John (Edmund) Gardner 1926–
English novelist, short story writer, and autobiographer.
Gardner is perhaps best known as the writer who resurrected Ian Fleming's secret agent 007, James Bond. Prior to the continuation of the Bond series, however, Gardner created several notable characters of his own. The first of these, Boysie Oakes, was deliberately planned as an amusing contrast to 007. Oakes is an inept, blundering coward who barely makes it to the end of each episode. He first appeared in The Liquidator (1964) and was the protagonist in at least eight novels published between 1964 and 1975. These works were generally well received by critics.
Gardner also invented other heroes who differ from the usual protagonists in spy fiction. These include Derek Torry, whose hatred of criminals and doubts about religion often lead him to confused, violent action in the name of duty, and Big Herbie Kruger, who views his own life and work as a failure. In The Return of Moriarty (1974) and The Revenge of Moriarty (1975), Gardner delves into the past to recreate Sherlock Holmes's enemy within the framework of the Victorian underworld. Although Gardner was praised for his vivid depiction of the time period in which he set these books, many Holmes fans were disappointed in Gardner's efforts to revive the series.
On the whole, Gardner's characters are considered successful creations. Critical reception was not enthusiastic, however, when Gardner revived James Bond in Licence Renewed (1981), For Special Services (1982), and Icebreaker (1983). In these works, Gardner attempted to capture the haughty, charming, invincible secret agent of Fleming's novels. However, Gardner's Bond is older, somewhat subdued, and, according to most critics, much less charismatic. Perhaps, as Reginald Hill suggests, Fleming's works were too much a product of the 1950s and 1960s to be translated to the 1980s, despite Gardner's efforts to update the technical aspects of espionage. Nonetheless, Gardner's Bond novels have been very popular; many readers, as well as some critics, find the books first-rate entertainment.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 103.)