Friday 16 January 2009


Coronet original cover price £1.95

I'm a massive Ian Fleming/James Bond fan and most of the continuation novels by other hands have left me cold. Don't get me wrong - I like several of John Gardner's and Raymond Benson's offerings. And I think Kingsley Amis and Sabastian Faulks both delivered worthy Bond novels. But it's seldom that the excitement of the Fleming sweep has been captured just right. Mind you even the worse of the continuation books are better and more Bondian than the pig's ear the film producers have made of the franchise with the dire, cold hearted James Bourne movie Quantum of Desperation.

Fleming's background was in journalism and from this he developed a lean, descriptive style. The original Bond novels owed a lot to the pulps, his villains were OTT and would not have been out of place in a Sax Romer novel.

This was John Gardner's third Bond novel and, although it's got its critics, I thought it was his best of the lot and the Title, for a change, was pure Fleming.

Bond is sent to the freezing landscape of North Norway and teamed with the CIA, KGB and Mossad. Their mission - to eradicate a secret terrorist operation who are causing chaos on a worldwide scale.

For me the novel worked perfectly well and I did feel, on times, that this was Fleming's Bond. Raymond Benson, who himself would pen several Bond novels after Gardner finished, has often said that he considers this to be the weakest of Gardner's early Bond novels but, as much as I respect Mr Benson (hey the guy wrote a few excellent Bond novels himself and also authored the fan's bible, The James Bond Bedside Companion) , I think he's wrong here. I feel this this - Gardner's third - is stronger than the previous two novels Licence Renewed and For Special Services.

It doesn't contain the bloated 007 of Licence Renewed, nor does it have the nonsense of Blofeld's off spring and Felix Leiter's daughter to muddy up the waters as did For Special Services. It reads well as a thriller in its own right and teaming Bond with organisations he's mostly worked against for decades provides much added tension to the plot. And of course you don't get villains any bigger than the Third Reich.

Head over to Patti's site for more forgotten books


David Cranmer said...

He is a very fine writer and I also thought LICENCE RENEWED was a pretty good read.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks. Gary.

Scott D. Parker said...

Back in the day, my parents had all the Fleming Bond books. I was more interested in the films and grew up with Roger Moore. Thus, with that light-hearted version in my head, I remember enjoying Licence Renewed. Pretty sure I read this one, too. I remember wanting to get a Saab Hot Wheels car b/c that's what Bond drove. Granted, I didn't even know who John Gardner was back then. But I do remember the worse book he penned: Seafire. Bond gets married again. Hated it. Didn't even finish it.

I've since read the first 4 Fleming books (I'm savoring them as they are finite) and prefer them (and Connery and Craig) much better. The Faulks book was okay. Think I'll go back and check out some of the Gardner books sometime.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Gary
I'm afraid I have to set the record straight on matters geographical concerning your Friday's Forgotten Books entry on Gardner's Icebreaker.
The fact of the matter is, 007 sees most of the action in Finland for the duration of the novel. Mr. Gardner visited Helsinki and Lapland prior to writing it, getting useful tips from, among others, our then reigning top rally driver on how to negotiate the new Saab in winter conditions. However, when the book came out - published here under the appropriate title 'Assignment Finland, James Bond' - it became clear the author got most of the details wrong, starting with local topography. Still, it's our only claim to 007 fame, so what the hell...

Paul Baack said...

For the most part, I can do without the John Gardner books, but I 100% agree, Icebreaker is a splendid James Bond novel. Mr. Gardner didn't often get the feel of a Bond story right, but he nailed it with this one.

Thanks for giving this unfairly-maligned book its due.

Sepiru Chris said...


I always did like Fleming, and recently (a few years ago) purchased the lot. I have not read any of the follow-ons. When I get a chance, this will be on my list.

You write an engaging blog. I will archive surf more some other time; work beckons.


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