Tuesday, August 07, 2007

R.I.P. John Gardner

Via SFScope, I see that John Gardner has died. I read a great many of his James Bond novels as a child. I was very fond of Licensed Renewed, and didn't understand why they didn't chose that for a film, though the series degenerated as it went on. Gardner's attempts to update Bond for the 80s seemed to take the edge off the character, even as I appreciated the fact that his James Bond was supposed to be Ian Fleming's version - the one who was born around 1920 and attended Eton in the early 30s, not the cinematic one. He made a few concessions to the films though, particularly in striking a compromise between the books lack of gadgets and the films absurdities by having Bond equip himself with real counter-intelligence devices, all "obtainable on either the open, or clandestine, markets." He went so far as to have Communication Control Systems, Ltd design the modifications for Bond's car, a Saab (not a choice of automobile that really worked for me as well as any of his three Bentleys.)

SFScope reports that Gardner told friends: "Unhappily, I feel I'm probably going to be remembered as the 'guy who took over from Fleming'. I'm very grateful to have been selected to keep Bond alive. But I'd much rather be remembered for my own work than I would for Bond." With that in mind, I'm very happy to report that it was his 1983 novel Flamingo that was my favorite. The story of Harry Byrd, a cafe owner in 1930s Shanghai, instilled me with a lifelong desire to visit that city that was only fulfilled a few years ago (and a desire to run a cafe in 1930 that's still unfulfilled.)

Meanwhile, it looks like Gardner's Bond novels are going to be de-canonized, with Sebastian Faulks' forthcoming Devil May Care taking place immediately after the Fleming series. I understand that the Faulks, the Fleming, and the new Charlie Higson Young James Bond series will form the official continuity now, and the focus on keeping Bond in the 30s and 60s makes me curious enough to want to read both the Faulks and the Higson. In the meanwhile, maybe someone like Hard Case Crime can put Gardner's other work back into print. And maybe Gardner can get his wish.

1 comment:

Blue Tyson said...

That is interesting, Lou. I didn't know about this new one, thanks.

Didn't think much of the Gardner Bond books, but only read a couple.