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John Gardner, prolific British writer who authored 14 James Bond novels, dies at 80

John Gardner, prolific British writer who authored 14 James Bond novels, dies at 80

John Gardner, a prolific British author who had a hand in reviving the James Bond series, has died, a funeral director said Thursday. He was 80.
Gardner died on Aug. 3 in his home town of Basingstoke, England, said Norman Howe, the director of Howe and Son funeral home. The cause of death was not announced.
Gardner was the third and most prolific author of Bond, the fictional British agent created in 1952 by Ian Fleming. Despite exhibiting little fondness for the star character, Gardner wrote 14 novels and two serializations featuring the smooth talking-agent about town.
"Unhappily, I feel I'm probably going to be remembered as the 'guy who took over from Fleming,'" Gardner once said. "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."
The son of a clergyman, Gardner was born on Nov. 20, 1926, in Seaton Delaval, northeast England. He studied theology at Cambridge University in 1950 and then moved to Oxford University.
He served as a Royal Marine during World War II, before following his father into the Church of England. After seven years, Gardner left the church to pursue a career as a journalist, theater critic and writer.
The first of his near four dozen novels, "The Liquidator," was published in 1964. A pastiche of the popular spy novels of the era, the book which centered on the bumbling antics of weakling-turned-spy Boysie Oakes was an instant hit and spawned a movie and seven sequels over 12 years.
Following on from the success of that series, Gardner published more serious spy novels that included a host of new characters. During this time he also wrote three novels featuring the character of Professor Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.
In 1981 he was invited to revive the Bond series, 13 years after the last official novel "Colonel Sun," written by Kingsley Amis under the name Robert Markham.
Gardner's modernist touches to the story of the suave and quintessentially British agent received mixed reviews _ but brought commercial success.
Purists ridiculed Gardner's reinvention of the title character, arguing that his attempt to make Bond more sensible and less flamboyant was too much of a departure from Fleming's invention.
Gone were the powerful Aston Martins and Bentleys _ and in came the sturdy Saab. Women, once viewed as little more than eye candy, were afforded some depth.
Gardner retired from writing Bond in 1996, and was replaced by Raymond Benson _ the first American to write a Bond novel.
British author Sebastian Faulks is the latest writer to be tasked with continuing the series. His first Bond novel, "Devil May Care," is to be published in May 2008.
Gardner's last two novels, "Moriarty" and "No Human Enemy," are due to be published later this year.
He is survived by a son and daughter from his marriage to his late wife Margaret, and a daughter from a separate relationship.


Updated : 2021-05-16 08:43 GMT+08:00