The world’s media has begun to mark the passing of James Bond author John Gardner by publication of several obituaries.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald – where Gardner worked as a theatre critic in the 1950s and 1960s – published a lengthy biographical obituary with some fascinating insight into the writer’s lengthy career. The obituary quotes a 2005 interview with Gardner, in which he discussed his appointment as a 007 continuation author.
In 1979 John was approached to take on the writing of a set of new Bond novels. “Like a fool I said yes,” John told the Herald in 2005. “I was writing my own books almost side by side with the Bond books. I would hate to be remembered as the bloke who took over Bond. I would probably prefer not to be remembered at all.”
The obituary also features a number of absorbing anecdotes, including the author’s very own run-in with the KGB.
When he was working for the Herald, John reported from the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, did a lecture tour of the United States and visited Moscow with the RSC with Peter Brook and Paul Scofield, where he was arrested by the KGB.
“I don’t know why I was arrested,” he said. “They decided they didn’t like my face. They told me, ‘You’re under arrest. You’re not telling the truth’. A woman with a lovely moustache said, ‘I don’t think so’, every time I kept repeating my story. Then another lady rushed in and said, ‘Journalist!’. They then said, ‘You can go back to your hotel now’.”.
washingtonpost.com also published an obituary of the James Bond author, which looks at Gardner’s own vision for Ian Fleming’s character.
Regarded as serious and thoughtful, Mr. Gardner was said to lack sympathy for Bond’s obsession with high-end brand names and luxury products or for Bond’s restrictive view of the role of women.
But Mr. Gardner said he viewed writing the new Bond series as a challenge, and “once I got the bit between my teeth, I wasn’t going to let go.”
He said that he had hoped to add depth and dimension to the character, to make him grow and to bring him out of the world of fantasy into reality. Mr. Gardner’s approach was reflected in matters such as giving Bond a concern for gas mileage and putting him behind the wheel of a sturdy and sensible Saab.
If not sacrilege, it was close, Mr. Gardner said, and “the die-hard fans wouldn’t have any of it.” Recognizing himself as an entertainer above all else, Mr. Gardner bowed to marketplace demands. Although critics sometimes looked askance, a number of his Bond books made the New York Times bestseller list.