John Gardner (British writer)

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Gardner
John Gardner, circa 1984
John Gardner, circa 1984
Born(1926-11-20)20 November 1926
Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, England
Died3 August 2007(2007-08-03) (aged 80)
Basingstoke, Hampshire, England
Alma materSt John's College, Cambridge
GenreSpy fiction, crime fiction
Notable worksBoysie Oakes novels;
continuation James Bond novels
SpouseMargaret Mercer
(1952–1997, her death)

John Edmund Gardner (20 November 1926 – 3 August 2007) was an English spy and thriller novelist, best known for his James Bond continuation novels, but also for his series of Boysie Oakes books and three continuation novels containing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional villain, Professor Moriarty.

Gardner, an ex-Royal Marine commando, was for a period an Anglican priest, but he lost his faith and left the church after a short time. After recovering from alcohol addiction, he wrote his first book, the autobiographical Spin the Bottle published in 1964.

Gardner wrote over 50 works of fiction, including 14 original James Bond novels, and the novel versions of two Bond films. He died from suspected heart failure on 3 August 2007.

Early life[edit]

John Edmund Gardner was born on 20 November 1926 in Seaton Delaval, a village in Northumberland. His parents were Cyril Gardner, a London-born Anglican priest who had been ordained in Wallsend in 1921, and Lena Henderson, a local girl; the couple were married in 1925.[1] In 1933, the family moved to the market town of Wantage in what was then Berkshire, where Cyril took up the position of Chaplain at St Mary's, Wantage, and Gardner was educated at the local King Alfred's School.[1]

During the Second World War, he joined the Home Guard, despite being only 13 at the time.[2] Gardner subsequently served in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, before transferring to the Royal Marines 42 Commando for service in the Middle and Far East.[3] Gardner considered himself "the worst commando in the world"[4] and, despite being "a small-arms expert ... [who] also knew a lot about explosives",[4] he admitted that he "bent an aeroplane I was learning to fly".[1]

After the war, he went up to St John's College, Cambridge, to study theology and was subsequently ordained as an Anglican priest in 1953.[5] He realised that he had lost his faith and made an error in his career;[3] he later admitted that during one sermon, "I didn't believe a word I was saying".[4] He was released from the church in 1958[4] and took up a position as a drama critic with the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.[5] It was whilst at the Herald at age 33 that Gardner realised he was an alcoholic, drinking two bottles of gin a day. He overcame his addiction and produced his first book as part of his therapy: the autobiographical Spin the Bottle, published in 1964.[2] Critic and scholar John Sutherland says that of all the books Gardner published, it was "the one that most deserves to survive."[6]

Writing career[edit]

In 1964, Gardner began his novelist career with The Liquidator, in which he created the character Boysie Oakes who inadvertently is mistaken to be a tough, pitiless man of action and is thereupon recruited into a British spy agency.[7] In fact, Oakes was a devout coward who was terrified of violence, suffered from airsickness and was afraid of heights[8] and Gardner admitted of him that, "though I have denied it many times—he was of course a complete piss-take of J. Bond".[9] The book appeared at the height of the fictional spy mania and, as a send-up of the whole business, was an immediate success.[10] Upon reviewing the novel in The New York Times, Anthony Boucher wrote, "Mr. Gardner succeeds in having it both ways: He has written a clever parody which is also a genuinely satisfactory thriller."[11] The book was made into a film of the same name by MGM and another seven light-hearted novels and four short stories about the cowardly Oakes appeared over the next eleven years.[12]

Following the success of his Oakes books, Gardner created new characters: Derek Torry—a Scotland Yard inspector of Italian descent[13]—and Herbie Kruger,[14] the latter of which appeared in a series of novels published simultaneously with his Bond works.[15] In the mid-1970s Gardner also wrote the first of three novels using the character of Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series, the last of which was published posthumously.[16] The third of this series, titled simply Moriarty, was delayed due to a dispute with the publisher, but was finally released shortly after his death.[17] Erik Lee Preminger bought the film rights to the first of the trilogy - The Return of Moriarty - and wrote a script. Edgar Bronfman Jr., for Sagittarius Entertainment and Nat Cohen, for EMI Productions were to produce. Donald Sutherland was to portray Moriarty. Funding however fell through shortly before filming was to begin.[18][19]

