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John Gardner Saved the Literary Series

By Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)
November 10, 2004


The third Bond novelist, John Gardner owns the crown of “most Bond novels written” (16 in total), ahead of the series’ creator, Ian Fleming, who amassed 14 novels in his time. Colonel Sun, the first continuation-novel by Kingsley Amis, almost destroyed the series. The sales were poor, the story unimaginative and, as a result, Amis’s Colonel Sun was his first and final Bond novel. There’s no question John Gardner saved the literary series!

Licence Renewed: British Hardcover, First Edition, 1981

The Bond books needed a new direction, a path that would reap success and keep the Bond storybook flame alive. Glidrose Publishers turned to successful espionage author John Gardner, following his triumph with the “Boysie Oakes” series. Initially, Gardner rejected the offer sent to him by the publishing company; however, after some thought, he accepted the proposal. It was clear from the beginning that the new author had what it would take to write a successful Bond novel.

Originally, Gardner’s contract stipulated that just three novels would be written, but due to the overwhelming success of Licence Renewed, For Special Services and Icebreaker, he was again signed on for an extended contract. By the time Gardner retired from the Bond industry in 1996, he had accumulated 14 original Bond adventures, along with his two novelisations, and it didn’t matter that the following novels (subsequent to Icebreaker and even Role Of Honour) weren’t as successful. The main point was that the franchise had been improved and the Gardner-era proved that the James Bond character could survive, even without its inventor.

Cold: British Paperback, Sixth Edition, 1996

Keeping the novels going without Ian Fleming was the key factor that saved the series. The highly imaginative plots, involving motivating and appealing characters drove the success and provided readers with riveting reading. Gardner’s gripping, dexterous style of story-telling was the quintessential reason the struggling literary series jumped to its feet and began to profit. Had Gardner not intervened with his masterful storytelling ability, who knows where the Bond novels might be now? Most likely stuck on 15 adventures.

In establishing the fact that Gardner’s novels were extremely well-received, when compared with its lack-lustre precursor, the literary series' continued success (following on from Fleming’s final adventure, Octopussy) is all the result of Gardner’s triumphs as a Bond novelist. For an author to have 16 novels commissioned under his name he must be a savior. So the next time you take a shot at Gardner just remember I’ll be there to tell you, "it was he who saved the Bond literary series!"

Article written by Adam Farrington-Williams (FelixLeiter)

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