Tuesday, 7 August 2012
John Gardner's SeaFire (1994) and the Defence of Britain in World War II
Here is an article to celebrate my 10th Anniversary as a member of the online James Bond fan community under the moniker of Silhouette Man from Friday 10 May 2002 – Thursday 10 May 2012.
John Gardner’s SeaFire (1994) and the Defence of Britain in World War II
“This was the most difficult thing about doing the Bonds: the style was not my natural style. Is it difficult to write stories, you ask? Yes it’s immensely difficult and very hard work. People don’t seem to realise this. Every book drains you. The secret is where the ideas come from. Someone (Laurence Durrell, I think) said the ideas come from God’s backside. They come from chance remarks, news stories in the Press, even a small personal experience will kick off an idea.”1 – John Gardner, 2002.
Authors of fiction are influenced to write books by many different things; a news item in the mass media, a personal experience or memory, a brainstorming session where the imagination is allowed to roam free, an idea or character or place name from a notebook, a line of dialogue, a quote from Scripture, a piece of poetry, an overheard conversation, an historical event, a passage in a fiction or non-fiction book, a perusal of a public or academic library, or in the modern age a search of the Internet for the required information. These are just a few of the ways authors of fiction derive plots for their novels and short stories. Uncovering a hidden source can serve to increase our knowledge and appreciation for a work of fiction and its author. This is something that O.F. Snelling noted in his early study of the literary James Bond, Double O Seven James Bond: A Report (1964). In terms of the James Bond continuation novels by John Gardner (1926-2007), his thirteenth Bond novel SeaFire (1994) seemingly has one of these very interesting influences that one can trace back to a particular source. The inspiration for the plot of the novel does not come from the work of the creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming but rather, it is submitted in this article, from the work of his elder brother, Peter Fleming (1907-1971). Peter Fleming wrote a history book entitled Invasion 1940 (1957), which told of the German plans to invade Britain in Operation Sea Lion in 1940 during World War II and the British countermeasures to repel such a Nazi invasion after the fall of its French ally in June 1940. This article will seek to argue that certain passages in Peter Fleming’s book Invasion 1940 influenced the plot of John Gardner’s penultimate James Bond novel SeaFire.
The plot of John Gardner’s SeaFire is rather convoluted, as most of his later James Bond novels are, but at its most basic the plot of the novel is a composite of two of his earlier Bond continuation novels; Licence Renewed (1981) and Icebreaker (1983). SeaFire has the dual plot elements of testing an untried apparatus for stopping a man-made catastrophe in order to gain recognition for the villain, and of setting up a Fourth Reich in Germany with a new Fuhrer marshalling vast neo-Nazi support to stage a coup against the democratically elected German government. Although the neo-Nazi and neo-Hitler plot is a rather trite thriller writers’ standard plot, which those who write in the genre fall back on when they are low on creative ideas, the same cannot be said for the Licence Renewed inspired element of the plot – this is pure Gardner at his finest. In SeaFire, the villain Sir Max Tarn, aside from wanting to return the dreaded Nazism to the relatively newly (3 October 1990) reunified (and therefore vulnerable to extreme right-wing politics) Germany with himself as the new Fuhrer of the Fourth Reich, has another scheme up his sleeve. It is this second element to the plot of SeaFire that is the focus of this article. The villain Sir Max Tarn has had developed ‘An automatic anti-oil pollution system AAOPS for short’, with the help of the marine biologist Dr Rex Rexinus and two other scientists, Dr Anton Fritz and Dr Vesta Motley. This system is going to be tested in what Tarn has labelled Operation SeaFire, even though after a year of development by the three scientists, funded by Tarn’s vast wealth, it is still not fully developed as a finished apparatus. The inside leaf of the dust cover jacket of the Book Club Association (BCA) edition of SeaFire describes the plot of the novel as “a deadly experiment that will trigger an ecological disaster of global proportions…The fate of the oceans are at stake…” This ecological disaster element of the plot of SeaFire fits in with the ecological concern elements of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels and short stories, and also fits in with the last James Bond film, Quantum of Solace (2008). Quantum of Solace had a topical environmental plot based on control of the water supply of Bolivia by the Quantum organisation in order to stage a coup. In many ways, Ian Fleming’s writing was well ahead of its time in the concerns it raised for the future of the world and mankind at large. Sir Max Tarn informs the scientists that he wants the anti-oil pollution apparatus ready for the following night, whether the scientists are ready or not. Tarn gives the three scientists an ultimatum to get it ready within the next 24 hours or less:
‘Dr Rex, please shut your mouth. I’ve spent a fortune on you and your friends. You said it would take a year. You’ve had your year and now it’s payback time. The demonstration we promised ourselves will happen tomorrow night, and it’s going to be quite something…’
‘But, Sir Max, I have to tell you…’
‘You don’t have to tell me anything, Rex. It’s time for me to tell you. I’m here to give you a briefing. Operation SeaFire. Has a nice ring to it, eh?’