In 1979,[20] Glidrose Publications (now Ian Fleming Publications) approached Gardner and asked him to revive Ian Fleming's James Bond series of novels.[3] Between 1981 and 1996, Gardner wrote fourteen James Bond novels, and the novelizations of two Bond films.[21] Gardner stated that he wanted "to bring Mr Bond into the 1980s",[22] although he retained the ages of the characters as they were when Fleming had left them.[23] Even though Gardner kept the ages the same, he made Bond grey at the temples as a nod to the passing of the years.[24] With the influence of the American publishers, Putnam's, the Gardner novels showed an increase in the number of Americanisms used in the book, such as a waiter wearing "pants", rather than trousers, in The Man from Barbarossa.[25] James Harker, writing in The Guardian, considered that the Gardner books were "dogged by silliness",[25] giving examples of Scorpius, where much of the action is set in Chippenham, and Win, Lose or Die, where "Bond gets chummy with an unconvincing Maggie Thatcher".[25] Whilst Gardner's Bond novels received a mixed reaction from the critics, they were popular and a number appeared in The New York Times Best Seller list,[26] bringing the author commercial success.[27]

Gardner had an ambivalent view on being the Bond author, once saying: "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",[15] while saying on another occasion that: "I remain proud that my contribution to the Bond saga played a great part in its development".[12] In the mid-1990s, after discovering he had oesophageal cancer, Gardner officially retired from writing Bond novels[3] and Glidrose Publications quickly chose Raymond Benson to continue the literary stories of James Bond.[28]

His break from writing lasted for five years, following the death of his wife,[12] but after battling his illness he returned to print in 2000 with a new novel, Day of Absolution.[29] Gardner also began a series of books with a new character, Suzie Mountford, a 1930s police detective.[2]

The Globe and Mail crime critic Derrick Murdoch said, "John Gardner is technically a highly competent thriller novelist who never seems to be quite at ease unless he is writing in the same vein as another writer. (He has worked John le Carré and Graham Greene this way, and it's what makes him so well qualified to continue the James Bond saga.)"[30]

The Crime Writers' Association short-listed The Liquidator, The Dancing Dodo, The Nostradamus Traitor, and The Garden of Weapons for their annual Gold Dagger award.[31]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952 Gardner married Margaret Mercer[5] and the couple had two children, Simon and Alexis.[3] Gardner also had another daughter, Miranda, the result of a long affair with Susan Wright, a former personal assistant to Peter Sellers.[1] In 1989, Gardner and his family moved to the United States and it was in America that he was diagnosed with cancer; firstly of the prostate and then, six years later, of the oesophagus.[32] The subsequent medical treatment in the US left him near bankrupt[1] and he returned to the UK in November 1996.[32] Shortly after his return, in February 1997, Margaret died unexpectedly.[3][32]

When Gardner returned to writing, his second book, Bottled Spider, introduced a new character, Detective Sergeant Suzie Mountford. Gardner took the surname from Patricia Mountford, an ex-girlfriend to whom he had been engaged in 1949. When she read the book Mountford contacted Gardner through his publishers[33] and the two were subsequently engaged.[5]


Gardner died on Friday 3 August 2007 from suspected heart failure. He collapsed while shopping in Basingstoke; he was later casually driven to hospital, where he died.[citation needed]



  • Spin the Bottle (1964)[34]

Boysie Oakes novels[edit]

  • The Liquidator (1964)[35]
  • Understrike (1965)
  • Amber Nine (1966)[36]
  • Madrigal (1967)
  • Founder Member (1969)
  • Traitor's Exit (1970)
  • The Airline Pirates (1970) - published in the US as Air Apparent
  • A Killer for a Song (1975)

Two Boysie Oakes short stories appear in Hideaway (1968) (A Handful of Rice, Corkscrew).
Two Boysie Oakes short stories appear in The Assassination File (1974) (Boysie Oakes and The Explosive Device, Sunset at Paleokastritsa).

Derek Torry novels[edit]

Professor Moriarty novels[edit]

  • The Return of Moriarty (1974)[38]
  • The Revenge of Moriarty (1975)[39]
  • Moriarty (2008)

Herbie Kruger novels[edit]

  • The Nostradamus Traitor (1979)[40]
  • The Garden of Weapons (1980)
  • The Quiet Dogs (1982)
  • Maestro (1993)[41]
  • Confessor (1995)

Herbie Kruger also appears in The Secret Houses and The Secret Families.

