1. Looking Back: Licence To Kill

    By Devin Zydel on 2007-06-01

    Completing the CBn John Gardner ‘Looking Back’ series will be his 1989 novelization, Licence To Kill (released after original novel Scorpius and before Win, Lose Or Die). This is the first of two James Bond novelisations written by Gardner, the first being GoldenEye in 1995. As is the case with the GoldenEye novelization, Licence To Kill has become one of the more difficult novels for Bond fans to collect, but it is worth the effort. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions…

    James Bond is back… And in this exciting novelization of the major motion picture, “Gardner maintains the Bond tradition!” (Indianapolis News), as the phenomenal Agent 007, created by Ian Fleming, continues his incredible forays into danger.

    This time, Bond’s in the Florida Keys, on leave from the British Secret Service, where he’s about to be best man at the wedding of his old friend, ex-CIA agent Felix Leiter, who now heads the DEA. On their way to church, they learn that billionaire druglord Franz Sanchez is within reach in the Bahamas. After a land and air chase that finds Bond reeling in Sanchez’ aircraft while dangling beneath a state-of-the-art Coast Guard Aerospatiale helicopter, the vicious criminal is captured.

    But soon Sanchez is freed in a cleverly engineered escape, and he exacts a horrible revenge on Leiter and his bride. What started out as a joyous wedding becomes a nightmare for Bond as he’s pitted against a master villain who gives the word “bad” a new dimension. 007 is prepared to do anything: ignore Secret Service orders… even lose his licence to kill.

    This new James Bond adventure has no lack of high-powered motor propulsion… or threatening modes of death (including sharks and electric eels). And, of course, the beautiful Bond girls and the Secret Service team of “Q”, “M” and Miss Moneypenny have their parts to play in Licence To Kill

    A United Artists release, the motion picture Licence To Kill stars Timothy Dalton as James Bond and features a star-studded supporting cast.

    US Book Club Hardback Edition


    Japanese edition of 'Licence To Kill'

    Japanese edition of Licence To Kill

    • The only John Gardner novel/novelization that was not released in a Large Print format.
    • There was no UK hardback release of Licence To Kill–only the Coronet paperback edition
    • In the US, the first true release of the novel was the 1989 Charter paperback edition (there is also a US Book Club hardback edition that uses the same cover art). What followed were four extremely rare hardback releases: A signed/slipcased hardback (limited to 26 lettered editions), a signed/slipcased hardback (limited to 100 numbered editions), an unsigned blue-colored hardback, and a trade hardback that uses cover art similar to the UK paperback. Any and all hardback editions of Licence To Kill fetch very high prices on eBay making it one of the more difficult Gardner novels to obtain for collectors; the others being GoldenEye and COLD.

    ‘The Bond series can still hold the reader!’

    Sacramento Bee

    Release Timeline

    • 1989: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
    • 1989: 1st American Charter Paperback Edition
    • 1989: 1st American Book Club Hardback Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Armchair Detective Library Lettered Limited Hardback Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Armchair Detective Library Numbered Limited Hardback Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Armchair Detective Library Hardback Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Armchair Detective Library Trade Hardback Edition

    Forum Reviews

    Just read Gardner’s Licence To Kill novelization, it was a pretty good read, more action packed than the usual Gardner outing of course. One thing about it was curious though – Gardner appears to try and make Licence To Kill part of the book canon. Bizarrely, it is revealed that Felix Leiter had ALREADY been mauled by the shark in Live And Let Die the book, and now he gets the mauling again, with his artificial arm and leg getting bitten off?! This didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. Why did he incorporate the events of Live And Let Die into the story?

    Stranger still, we don’t even get the shark mauling scene in the book, which is the pivotal event of the entire film. Nor do we get a lot of Sanchez’s early scenes, like talking to Krest at the warehouse or offering a bribe to Killifer (Killifer himself talks about this scene to Felix…its kind of odd that Killifer would say this in front of Felix and Bond when presumably he’d already accepted Sanchez’s offer.) I guess perhaps Gardner was trying to make it more book-like by keeping the villain mostly out of sight until the second half, I’ve noticed many of his and Fleming’s stories like to do this.
    Yeah anyway it wasn’t bad, I’ll give it a moderate thumbs up.

    CBn Forum member ‘dinovelvet’

    I like it that he tries to reconcile Leiter’s injuries with those he suffered in the novels. Since Gardner is writing in book format, it makes sense to make Felix’s injuries fall in line with the previously written works. I’ve always felt that the books were one medium or series and the films were another and Gardner’s Licence To Kill follows that line of thinking. It’s a really good read too–one of my favorites.

    CBn Forum member ‘Double Oh-Agent’

    Definitely not You Only Live Twice material, and not as good as Gardner’s own Icebreaker, but it isn’t all that bad.

    I’d classify it with James Bond and Moonraker, the second Wood novelisation which followed the screenplay so closely that I found it tedious to read through. Not that Licence To Kill was tedious, but it seems to be the most comparable novelisation–a step above Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.

    CBn Forum member ‘General Koskov’

    I find the novelization even worse than the movie, and that isn’t good. It was poorely written with no lame descriptions of characters and locations. The locations were also very boring, not exotic at all (that is the scripts fault of course).

    The Licence To Kill novelization was a very poor effort from Mr. Gardner…

    CBn Forum member ‘Kronsteen’

    Personally, I found it quite amusing. Of course, it’s not so good as The Spy Who Loved Me novelization. (No one has yet come close to Wood’s work. The only tie-in I respect). Still Licence To Kill is on the level with Win, Lose Or Die, No Deals, Mr. Bond and other good Gardner’s works. If I hadn’t seen the movie, I would take the Licence To Kill novelization as another book in the series. Which I cannot say about the GoldenEye book. GoldenEye seem to be a flop.

    CBn Forum member ‘Grubozaboyschikov’

    That novelisation is probably my favorite Bond work by Gardner. I always felt that he was a so-so story-teller, but great with words (I guess this is the general concensus, though).

    CBn Forum member ‘Pussfeller’

    In my opinion, John Gardner’s Licence To Kill novelization is one of the better entries in the “rollercoaster” of highs and lows (in terms of fan appeal) that starts after No Deals, Mr. Bond.

    As is the case with his GoldenEye novelization, Gardner was able to create one of his better Bond adventures with the general storyline already plotted out by the screenplay. Recommended.

    CBn Forum member ‘Qwerty’

    The Looking Back at John Gardner Series:

    Related Articles: