Friday, January 6, 2017
A project of mine last year was to read or listen to all the James Bond novels written by British thriller novelist John Gardner in the 1980's and 90's. I had read a handful of them when they were originally published and had liked them, so my project last year was to reacquaint myself with the ones I had enjoyed and to finally get to all the ones I hadn't back then.
The project went pretty well, aided by the fact that quality audio recordings of most of books are now available. Actually, the project is still going on. I read the first two entries (actually using my old hardback copies from way back when), Licence Renewed and For Special Services, as they for some reason aren't yet available on audio. Then, periodically throughout the year, I listened to the next several books on audio, enjoying the excellent new productions read by Simon Vance offered at Audible.com.
I listened to Icebreaker; Role of Honour; Nobody Lives Forever; No Deals, Mr. Bond; Scorpius; and Win, Lose, or Die. Then I switched back to old-fashioned reading for Licence To Kill, a novelization of the 1989 James Bond Film, but also written by Mr. Gardner.
I enjoyed all of these titles. Gardner's Bond novels, the first major attempt to revive and continue the Ian Fleming series, are all solid spy novels, but laced with enough of the glamour and big-set pieces we've become used to in the movies. They're a lot of fun, at least the ones I've revisited and visited for the first time last year. I still have a handful to go.
Licence To Kill was the odd duck. It didn't feature an original Gardner Bond story, but his adaptation of the (pretty good, I thought) movie story. But what Gardner did was alter certain aspects of the story to make it fit into the main Fleming/Gardner James Bond literary timeline. I'll have to write a bit at some point about the results of that experiment, which were interesting but uneven. The novel also didn't have the richness and nuance of the other Gardner novels, as he had to keep up the breakneck pace of the film story and include the humor and over-the-top plot developments, which perhaps worked better on a movie screen than in a book.
But, all in all, this project has been worthwhile, and I'm looking forward to finishing off the last several John Gardner James Bond novels in 2017. Stay tuned for more discussion of them.
All of the John Gardner "James Bond" novels are available on Kindle. All but the first two books in the series are available, at very nice prices, at Audible.com.