Monday, August 20, 2007

For those of you James Bond fans out there...

The author who took up the authorship of James Bond after the death of Ian Fleming in the 1960s is dead. From the Chicago Tribune...

John Gardner, a prolific British thriller writer who authored more novels about James Bond than Ian Fleming did, has died. He was 80.

The author died Aug. 3 after collapsing near his home in Basingstoke, England. The cause was heart failure, said his daughter Alexis Walmsley.

By turns an Anglican priest, marine commando, drama critic and semiprofessional magician, Mr. Gardner wrote four dozen books in a career of more than 40 years. He was best known for the 14 Bond novels he wrote in the 1980s and '90s, which continued the work of Bond's creator, Fleming. Fleming wrote 12 Bond books.

In Mr. Gardner's hands, Bond is every inch a late-20th Century man. He smokes low-tar cigarettes and, in an authorial choice that anguished 007 purists, drives a fuel-efficient Saab instead of his Bentley Mark II Continental. Perhaps most shocking of all, he drinks only in moderation.

Though the reaction of critics was mixed, the novels were embraced by all but the most orthodox Bondians and appeared regularly on The New York Times best seller list. Among Mr. Gardner's Bond titles are "License Renewed," "Win, Lose or Die," "Brokenclaw" and, most recently, "Cold Fall."

John Edmund Gardner was born in the Northumberland region of England. His father was a priest in the Church of England.

As a boy, Mr. Gardner longed to become a writer, but his first job was in magic. An enthusiastic amateur magician, he auditioned in 1943 for the entertainment department of the American Red Cross. At 17 he was traveling to hospitals throughout England, performing for wounded American soldiers.

Toward the end of World War II, Mr. Gardner served in the Far and Middle East as a Royal Marine commando. He was, by his own account, "the worst commando in the world." While learning to fly, for instance, he bent an airplane, not an easy thing to do.

After the war, Mr. Gardner earned a bachelor's degree in theology from Cambridge, followed by study at Oxford. He received ordination as an Anglican priest in 1953. But he soon realized the vocation was not for him and left the priesthood after five years.

In the late 1950s and early '60s, Mr. Gardner worked as a newspaper drama critic. His first novel, published in 1964, was "The Liquidator." Its hero, Boysie Oakes, is an anti-Bond. Recruited as a secret agent entirely by mistake, Oakes is inept, vulgar and so cowardly that he hires a subcontractor to do his killing for him. Seven more Oakes novels followed.

After Fleming's death in 1964, his literary executors searched for a writer to continue the series, eventually settling on Mr. Gardner.
To be sure I read the novelization for Goldeneye that he wrote many years ago. I enjoyed it. And you know what else I have the novel Diamonds are Forever on my bookcase that I bought from the old defunt Crown Books many years ago. I never read it however.

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