The Railton family novels[edit]

  • The Secret Generations (1985)[42]
  • The Secret Houses (1988)
  • The Secret Families (1989)

James Bond novels[edit]

Detective Sergeant Suzie Mountford novels[edit]

  • Bottled Spider (2002)[44]
  • The Streets of Town (2003)
  • Angels Dining at the Ritz (2004)
  • Troubled Midnight (2005)
  • No Human Enemy (2007)[45]

Other novels[edit]

  • The Censor (1970)[46]
  • Every Night's a Bullfight (1971) (Published in the US in a bowdlerized edition as Every Night's a Festival in 1972.)
  • To Run a Little Faster (1976)
  • The Werewolf Trace (1977)
  • The Dancing Dodo (1978)
  • Golgotha (1980) - (Published in the US as The Last Trump)
  • The Director (1982) (A re-working of his 1971 novel Every Night's a Bullfight.)
  • Flamingo (1983)
  • Blood of the Fathers (1992) (as by "Edmund McCoy". Later published under his own name in 2004.)
  • Day of Absolution (2001)[47]

Short story collections[edit]

  • Hideaway (1968) (Contains two Boysie Oakes stories.)
  • The Assassination File (1974) (Contains two Boysie Oakes stories.)


  1. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Arnie (7 August 2007). "John Gardner; Thriller writer who revived Bond". The Independent. London. p. 35.
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary: John Gardner". The Times. London. 9 August 2007. p. 65.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ripley, Mike (2 November 2007). "John Gardner; Prolific thriller writer behind the revival of James Bond and Professor Moriarty". The Guardian. London. p. 41.
  4. ^ a b c d Weil, Martin (9 August 2007). "Novelist John Gardner; Reimagined Fleming's James Bond". The Washington Post. Washington. p. B07.
  5. ^ a b c d Fox, Margalit (29 August 2007). "John Gardner, Who Continued the James Bond Series, Dies at 80". The New York Times. New York. p. 21.
  6. ^ Sutherland 2011, p. 226.
  7. ^ Britton 2005, p. 107.
  8. ^ McCormick 1977, p. 84.
  9. ^ Sutherland 2011, p. 89.
  10. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". Liverpool Daily Post. Liverpool. 8 August 2007. p. 13.
  11. ^ Boucher, Anthony (18 October 1964). "Criminals at Large". The New York Times. New York. p. BR46.
  12. ^ a b c "The Past". John Gardner. Estate of John Gardner. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  13. ^ Hubin, Allen J. (5 October 1969). "Criminals at Large". The New York Times. New York. p. BR36.
  14. ^ Binyon, T. J. (26 December 1980). "Criminal proceedings". The Times Literary Supplement. London. p. 1458.
  15. ^ a b "Gardner, whose thrillers include 14 Bond books, dies at 80". CBC News. 30 August 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  16. ^ Cohen, George (4 January 1976). "Guess who didn't really kill whom at Reichenbach Falls". Chicago Tribune. Chicago. p. G3.
  17. ^ Anderson, Patrick (24 November 2008). "Lord of the Lurkers and Dollymops". The Washington Post. Washington. p. C08.
  18. ^ Hirsch 2011, p. unknown.
  19. ^ Kilday, Gregg (8 September 1976). "A Dream Movie From Altman". Los Angeles Times. p. E10.
  20. ^ Adrian 1991, p. 418.
  21. ^ "John Gardner (1926–2007)". The Books. London: Ian Fleming Publications. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  22. ^ Black 2005, p. 185.
  23. ^ Benson 1988, p. 61.
  24. ^ Benson 1988, p. 149.
  25. ^ a b c Harker, James (2 June 2011). "James Bond's changing incarnations". Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  26. ^ Clymer, Adam (20 August 2007). "John Gardner, Bond novelist". International Herald Tribune. Paris. p. 4.
  27. ^ Panja, Tariq (30 August 2007). "John Gardner, prolific British writer who authored 14 James Bond novels, dies at 80". Associated Press Worldstream. London.
  28. ^ "Raymond Benson". The Books. London: Ian Fleming Publications. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  29. ^ "Gardner, John: Day of Absolution". Kirkus Reviews. 15 August 2000.
  30. ^ Murdoch, Derrick (24 December 1983). "It's a Crime: At home with Bogart, Bergman and Cuddles". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. p. E.13.
  31. ^ Sobin 2011, p. 1869.
  32. ^ a b c Pukas, Anna (6 July 2002). "Writer Who Took on the Bond Mission". Daily Express. London. p. 51.
  33. ^ "Writer dates his character". The Sunday Times. Johannesburg. 24 October 2004. p. 3.
  34. ^ "John Gardner". 28 March 2019.
  35. ^ Benson, Raymond (2012). "The James Bond Bedside Companion".
  36. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  37. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  38. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  39. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  40. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  41. ^ "John Gardner". 28 March 2019.
  42. ^ "THE SECRET GENERATIONS | Kirkus Reviews".
  43. ^ Benson, Raymond (2012). "The James Bond Bedside Companion".
  44. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  45. ^ "Obituary: John Gardner". 2 November 2007.
  46. ^ The censor. New English Library. 1970. ISBN 9780450006098. OCLC 59253369.
  47. ^ "In his own words – John Gardner".


External links[edit]