Rexinus seemed to have given up, but Anton Fritz’s voice came piping with, ‘I don’t think you quite understand, sir. What Rex is trying to say is that the AAOPS isn’t quite…’
‘Please, no excuses and no explanations. We run a public demonstration of the AAOPS tomorrow night. If you have final touches to perfect then you’ll just have to work at them in the next twenty-four hours.’ Pause. ‘Actually a shade less than twenty-four hours.’
Through the door, Max Tarn’s voice sounded even silkier than it had when Bond last heard him; silkier and, somewhere mixed in with the silk, a rough undertow as though the smoothness was slowly being ripped apart. Sir Max Tarn had reached some terrible pinnacle from which he could only fall. It was the voice of a person utterly unbalanced. A man who believed himself invincible, safe from anything, even death.
Vesta Motley also tried, ‘Sir Max, there is a problem, we…’
‘There is no problem as far as I’m concerned, Dr Motley. It’s taken a long while to set this up. We go ahead tomorrow night. Now if you’ll all cease talking and be quiet, I’ll give you the briefing.’
Barking mad, Bond thought. Just as he had predicted. Tarn probably already knew what they were trying to tell him, but he was going ahead whatever the outcome.
He was speaking again. ‘The oil company, MetroTex, has one of their supertankers coming into this harbor [sic] at precisely eight o’clock tomorrow night. It is a huge affair and will be fully loaded. Thousand upon thousand gallons of oil and gasoline. The name of that enormous ship is Golden Bough and she’s a regular visitor to these shores, so her timing is like clockwork.
‘What Golden Bough contains will make this rich harbor golden alright. Golden with fire and flames. The amusing thing is that there’s already a precedent for what will happen, because in the late sixteenth century no less a sailor than Sir Francis Drake set fire to every ship in this harbor.’
‘Which lit the way to his defeat,’ said Leiter.
Tarn did not even pause. ‘Your job, Dr Rexinus, will be to dash in and let the world see that an oil spill of this magnitude can be contained. It will be your triumph. More importantly, it will be my triumph. The demonstration has to be big. It has to be impressive, for if it is not contained then this entire island will be surrounded by an oil slick which will make any other disaster of this kind look insignificant. Every other major oil spill the world has seen will be as small as scum on bathwater.’
There came the noise of what would normally be a slow handclap, only this sounded like a hand being slapped onto leather. Felix was pushing his luck.
‘What the devil does that mean, Mr Leiter?’
‘Simply applauding. I’m all in favor of spectacles, and if Golden Bough is as big as I think she is, you’ll do more than light up the harbor here, and run oil around the coastline. It could drift a long way. We’re talking about almost total pollution of the Caribbean.’
‘You’re not taking Dr Rexinus into account, Mr Leiter. He and his companions are wonder workers. With the flick of a switch they can pour trouble on oiled waters. I’ve put several million into a brilliant idea, so tomorrow night we see if I’ve wasted my money or not.’
‘How’re you going to set the Golden Bough ablaze? You got some special kindling to do that?’
Tarn gave a small bark of a laugh. ‘Yes. Yes, good. Kindling. Yes I do have a special kindling in the form of a somewhat ancient Russian submarine. She’s old, rusty, noisy, I think a little leaky also, but I’ve put money into her as well.’
‘A submarine?’ Rexinus’ voice quavered.
‘And torpedoes – two of them. Should have been three, but one was wasted. At least we know it works. I had a slight problem with the captain. He’s a Scottish gentleman and I fear he bends his elbow a shade too much. On a trial run earlier this year he actually targeted one of my own cruise liners. He tells me that he didn’t know that the torpedo tubes were loaded, or whatever the expression is. My ship escaped with a little damage and no loss of life. In other circumstances, I might have fired the man – preferably from one of his own torpedo tubes – but I think we can trust him to do the job thoroughly this time, can’t we, Maurice?’
Goodwin grunted, and Tarn repeated, ‘Maurice?’
‘Yes, Max, we can trust him now. I don’t relish the job, but I’ll be with him to make certain he doesn’t go astray.’
