2007 near his home in Basingstoke from a heart attack.
According to his daughter, Alexis, John Gardner phoned her at the time: ‘He told me he’d had a bit of a turn and thought he’d fainted. Two doctors happened to be passing and–typical of him–he said he didn’t need an ambulance. Then he took a turn for the worse and was rushed to hospital.’
In a career that has spanned over 40 years and over 50 novels and short story collections, John Gardner’s adventures featured many memorable characters including Boysie Oakes and, naturally, James Bond.
John Gardner was born in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, UK on 20 November 1926. Educated at King Alfred’s School and Wantage, Gardner graduated from St. John’s College in Cambridge and did postgraduate study at Oxford. Gardner then volunteered for service in the Royal Marines during World War II.
John Gardner’s father was a clergyman in the Church of England and encouraged Gardner to follow in his footsteps. Gardner was then ordained and served as a priest for seven years before deciding he did not have the proper vocation and withdrew from the clergy.
After a career that included journalism and theatre, John Gardner eventually moved onto writing novels. In 1964, his debut work, The Liquidator, was published. The novel featured a character named Boysie Oakes who has been recruited as a British secret agent because he is believed to be the perfect candidate for the job–when in fact, Oakes shows the character traits of a coward who would much rather be someplace else. The Liquidator was published just as Bondmania was sweeping throughout the world and became an instant success. It was adapted into a film in 1965 while a further seven novels featuring Oakes followed. The final novel was Killer For A Song in 1976.
After finding success with the Boysie Oakes series, Gardner continued with spy adventures in the novels featuring Derek Torry and Herbie Kruger throughout the next three decades. Additionally, he wrote three novels featuring the Railton family in the late 80’s and two novels using the character of Professor James Moriarty (archenemy of detective Sherlock Holmes) in the mid 70’s.
It was in 1981 that John Gardner was approached by Glidrose (Ian Fleming Publications) to see if he was interested in writing some James Bond continuation novels. After discussing the matter with his agent, he accepted and the result was Licence Renewed in May of 1981–the return of the literary 007.
Licence Renewed, which was met with favourable sales and reviews was followed by a further 13 Bond adventures, culminating with the publication of COLD (Cold Fall in the US) in 1996. Gardner also penned two novelizations during his tenure as the continuation author: Licence Renewed in 1989 and GoldenEye in 1995.
It was near the end of his Bond career, that John Gardner fell ill with cancer. Living in the US at the time, he eventually moved back to the UK in order to avoid the high medical costs associated with battling the disease.
Around the same time in 1997, Margaret Mercer, his wife of 45 years, passed away. At this point, he took a break from writing until 2001 when Day of Absolution was published and met with wide praise from literary critics. A new series featuring his character Detective Sergeant Suzie Mountford followed in 2002 with the publication of Bottled Spider.
While writing the Suzie Mountford novels, John Gardner (having moved back to the UK) reignited a friendship with his university sweetheart Patricia, whom he split from in 1949. He used her maiden name for the character of Mountford and the couple were engaged for a second time in 2004.
John Gardner’s final published work was 2004’s Troubled Midnight–the fourth novel in the Suzie Mountford series. The fifth novel, entitled No Human Enemy, will be published posthumously on 27 August 2007 in the UK.
‘James Bond Is Back’
John Gardner will always be associated with his many James Bond adventures for 007 fans. Whether it was the double-triple crosses, the return of SPECTRE, or the Silver Beast, there was–and still is–always something to discuss about each of his Bond continuation novels.
Over the past three years, CBn revisited each and every one of his sixteen James Bond adventures. Featuring trivia and reactions and reviews from forum members, take a look back at…
CBn wishes the best to the family and friends of John Gardner.