1. Looking Back: Win, Lose or Die

    By Devin Zydel on 2005-06-27

    In August of 1989 John Gardner’s eighth James Bond 007 novel, Win, Lose or Die, was published. Here CBn takes a look back at the book which saw the promotion of the literary James Bond from Commander to Captain.

    Win, Lose or Die UK First Edition Hardback

    UK First Edition Hardback

    Britain’s greatest spy returns, but not even James Bond has envisioned such a diabolical plan!

    In a curious change of assignment, James Bond, Commander RN, is transferred from the Foreign Office to the active sea duty aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. M’s explanation is twofold: Without blowing his cover, which must appear absolutely real to all involved, Bond must “mind” the British, Russian, and American admirals and their staffs on board the ship as observers during the annual four-week exercise in the North Sea.

    This is not a casual baby-sitting assignment. Regardless of the existing cooperation between the three superpowers, it is a situation laden with deadly possibilities. And the deadliest one of all explodes into reality when terrorists hijack Invincible and hold the ship hostage for a price higher than any country is willing to pay.

    Surrounded by enemies in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, Bond joins forces with the beautiful Russian naval attache to confront and destroy the terrorists who, with control of the ship, have control of the world.

    Fraught with the intrigue, explosive action, and technological wizardry that Bond fans have come to expect, Win, Lose or Die is a tour de force in the rousing Ian Fleming tradition.

    US First Edition Hardback


    • Bond is promoted from Commander to a Captain in this book, and remains Captain Bond for the rest of the Gardner books.
    • Raymond Benson named Win, Lose or Die as one of his favourites of Gardner’s Bond novels, saying: “This book ranks as one of the best of the Gardner Bonds for several reasons.
    • In doing research on the Harrier Jet, Gardner practiced in a Harrier simulator and described it as “Very hairy.
    • Win, Lose or Die contains the only appearance of Quarterdeck (M’s Residence) in a Gardner novel.

    Release Timeline

    • 1989: 1st British Hardback Edition
    • 1989: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
    • 1990: 1st British Coronet Open Market Edition
    • 1990: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
    • 1990: 1st British G.K. Hall Large Print Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition

    Relationship to the film series

    • Win, Lose or Die: Book: Bond dogfights in a Harrier fighter jet.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Bond dogfights in a MIG fighter jet.

    Forum Reviews

    I’m an attorney and one day I had to wait around in a Courtroom until late afternoon to argue a motion. I had Win, Lose or Die with me I had read maybe 50 pages before I got there and then read the rest of it while I waited. It was great, I felt like I was watching a Bond movie.

    CBn Forum member B007GLE

    I think turning Bond into a detective is what Gardner did a bit too much – it made him a glorified police officer. However, if I was going to suggest a Gardner I would probably rank this one up there.

    CBn Forum member Compliments Of Sharky

    Win, Lose or Die UK First Edition Paperback

    UK First Edition Paperback

    In Win, Lose or Die, Bond is doing all right up until around half-way, that’s where he starts missing things and essentially, he doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot to help the situation. The women always end up saving him and especially in the ending as well – where it was a bit weak, in my opinion. I would call this book one of the best after Icebreaker though.

    CBn Forum member deth

    Gardner did over do it just slightly with all the evil organisations: ‘BAST’.

    CBn Forum member James Boldman

    John’s been watching Top Gun again. Not unentertaining, but staggeringly unlikely; no evidence of Bond being a navy pilot before now. Isn’t he supposed to be about fifty in these books anyway? Still on the gaspers and the booze? Let’s shove him in a quadzillion pound aircraft then. I’m sure there are some villains in there somewhere, but buggered if I can remember what they’re up to and why. Title meaningless when you think about it. Real people? Check. Traitor and hotel rooms et cetera? Yep. OK, so it’s a bit of a twist on the norm but it’s a clear step away from the adventures of Commander James Bond, HMSS, and towards Captain James Boldman / John Bryce, RN, who is a considerably more boring character. Patchy.

    CBn Forum member Jim

    …on the Captain Bond promotion. I think it was an unnecessary touch to Bond, everyone knows him as a Commander, and there isn’t much point in promoting him to captain.

    CBn Forum member Johnboy007

    Win, Lose or Die UK Paperback

    UK Paperback

    Not bad, not great. I think I was thrown at first, because after the ‘Meek Ones’ from Scorpius, I was hoping that Gardner would stay away from these moist names for evil organizations, and the ‘Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror’ made me want to puke.

    The story was fine but, when did James Bond lose his balls? He’s now getting bailed out in just about every situation. He gets kicked in the crotch by a girl, and a Marine has to save him; he almost gets shot at the end, and Beatrice has to save him; and it seemed like the only people he’s able to kill in this book are the Wrens.

    CBn Forum member Jriv71

    Which Gardner book should be turned into a movie?

    Win, Lose Or Die has a decent title and I quite like the idea of Bond going back to the Navy. Nothing much else about it is worth keeping, but that’s enough to build a film on it seems.

    CBn Forum member marktmurphy

    It’s generally looked upon as an average James Bond continuation novel I would say. The Captain Bond bit may turn off some fans of course. It was one of the most difficult Gardner’s for me to track down, but it was a pleasent surprise compared with some of his others.

    CBn Forum member Qwerty

    Win, Lose or Die Large Print Editon

    Large Print Editon

    I’ve never read this Win, Lose Or Die, but its reputation is interesting. Numerous critical reviews at the time were very favorable, more so than with a lot of previous Gardner Bond books. But I find the fan reaction rather mixed such as here. My brother in particular said he didn’t like it very much.

    CBn Forum member Turn

    I liked the first half — good locations and relationship. I liked the “hook” of the book that Bond is going back to the Royal Navy. But it sort of lost me when Bond goes onboard the Invincible. He becomes too much of a detective for my tastes.

    CBn Forum member zencat

    The Looking Back at John Gardner Series:

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