Tarn sighed. ‘It’s a terrible thing when a man has to put his own watchdogs onto people he pays to do specialist jobs – pays handsomely as well. I really wonder what the world’s coming to.’
‘You’re going to watch the display from here, then?’ Felix was feeding him questions that might help Flicka and Bond.
‘Not quite from here, Mr Leiter, I prefer a grandstand view. I shall watch it all from the top of that grand old fortress they call El Morro…’
There was rustling from the main cabin. ‘This chart,’ Tarn said. ‘Heed me, Dr Rexinus, you’re going to have to follow my instructions to the letter. You will leave this berth at seven o’clock tomorrow night. On the dot of seven, so that you will reach here.’ He was obviously showing Rexinus a point on the chart, and aloud he gave a latitude and longitude. ‘This will bring you to within one nautical mile of the initial explosion. As soon as the fire begins to spread, you will take Mare Nostrum straight towards the outer edges of the flames and begin to operate the AAOPS. If I recall our previous conversations correctly, you will be able to move quite close to the centre of both fire and oil spill. Did you not explain that to me when we finalized our agreement?’
‘Yes, that’s what I said.’ Rexinus sounded resigned. ‘I think we’ll take her for a run out tomorrow morning, just to go through the drill.’
Good, Bond considered, he’s going to make a dash for it.
Felix had started to speak again. ‘Sir Max, what if something goes wrong with your firework display? What if Dr Rexinus and his friends fail to contain the oil and the gasoline?’
‘I hate to even contemplate that, but I suppose one must face the possibility. First, Mare Nostrum will probably be consumed in the flames and, second, I shall have to start all over again. But I have faith in these good people, Mr Leiter. They’ll not fail me. Now, back to the operation.’ More rustling. ‘This is where my submarine will be at eight o’clock. She will turn bough on to Golden Bough. The two tin fish, as I think they used to call them, will be fired. Heaven knows, I don’t think even my captain, Jock Anderson, can possibly miss. The target is so large and he’ll be quite close. After he’s fired the torpedoes, he turns tail and runs for it. I have no doubts that part will go like clockwork. Maurice here will want to get out as quickly as he can.’
‘Too damned right,’ murmured Maurice Goodwin.”2
James Bond and his fellow British agent and lover Fredericka ‘Flicka’ von Grusse are both hidden and eavesdropping to hear the instructions Tarn gives to the scientists on the Mare Nostrum boat on the details of Operation SeaFire. Bond considers trying to free Felix Leiter, who is captured by Tarn and his henchmen, and taken hostage to the El Morro tower owned by Tarn. However, Bond changes his mind and instead decides:
“There was no point in trying foolhardy heroics which could well put them out of action and ruin any further chance he had of stopping the madness of what Max Tarn called SeaFire.”3
The rather sprawling plot of John Gardner’s SeaFire seems to have been influenced by the defence of Britain during World War II, during which time the young John Gardner (he was near 13 years of age when war broke out in September 1939) was a member of the Home Guard, at the age of 17 he volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm, finishing the war in the Royal Navy in Royal Marines 42 Commando in 1945 in the Far East theatre of war. John Gardner once said that “my generation was one of those whose lives, attitudes and outlooks have been forever shaped by the events of World War II.” It is probable that Gardner had heard of the defensive measures that the British government planned to use in the event of a naval-based invasion of Britain. Gardner may well have read about such defence contingencies that were prepared in response to the Nazi planned invasion of Britain in 1940 called Operation Sea Lion, which was to rely on converted boats to bring German troops to Britain. However, the defeat of the Luftwaffe air force in 1940 in the Battle of Britain meant that the attempted invasion of Britain in Operation Sea Lion (cf. Operation SeaFire) was put on hold, and Hitler and his generals instead turned to the massive surprise invasion of Eastern Poland and Soviet Russia in Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, leaving “all quiet on the Western Front”. Hitler had succeeded in occupying most of Western Europe (the Low Countries and France) in May-June 1940, using his generals’ pioneering Blitzkrieg war strategy. However, Hitler next ordered a Blitz on UK cities – the large scale bombing by the Luftwaffe in 1940-41 in order to lower the morale of the British people. Hitler later launched his “Vengeance weapons”, the V-1 (“the doodlebug”) and the V-2 missile at the UK from the occupied territories of France and Belgium as the Allied armies were invading after the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
Gardner’s use of the name Mare Nostrum for the boat on which the three scientists are going to attempt to put out the oil spill conflagration with the AAOPS is clearly also taken from the history books he possessed. The Italians under their leader, Il Duce, the belligerent fascist dictator of Italy (1922-1943) Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) wanted to increase Italy’s influence throughout the eastern Mediterranean, which Italians considered mare nostrum (meaning “our sea”). The word “nostrum” comes from Latin and means “(something) of our own making”, which applies in a very real sense to the AAOPS oil spill containing device that was untested and untried by the three scientists that Tarn paid so handsomely to develop. It is very interesting to note that the word “nostrum” also means a medicine prepared by an unqualified person, especially one that is not considered effective. The boat’s name also applies to the nature of Operation SeaFire in that “nostrum” also means a pet scheme or favourite remedy, especially one for bringing about a social or political reform or improvement. It seems that Gardner was having his own little private joke when he named the boat the three scientists are to go out into the middle of the flaming oil slick on “Mare Nostrum”, as the AAOPS device was an untried medicine for the massive oil spill and sea fire problem, and Tarn himself behaves like an (admittedly crazed) social reformer, wanting to show the whole world that he can stop and contain a sea literally on fire with the oil spill cataclysm that he himself is responsible for in the first place: the comparisons with Licence Renewed are rather telling. Dr Anton Murik (the villain of Licence Renewed) and Sir Max Tarn acted out of the same motives – involving delusions of invincibility and delusions of grandeur.
