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From the Archive
Issue #43 (July 1994)


John Gardner at the 1982 JBBFC Convention

John Gardner poses with the SAAB 900 Turbo at the 1982 James Bond British Fan Club International Convention held at The Wembley Conference Centre. ............................


The following transcription is an interview with author John Gardner by ROSS HENDRY which took place on Sunday 25th April 1982 during The James Bond British Fan Club Convention held at The Wembley Conference Centre, London.

This interview originally appeared in The James Bond British Fan Club bi-monthly publication ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (Vol 4 No. 6 - 1983) and was later published  in 007 MAGAZINE Issue #43 (1994).

This enhanced version of the interview is illustrated with photographs from the 1982 event plus additional images of John Gardner and SAAB advertising material used during the the original promotion of LICENCE RENEWED.

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You've written a large number of books and are a very prestigious author. How were you approached to write the Bond novels?
Well, I didn't believe it when it happened. I was working on a novel at the time, and one morning the mail arrived, and I found an envelope which I couldn't quite place. So I left it until just before lunch, and when I opened it discovered that it was from a friend, who was himself a very famous author, saying that he had been asked to sit on a panel at Glidrose, the literary copyright holders of lan Fleming and James Bond, and they had a short list of six names to ask and I was at the top of the list. Would I be prepared to discuss doing some continuation James Bond books? Well, I left it for about three days and then rang my author friend to ask him if he was playing a practical joke on me, and he said he wasn't, far from it.

Well, I waited another three days to get things sorted out. You see I already had enough work to keep me going for the next four years. So all my time was taken up. However, it was a tremendous challenge and a great honour, so I thought I would have a go, and if it worked, okay, if it didn't, well it didn't. I was conscious by that time that everyone was taking a gamble. When I met Glidrose I was even more conscious just how much a gamble the idea was. I finally rang my agent explaining that I had been asked to do some continuation James Bond novels – what do you think? Like all agents he said, “of course you'll do it!” So it was settled.


"...this was a terrible bone of contention between Glidrose and I."

When they drew up the contracts it was for three novels, but because it was such a risky venture there were let outs all the way down the line, which meant that they had to pay me even if I didn't write the books, or if at anytime they didn't like what I had written and I was not prepared to change it, then the books would not necessarily published.

Happily LICENCE RENEWED has done exceptionally well both in the UK and the States, and FOR SPECIAL SERVICES comes out over there next month.

Did you ever meet lan Fleming?
No, which was rather sad because he died two days before my first successful novel was published. We were supposed to have had an amusing confrontation on television, which he had almost agreed to, but it all fell apart when he died.

Had you read any of his books at that time?

Oh yes. I was a great fan in those days.

Jonathan Cape Promo Poster
LICENCE RENEWED Jonathan Cape First Edition

ABOVE: Jonathan Cape poster promoting LICENCE RENEWED and First Edition dustjacket designed by Richard Chopping.

How did you envisage Bond at that time?
Well, this is something that came up when I began to start the new ones. I have to say straight away that the film image went out the window because my brief was to go back to the original books. I'm not interested in the films at all. I realised at the very beginning that I had to wipe Mr. Connery's face from my mind and Mr. Lazenby's and Mr. Moore's. I had to try to go back to my own first reading of the books years ago and try to remember how I first pictured the character, which was more or less the case as Mr. Fleming described him.

I seem to remember hearing that you started LICENCE RENEWED by listening to Bond film music.
Yes, that's true. I always use music to blot out the silence that always surrounds a writer when he is working alone. It is usually a film score, but I also have an extensive collection of classical records which I listen to seriously. I thought stupidly that it would be easy. All I had to do was to play the Bond scores and everything would fall into place, but the first morning I sat down, and I think I started out with Goldfinger and went through the whole lot and got snow blind looking at white sheets of paper. It was no good because I had already wiped the films from my mind. On the second day I had to think of something else and it turned out to be Wagner's Ring Cycle, which I knew very well. So I wrote the first one to Wagner and the second mainly to Shostakovich and Walton.

John Garnder at the 1982 JBBFC Convention

Some readers have described LICENCE RENEWED as a film script, which is fair comment as it is very visual.
Well, I always try to write visually. Actually, when I was in New York doing a show, I was accused blatantly across the microphone of writing a film scenario, which was the farthest thing from my mind, because I'm not really interested in the movies. I'm sorry but I'm not. My interest is in the written word. Anyway, this person said it reads like a film scenario and your doing this because they were running out of film titles, and they want to make some more. Well this, of course, is nonsense - and as far as I understand the situation is that the producers can make their own stories too if they want. It make no difference to me financially, they pay me a straight fee, which is less than I get for my other novels, but then as I said they are taking a gamble.

How do you actually set about writing a book?
I start out with a broad idea. Actually this was a terrible bone of contention between Glidrose and I. They wanted the whole thing set out, a synopsis in effect, and I hate doing synopses of books because if you are, as I am, a writer of fiction, you have to entertain a reader, and I don't like to know what happens. I like a character to surprise me. I only start with a broad plan, so that by the time I get halfway I have a rough idea where the end is going to be. If I'm not surprised I'm not going to surprise an audience. I once asked a famous theatre director who he directed for, and he said I always direct for myself and hope the audience will enjoy it.

I had a lot of hassle with Glidrose about a full synopsis, but I did one and pointed out that it was really only half a story because the second half was likely to change and the ending of LICENCE RENEWED was very different from the one you eventually got. It was going to be a flower festival along the Italian Riviera, a part which I knew very well as I had been there many times before. However, almost at the last minute I decided that it was too hackneyed, and everyone knew about the flower festival. Then I saw in the paper about the Perignon thing which was about to happen so I flew down there and walked through each sequence while the actual festival was going on. I also picked up the airport scene from these because the airport buildings, the aircraft, the broken fence and the railway line were all there.




John Gardner FACT FILE