Gardner was born in Northumbria, England. He graduated from St. John's College, Cambridge and did postgraduate study at Oxford. Gardner volunteered for service in the Royal Marines during World War II. Gardner's father was a clergyman in the Church of England and encouraged Gardner to follow his example. Gardner was ordained and served as a priest for seven years before deciding he did not have the proper vocation and withdrawing from the clergy.
Gardner worked as a journalist and theatre critic. In 1964, Gardner began his novelist career with The Liquidator, in which he created a richly comic character named Boysie Oakes who inadvertently is mistaken to be a tough, pitiless man of action and is thereupon recruited into a British spy agency. Oakes is, in actuality, a devout coward with many other character failings who wants nothing more than to be left alone and is terrified by the situations into which he is constantly being forced. The book appeared at the height of the fictional spy mania and as a send-up of the whole business was an immediate success. It was made into a movie, and another seven light-hearted novels about the cowardly Oakes appeared over the next 12 years.
Following the success of his Oakes books, Gardner continued to write with new characters; Derek Torry, Herbie Kruger, and the Railton family, which he intended as more serious works in the spy novel genre. Gardner also wrote three novels (the third of which was never released due to a dispute with the publisher) using the character of Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series.
In 1981, Gardner was asked to revive the James Bond series of novels. Between 1981 and 1996, Gardner wrote sixteen James Bond novels. While the books were commercial successes, Gardner was ambivalent about writing novels with a character he hadn't created.
In the late 1990's, Gardner stopped writing for several years due to a prolonged battle with cancer and the death of his wife in 1997. Gardner recovered and returned to print in 2001 with a new novel, Day of Absolution, which was widely praised by critics. Gardner also began a series of books with a new character, Suzie Mountford, a 1930's police detective.
John Gardner Facts
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