John Gardner may even have read about the flame and sea defences the British government had thought up as a defence against the expected Nazi invasion of Britain in 1940 after the fall of their French ally in June 1940. In an interview with the Financial Times published on 30 June 2001, Gardner said that he had hundreds of tomes of military history, books on magic as well as many other types of books. Gardner had moved back to England from the United States in 1997, having been there since 1989. Gardner was almost bankrupt by draconian medical bills in the United States for his treatment for cancer. In the Financial Times interview Gardner said he regretted the fact that the old almshouse, built in the seventeenth century, which he was living in in Basingstoke in Hampshire would not be able to hold the many books he owned and he would sadly have to sell them all off at a low price as a result. Gardner stated that he could fill all of the six houses in the row of almshouses, at the end of which he lived but his neighbours would probably not be too enamoured to accommodate them for him! Gardner only kept his own leather bound books and a few books that were of a sentimental nature to him.4 As Gardner had a background serving in an elite section of the Armed Forces in World War II, the commando-like Royal Marines who are capable of fighting on both land and water, it is likely that he would have been aware of the flame defences that the British hoped to rely on in the event of a Nazi naval invasion of the island. The Home Guard of which he had also been a member, helped with the putting in place of Britain’s flame war defences.
Given that Gardner had many tomes of military history it is possible that he had a number of books on the defensive precautions that the British took to fend off the expected Nazi attempt to invade Britain after the fall of France in June 1940, in Operation Sea Lion. It is possible that Gardner had a copy of Flame over Britain (1948) by Sir Donald Banks, which told the story of the defensive measures the British used to defend their sceptered isle and to repel an (expected) Nazi naval and air invasion of Britain, by harnessing the destructive use of petroleum oil to literally “set the sea on fire” and with it of course any approaching Nazi invasion craft. Another history book that detailed the defensive measures that the British took at the white cliffs of Dover and on the coastline generally is Peter Fleming’s The Invasion of 1940 (1957). Ian Fleming’s older brother, Peter Fleming, a famous travel writer and journalist in his own right, wrote this book to describe the German plans to invade Britain in 1940 under Operation Sea Lion and the British defensive measures to repel any such potential Nazi invasion. It is probable that Gardner owned both of these books amongst his many tomes of military history. In a chapter entitled ‘Expedients and Improvisations’ Peter Fleming describes the measures that the British took to defend their island against the threat of a Nazi invasion. The relevant passages, which recall the second part of the plot of John Gardner’s SeaFire, are quoted below:
“Among the expedients with which, after Dunkirk, the British sought to eke out the resources of their hopelessly inadequate armoury was the large-scale use of flame. The Petroleum Warfare Department, an organisation which acknowledged the War Office as its sire and the Ministry of Fuel and Power as its dam, was officially constituted on 9 July 1940, and much thought and experiment were devoted to ringing the coasts of the island with a wall of fire.
