Looking Back: Nobody Lives Forever
In June of 1986 John Gardner’s fifth James Bond 007 novel, Nobody Lives Forever, was published. Continuing on after his previous James Bond novels Licence Renewed, For Special Services, Icebreaker, and Role Of Honour, this fifth original 007 adventure was the final novel of the SPECTRE returns trilogy, and is often considered to be one of Gardner’s best. CBn takes a look back at Nobody Lives Forever. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions.
Many have tried; few have succeeded.
Not even James Bond’s most desperate adversaries, not even all the global resources of a SMERSH or a SPECTRE under the diabolical leadership of Ernst Stavro Blofeld or, in more recent days, Colonel Tamil Rahani, have managed to defeat 007.
But is it because no one has discovered 007’s soft spot?
It all starts innocently enough: the suave James Bond is on leave in Europe, motoring across France in his Bentley Mulsanne Turbo on his way to visit friends in Italy, then to a sanitorium in Austria, where his devoted housekeeper, May, is convalescing from a serious illness. Soon enough, however, ominous events begin to take place: Sudden death strikes at least four people who come close to Bond during his journey. Coincidences? Perhaps. But is Bond’s encounter with the wealthy and beauteous brown-eyed Sukie Tempesta, known as “La Principessa”, or her cohort, the equally charming “Nannie” Norwich, who heads the world’s only female bodyguard service, truly a coincidence?
Then a phone call comes, from May’s doctor at the sanitorium: Bond’s housekeeper has been kidnapped, and with her a familiar visitor, M’s secretary and Bond’s longtime (if discreet) admirer, Miss Moneypenny.
Soon enough Bond realizes what has happened. There is a contract out in the espionage world: ten million Swiss francs for James Bond’s head literally severed and delivered on a silver charger. The donor: none other than Tamil Rahani himself, who was last seen (in John Gardner’s Role Of Honour) plummeting from an airship in Lake Geneva.
Nobody Lives Forever is vintage Bond and the best of the bestselling cycle of James Bond novels created by John Gardner, which began with Licence Renewed, Told at a breaknevk pace, marked by unforseen pitfalls and twisting turns that confound Bond as much as his readers, it propels us from the winding roads of the Tyrolean Alps to a shark-defended island off the coast of Key West and a locked room that contains but a slant-bladed device long favored by head-severers: the guillotine.
Filled with double-crosses that will throw off even the most seasoned Bond hand, this is high-tech, high-tension thriller writing at its very best, proving once more and for all that Nobody Lives Forever.
US First Edition Hardback
- Gardner came up with the idea for this book after asking friends what they’d like to see in a James Bond story. Most had a desire to see a highly personal story as opposed to a traditional secret service mission.
- Gardner’s original title was “You Only Die Once.”
- The artwork on the UK edition of Nobody Lives Forever would be the last of the Richard Chopping inspired designs.
- The titles of chapter one differ between the UK and US editions: ‘The Road South’ vs ‘No Way to Start a Vacation’.
- 1986: 1st British Jonathan Cape Hardback Edition
- 1986: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
- 1986: 1st American Landmark Large Print Edition
- 1986: 1st Coronet/General Paperbacks Paperback Edition
- 1987: 1st American Charter Paperback Edition
- 1987: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
Relationship to the film series
- Nobody Lives Forever: Key West is a featured location.
- Licence To Kill (1989) – Key West is a featured location.
- Nobody Lives Forever: Tomboyish female bodyguard Nannie Norwich uses a small gun that she conceals in a leg garter holster.
- Licence To Kill (1989) – Tomboyish CIA Pilot Pan Bouvier uses a small gun that she conceals a leg garter holster.
License Renewed to Nobody Lives Forever are all very good in my opinion. After that it is much more hit or miss.
CBn Forum member B007GLE
Nobody Lives Forever just seemed like a Robert Ludlum novel to me, which I didn’t appreciate.
CBn Forum member ComplimentsOfSharky
It was what got me into Bond in 1986 as a 13 year old, easily one of his best along with all the early Gardners.
CBn Forum member dennisbolt
Nobody Lives Forever: First Bond book by anyone I ever read. I was nine. Forgive me. Had tried Goldfinger having seen it on TV, but it was booorrrinnnnggg. I was nine. Forgive me. But this, this was vampire bats. Great. Guillotines. Great. A traitor. Great. Long sequences in a hotel room. Er…great.
CBn Forum member Jim
Anyway, I must say I really enjoyed this one. Plot: Kill Bond.
It’s much deeper than that but, for once, no plans to destroy the world, or to infiltrate a nuclear power plant (which would of course destroy the world), or to destroy England’s economy (which would, well, you know…) Hey, nothing wrong with the ‘Bond Formula’ here, but I loved the revenge aspect in Gardner’s fifth novel. This was just exciting from the word Go. Loved the Head Hunt.
Small complaint: Tamil Rahani didn’t do it for me. I mean, he was OK but, I still don’t care that he’s the ‘new’ head of SPECTRE. We don’t need SPECTRE anymore. (I won’t exactly be waiting with baited breath to see if they return later in the series.) That being said, it was good that Gardner let a bad guy survive one novel, to have this vendetta against Bond, in the next. It wasn’t without its holes, but overall, I really enjoyed Nobody Lives Forever.
CBn Forum member Jriv71
Very good Gardner Bond/SPECTRE novel, plus I always love Bond in a Bentley. Tamil Rahani was a good villian – why other feel different is beyond me.
CBn Forum member kevrichardson
Orignal stories can turn out very well, but this didn’t. The first 5-6 chapters was very interesting and it caught my attention, but the rest was lame. They just kept going around in Europe. The end in Key West was also quite boring. No real tempo…
CBn Forum member Kronsteen
Nobody Lives Forever is quite a good read, but the only thing that annoyed me was the amount of times Gardner said that Der Haken was otherwise known as Inspector Heinrich Osten. He must have referred to it umpteen times, which was quite frustrating. However, it was nice to see a bit more of Miss Moneypenny in a story for once.
CBn Forum member scaramanga
Nobody Lives Forever is a great Gardner book. One of the best. I love the women, and I love how Gardner paints the Key West location. I also really like how Bond does in the bad guy.
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