Tag Archives: john gardner

Win, Lose or Die

The dastardly terrorist organization, BAST ( which stands for Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror), have hatched an ambitious scheme. They have discovered that a top-secret summit meeting between the United States, England and The Soviet Union will be held on the HMS battleship Invincible,which is on a training exercise in Europe. BAST plan to abduct the three world leaders (which, at the time, were President George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and good old Gorby) and hold them hostage for a ridiculously high sum of money each. Deciding that a forceful take-over of the battleship is ill-advised (they practiced the raid on an oil tanker), BAST plan to conduct a low-profile take-over instead. They have moles in the Navy, operatives on board the Invincible, and many well-trained soldiers.

The only thing they weren`t counting on is James Bond coming in and stuffing things up.

Bond, while investigating the oil tanker incident, is assigned to go
undercover on the Invincible to protect the three world leaders. BAST decide that Bond is a major hindrance to their plot, so they make numerous attempts on his life. Bond only narrowly avoids being shot down in his Harrier jet and evades assassination while on holiday in Italy. Bond eventually makes it to the Invincible, but BAST are still anxious to go ahead as planned. After a lengthy and dangerous, but not boring, investigation on board the ship, Bond heads ashore to report the situation. But BAST put their plan into action and eventually succeed in abducting the three world leaders and taking over the entire battleship, crew and all. It`s up to Bond to save the day, and, living up to all expectations, does so. You seriously think he wouldn`t?

Win, Lose or Die is one of John Gardner`s best Bond novels. It is rarely boring, and the handful of boring scenes don`t last long. Unlike in most of Gardner`s novels, the action sequences are spread at good intervals throughout the book, so you always have something to look forward to. James Bond, while technically no longer a secret service agent in this story (he`s turned into a Navy Captain instead), is at his best for a Gardner story. The Bond girl, Beatrice (pronounched Bee-ah-tree-shay, for anyone who was wondering) is Gardner`s best heroine. The villain, Bassam Baradj, is pretty flimsy, but he isn`t in the story much. The plot is interesting and involving, but isn`t overly-complicated like some of Gardner`s others. The Christmas setting is nice, with an insightful look into Bond`s past as a child and the last Christmas he spent with his parents. The main hench(wo)man in the story is the knife-wielding Sarah Deeley, a total psycho who`s main occupation is corpse-production. She`s great fun. Bond`s only real ally is Admiral John Walmsley, and he`s quite fun to read about. Bond even gets to meet the three world leaders in question, in an amusing scene.

The action sequences are some of the best in any Gardner novel, from the opening hang-glider assault on the oil tanker, Bond`s knife-fight with Sarah Deeley, a healthy dose of aerial action in fighter jets and the climactic assault by the special forces on the battleship Invincible, and a shoot-out inside the Rock of Gibraltar itself. All of these scenes are fun, and, as said before, are spread throughout the story and even intervals.

There`s no doubting it, Win, Lose or Die is a classic Bond novel from Gardner, and also one of his finest.

The Man From Barbarossa

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Nina Bibikova; The Villain: General Yuskovich; Supporting Characters: Pete Natkowitz, Bory Stepakov, Stephanie Adore, Henri Ampart; Locations Covered: New Jersey, London, Florida, Moscow, Arctic Circle, Stockholm, Iraq; First Published: 1991

An old man is abducted from his home in New Jersey on Christmas Eve. He is believed to be a former Nazi Guard who helped with the massacre of Russian Jews at Baba Yar. He has been abducted by a group called “The Scales of Justice” who plan to execute the man on the belief that he was involved in the massacre.

The abduction of this man is quite interesting for MI6, because the CIA has supposedly been after the same man in Florida. The man is Josef Voronstov, a ruthless individual who was an admitted torturer of the people in his camps. MI6 becomes so interested, they enlist the help of The Mossad (Israeli Intellegence), as well as The French Secret Service. Their plan: send the four members to Russia to become a camera crew for the trial and execution of Voronstov. The four members are: Pete Natkowitz from Mossad, Henri Rampart and Stephanie Adore from FSS, and of course, James Bond, 007.

As a precaution, the CIA has tight surveillance on the man in Florida, but he slips through their fingers when The Scales of Justice strike again and abduct him. Bond, and the four other team members, are taken to Moscow where they are all teamed with a Russian spy named Bory Stepakov, as well as his assistant, Nina Bibikova. Bory has heard rumors about the Scales, and the truth is that they are staging this trial to show that the new Democratic Russian government wouldn`t execute this man, but the Communistic Scales of Justice would. The group hopes to reinstate communism to the country, at any costs.

Bory works his way around and is able to make contact to get Bond and the team into the trial as the camera crew. Their objective: go into a certain book store, buy War And Peace, and all of them will be picked up. Every member of the team does so and all are picked up and taken to a place outside of Moscow, referred to only as “The Lost Horizon”. Unfortunately for the group, all of their weapons are confiscated or rendered useless, like Bond`s 9 mm, which has the hammer filed down so that it won`t connect.

Once there, the group is forced to watch and film the trial. About half way through, the old man, Joel Penderik is put onto the stand, where he is hammered at by the main villian of the story, General Yevgeny Yuskovich. As it turns out, this mock trial is between family as Penderik is actually Voronstov, and a cousin to the General.

Unfortunately, the General seems to have another plan. Once the trial is over, he is going to execute everyone at “The Lost Horizon”, including 007. Bond and the group begin to figure a way to get themselves out and stop Yuskovich in the process, who has yet another plan. He is planning to sell nuclear weapons, as well as launchers to the Iraqis. The weapons are codenamed Scamps and Scapegoats.

Just hours after the trial, Yuskovich attempts to do away with 007 and the group, just as they are escaping. During the escape, James Bond turns a corner, and a gun battle occurs, in which 007 is killed. Or so everyone is lead to believe. Yuskovich informs everyone that Bond was killed accidentally in a gun battle. M goes out to Stockholm, and tries to evaluate how to get everyone out of The Lost Horizon.

The Man From Barbarossa can be described as John Grisham meets James Bond. And like any legal thriller, the court scenes are long and lag behind. This book seems to meander along, with no real direction There is no action until the last chapter of the book, but by then, most will have wanted to, or have put this one down. I wasn`t impressed by this one due mainly to the lack of urgency, action, and Gardner`s prose. His conversation scenes, at times, come across as childish and poorly written. The characterization isn`t terribly strong, and there is really no base to build upon. The saving grace is the plot line which was relevant when first written and looks like it is ripped from today`s headlines. Overall, it is just average.