This high ideal proved incapable of realisation, and the Department’s most practical contribution to the country’s defences was probably the Flame Fougasse. This was normally a forty-gallon drum containing a mixture of tar, lime and petrol; steel filings, propelled into the drum by a small explosive charge, ignited the contents and drove them out in a great gerbe of molten liquid, whose adhesive qualities caused it to stick, still burning, to a tank or to anything else with which it came into contact. Several thousand of these simple devices were installed, initially by Chemical Warfare Companies of the Royal Engineers and later by the Home Guard, in defiles and other bottlenecks along the south coasts, the barrels being dug into banks at the side of the road and camouflaged. The Fougasse, unlike a minefield, was perfectly safe until the charge was armed and placed in position; they were usually emplaced in “batteries” of four. A more elaborate variant of the same principal [sic] was embodied in the Static Flame Trap, whence petrol in bulk flowed down pipes into a gorge or sunken road – the best example was at Dumpton Gap in Kent – where it was ignited by means of a Molotov cocktail.
It is unlikely that these weapons, sited sparsely and in no great depth, would have caused the invaders many casualties; but even if only two or three of the fire-ambushes had been successfully sprung, the flame of the resultant holocausts might well have imposed caution and delay on the German advance; and the Fougasses – which were later used in Greece and Russia, as well as being incorporated by the Germans in the fortifications of the West Wall – were a cheap and serviceable contribution to the island’s defences.
Less cheap, less serviceable, but much more ambitious were the Petroleum Warfare Department’s endeavours to “set the sea on fire”. One of the few wholly successful experiments, which took place on 24 August  on the northern shores of the Solent, is thus described by the then head of the Department:
Ten pipes were rigged from the top of a thirty-foot cliff down into the water well below high water mark and ten Scammel tanker wagons connected to them delivered oil at the rate of about twelve tons an hour. Admiralty flares and a system of sodium and petrol pellet were used for ignition and within a few seconds of the pumps being started a wall of flame of such intensity raged up from the sea surface that it was impossible to remain on the edge of the cliff and the sea itself began to boil.
The high hopes aroused by this marine inferno were never realised. The 24th of August had been a day of dead calm, and although there was one more successful experiment (in March 1941 at Studland Bay, when air-raid wardens in Bournemouth, ten miles away, claimed to be able to read a newspaper by the light of the flames), the opposition of wind and weather was never effectively overcome. The installation of a Flame Bridge (as it was called) of even the narrowest compass was immensely costly in steel, in labour and eventually in petroleum products; and although in 1941 the Chiefs of Staff approved the allotment of material for fifty miles of barrage, half to be erected in South-Eastern Command, the only completed sections were short ones at Deal, St Margaret’s Bay, the Shakespeare Cliff, Rye, and Studland Bay. These were not begun until long after Sea Lion had been cancelled, and not even one platoon of the invading armies would have faced the hazards of a flaming sea.
But here again, as so often in the period, we find the flinty soil of fact bearing a crop of legend. Not only was it believed in Britain that the countless German corpses washed up on the south coast had suffered burning in the sea, but on the other side of the Channel rumours of death and injuries to German troops from this cause were current. An American correspondent in Germany saw a hospital train all of whose occupants were said to be suffering from burns, and a story circulated in various forms that the Germans had been testing flame-proof asbestos suits with disastrous results. It is inconceivable that tests of untried equipment of this type would have been carried out on a large scale or caused a noticeable number of casualties, and the origins of this particular legend remain inscrutable. In 1954 a film based on the career of Admiral Canaris gave rise in Germany to a popular belief that in 1940 the whole coast had in fact been protected by a wall of flame; for in the film agents of the Abwehr purloin from the heart of Whitehall a roll of film – it appears to be a film of the actual experiments taken at the time by a British official photographer – showing the more spectacular efforts of the Petroleum Warfare Department, and Canaris has only to exhibit this to the German General Staff to secure the cancellation of Sea Lion.
