Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Inspiration of John Gardner’s ‘Tara'-type house featured in For Special Services (1982)

John Gardner (1926-2007) drew on the inspiration of his own home in the United States when he gave the villainous Markus Bismaquer a recreation of the house ‘Tara’ from the film Gone With the Wind in his second continuation Bond novel For Special Services (1982). Gardner lived in Charlottesville, Virginia for a number of years, in a 'Tara'-type house.

When Bond and Cedar Leiter first visit Rancho Bismaquer in Texas, the home of Markus and and his wife Nena Bismaquer it is described thus:

“Bond heard Cedar give a startled intake of breath. Facing them, set amid lush lawns, was a huge white house. Wide steps led up to a portico where square columns rose to a flat roof. The main roof was pitched back over the rest of the house, its red tiles a splash of colour against the overall whiteness. There were dogwood trees in front of the house, flanking the drive, and Bond thought, vaguely, that he had seen it before.

‘Tara,’ whispered Cedar. ‘It’s Tara.’

‘Tara?’ Bond was lost.

Gone With the Wind. The movie – Margaret Mitchell’s book. It’s the house from the movie. You know, James, Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable…’

‘Ah,’ said Bond.

‘How very clever of you.’ The squeak rose excitedly from Walter Luxor. ‘It usually takes people longer. They think they’ve seen pictures of it. Markus fell in love with it when he saw the movie, so he bought the designs from MGM and built it here. Ah, here’s Markus now.’” (For Special Services, John Gardner, Coronet Edition, Kent, 1983, p. 92)

In an interview in The Financial Times published on 30 June 2001, John Gardner told reporter Arnie Wilson about his eight-year sojourn in the United States:

‘Only a decade ago Gardner, author of more than 40 thrillers, was riding high and enjoying the good life with his wife Margaret in a palatial colonial-style home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Remember Tara, the house in Gone With the Wind, with those pillars?” he says. “It was too big, of course. I always bought large houses because the books took up a lot of space.” (Arnie Wilson, ‘Off Centre: Bond man shaken but not stirred: Ian Fleming’s successor is still chipper, despite the loss of his health – and the Bentley', The Financial Times, 30 June 2001)

It is very interesting to note that Bismaquer’s house is actually modelled on the house from the film Gone With the Wind, a type of palatial colonial house which John Gardner himself actually owned at the time. It can be looked at as Gardner’s equivalent of Fleming’s self-built Jamaica home Goldeneye, his retreat where he wrote the Bond novels. The film buff in Gardner meant that he must have been a big fan of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind as well as Markus Bismaquer. The ‘Tara-type’ house was where Gardner lived during his eight-year stay in the United States between 1989 and 1997, when he returned to Basingstoke in England. Gardner also lived in the Republic of Ireland for income tax purposes as it was a tax haven between 1979 and 1984, then he lived in Oxfordshire in England between 1984 and 1989, meaning that he wrote his James Bond continuation novels (1981-1996) in three different locations.

TBB Article No. 10

© Brian McKaig, 2007.