Gardner, whose thrillers include 14 Bond books, dies at 80

John Gardner, a British writer of spy thrillers who revived the James Bond novels in the 1980s, has died at age 80.

John Gardner, a British writer of spy thrillers whorevived theJames Bond novels in the 1980s, has died at age 80.

Gardner died of an apparent heart attack on Aug. 3 in Basingstoke in southern England.

Gardner created his own spy, the bumbling and cowardly Boysie Oakes, in The Liquidator. His 1964 comic novel, which appeared when fictional spies were all the rage, effectively deflated the genre and was an instant hit.

He wrote eight Boysie Oakes novels, including Traitor's Exit and Killer for a Song,and also created two books based on Arthur Conan Doyle's supervillain Professor Moriarty, the fictional nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

Gardner, the son of a clergyman, was born on Nov. 20, 1926, in Seaton Delaval, in northeastern Britain. He studied theology at Cambridge University in 1950 and then moved to Oxford University.

He served as a Royal Marine duringthe Second World War,before following his father into the Church of England. He left the church afterseven years to workas a journalist and author.

In 1981, he was asked to revive the character of James Bond, created by Ian Fleming in 1952.

After Fleming's death, Kingsley Amis —writing under the name Robert Markham, had carried on the exploits of 007 — but there hadn't been a book for 13 years.

In Gardner's 14 Bond novels, heupdated the spy's persona, making him a little less flamboyant and having him drive a Saab rather than an Aston Martin.

His women characters were also given more depth.

The series, including titles such as Icebreaker, Licence to Kill and GoldenEye,brought Gardner commercial success.

But Gardner himself was no great fan of Bond.

"Unhappily, I feel I'm probably going to be remembered as the 'guy who took over from Fleming,'" Gardner once said.

"I'm very grateful to have been selected to keep Bond alive. But I'd much rather be remembered for my own work than I would for Bond."

Simultaneously with the Bond books, he wrote the Railton family series and the Herbie Kruger novels, Garden of Weapons and Maestro. He later created a detective series with the character Suzie Mountford, including Bottled Spider and Troubled Midnight.

Gardner stopped writing the Bond series in 1996. He has written 43 novels with his last two, Moriarty and No Human Enemy, to be published this fall.

U.S. writer Raymond Benson took over the Bond franchise, to be followed by Briton Sebastian Faulks, whose Devil May Care will be published in May 2008.