Another and still more far-fetched use of flame was suggested by a well-known industrialist for the defence of airfields. This was an extension of the fire-ship. Its object was to deter the German pilots involved in an air-landing operation, and the method proposed was to start up twenty old cars stationed round the perimeter of the airfield, with their steering gear locked and just enough petrol to carry them out into the middle, where they would burst into flames. The decision not to proceed with this project was taken after one field-trial.”4
The mentions of “setting the sea on fire” using ignited oil are surely as outlandish as seizing all of the gold in Fort Knox in a military-style raid using a poisoned water supply (see one of Ian Fleming’s most outlandish novels, Goldfinger, 1959). However, a viewing of the tenth official James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), starring Roger Moore as James Bond shows the sea on fire (and indeed unfortunate men being roasted alive in the middle of it) on numerous occasions following the fire fights between the submarine crews and the crew of the Liparus supertanker and submarine-swallower ship owned by the villain of the piece, Karl Stromberg. The mention of fire-ships recalls their use in the sea by Sir Francis Drake (c.1540-1596) during the Spanish Armada attempted invasion of Britain in 1588, which Sir Max Tarn refers to in the lengthy passage quoted above from SeaFire. SeaFire follows Licence Renewed in having the villain of the piece attempting to try out a previously untested device; in the case of Licence Renewed the villain Dr Anton Murik threatens the world with nuclear meltdowns in several nuclear power plants in order for his meltdown-avoiding apparatus to gain recognition worldwide. The power stations in Licence Renewed were overrun and controlled by mercenary international terrorists. SeaFire has a villain similarly using a previously untried device to clean up a massive oil spill and with it a fire on the sea. The influence for John Gardner’s plot in SeaFire would appear to have been found in the pages of Ian Fleming’s older brother Peter Fleming’s military history book Invasion 1940. Of course, Gardner may also have been influenced by the other book Peter Fleming used as a reference, and had mentioned in his footnotes in the passage quoted above: Sir Donald Banks’ Flame Over Britain (London, 1948) or perhaps by some other history book entirely. Gardner was known to have owned many tomes of military history, as the requisite background reading for a thriller writer who produced spy and crime fiction novels in a factory-like fashion between The Liquidator in 1964 and Moriarty in 2008; the third delayed book in the Moriarty Journals series from the mid-1970s, which was published posthumously the year after Gardner died on 3 August 2007 in his 81st year.
Of course Gardner’s SeaFire was probably also influenced by the Press reports of the disaster of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez which ran aground in Prince William Sound on 24 March 1989, causing the then largest oil spill in the history of the United States – that was until the British Petroleum (BP) massive oil spill which lasted for three months due to gross negligence causing an explosion on an oil exploration rig at the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in the United States on 20 April 2010. This is surely a good example of a Press story influencing the creative thinking of an author of fiction. The passage quoted above from Invasion 1940 seems to have been one of the influences (besides the Press reports of massive oil spills polluting the sea and the underwater environment) exerting itself on John Gardner when he sat down at his word processor and tapped out his thirteenth James Bond continuation novel, SeaFire in 1993-94. In this way, with his ecological plot, John Gardner showed himself to be the true heir to the mantle of the James Bond author from Ian Fleming, with his various wartime and career experiences. On paper, Gardner was probably the best qualified of any of the James Bond continuation authors to follow in the footsteps of Ian Fleming. Gardner was variously; in the Home Guard, the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Marines and a stage magician with the American Red Cross Entertainments division. Gardner also had a degree in Theology and was an Anglican priest for five years, and held the degree of Associate of the Inner Magic Circle in the Magic Circle in London. He was also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars as ‘Moriarty’ in the mid-1980s. Gardner was also a journalist, a theatre and art reviewer and critic for the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, a lecturer in the United States with the Royal Shakespeare Company and an author of some fifty-five books, many of them bestsellers. It was these various fascinating occupations that made Gardner the ideal candidate to take over from where Ian Fleming left off in 1964 and transport James Bond into the 1980s and 1990s. This was the nature of the brief that Gardner was given by Glidrose when he took on the mantle of the James Bond authorship. Although Gardner’s much vaunted predecessor as Bond continuation author, Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) (author of Colonel Sun, 1968) had served during World War II as a lieutenant in the Royal Corps of Signals and knew how to use a Thompson sub-machine gun, he was unable to do normal everyday things like driving a car and refused to fly by plane, instead preferring to travel by train and he quite regularly took panic attacks which only eased when his wife took him into the bedroom of his son Martin Amis.5 A less likely Bond continuation author could surely not have been found, were it not for the fact that he had previously written two books on James Bond, The James Bond Dossier and The Book of Bond, or Every Man His Own 007 (both 1965). This article on the possible sources of SeaFire has revealed the often-intriguing nature of authorial biography and the non-fiction plot influences on the writers of fiction.
© Brian McKaig, 2012.
1 John Gardner in an email reply to the author, 12 September 2002.
2 John Gardner, SeaFire, (Coronet Books, London, 1995), pp. 257-262.
3 Ibid, p. 263.
4 John Gardner interview in the Financial Times, 30 June 2001.
4 Peter Fleming, Invasion 1940, An Account of the German preparations and the British counter-measures, (Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1957), pp. 208- 211.
5 Martin Amis speaking about his father in Amis, Amis and Bond, with Charlie Higson (Broadcast: BBC Radio 4, 17 July 2007).