Slay It With Flowers: Your views on John Gardner's Never Send Flowers (1993)?

DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
edited July 2023 in Literary 007 Posts: 18,024
This topic is designed to collate mainstream James Bond fan opinion on the work of John Gardner - this time we're going to look at John Gardner's 1993 novel Never Send Flowers. In many ways, this one is the author's most experimental one since The Man From Barbarossa in 1991 and Brokenclaw in 1990. Here, James Bond is on the trail of a crazed serial killer who has struck around the globe, killing numerous high-profile figures over the course of a week. Then, he kills MI5 agent Laura March and this brings James Bond (Dr. No/LALD film style) into the equation. James Bond is portrayed much more as a police detective throughout, which is in fact in keeping with Fleming and in keeping with Gardner - see Scorpius and WLOD for further evidence of this. This is a spy thriller/serial killer novel in the style of Patricia Cornwell (who was friends with John Gardner). It features calling cards in the form of the deathly symbolism of a bleeding rose, mistaken identities, disguises, a theatre museum, a castle called Schloss Drache, the 'madman in the attic' Victorian subplot, the title also recalling the classy Bondian titles of old where DIE, DEATH or KILL were not required to refer to death and danger.

Then there are the critical points - Princess Diana and her sons as real-life targets, the use of Euro Disney as a locations and Bond's general waxing lyrical about Disney throughout. Controversial until you start reading the first chapter of Fleming's OHMSS where Bond reviews his childhood.

I'm currently writing a lengthy monograph on this experimental Gardner novel from the later Gardner term and I would really like to hear Bond fan opinions on this one. Did the experimentation that Gardner increasingly resorted to from 1990 onwards have anything to do with the fact that he was being accused of having an anachronistic secret agent character in James Bond, so-called Cold Warrior of the 1950s and 1960s revived in the 1990s and the New World Order. The reversion to a serial killer plot suggests there may be something worth exploring here!
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Comments

  • Posts: 7,653
    This is the one I have never been able to get my hands on for a decent amount money.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    edited January 2013 Posts: 17,741
    Not a fan of inclusion of real life (contemporary) peeps in fiction, hence I probably will never get past Gardner's fifth book.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    I'd love to hear the views of anyone who's actually read the book?
  • Aziz_FekkeshAziz_Fekkesh Royale-les-Eaux
    Posts: 403
    I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I last read it five years ago. Liked how Gardner changed up the usual Bond narrative structure and thought the story moved pretty fast.
  • SandySandy Somewhere in Europe
    Posts: 4,012
    I read Never Send Flowers many, many years ago. I don't have fond memories of it, in fact I at the time I thought it was quite bad but some things have stuck in my memory like the Disney part, attack on the Royals, and a comment about if sex was an olympic sport. At around the same time I also read Scorpius and remember liking it a lot more, however I can't remember a single thing about the story.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I last read it five years ago. Liked how Gardner changed up the usual Bond narrative structure and thought the story moved pretty fast.
    Sandy wrote:
    I read Never Send Flowers many, many years ago. I don't have fond memories of it, in fact I at the time I thought it was quite bad but some things have stuck in my memory like the Disney part, attack on the Royals, and a comment about if sex was an olympic sport. At around the same time I also read Scorpius and remember liking it a lot more, however I can't remember a single thing about the story.

    Thanks for both of your comments - I'm with Mr Fekkesh, I liked the fact that Gardner decided to experiment with this one!
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    I'd love to hear more of your views on this one with the 20th Anniversary of the novel's publication coming up on July 15 2013.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited April 2013 Posts: 23,853
    If anyone cares to post a review of the novel, well written and without an invitation for further debate, here's the place to do so:
    http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/3518/james-bond-novels-non-fleming#Item_1
    ;-)
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited September 2017 Posts: 18,024
    I recently was flickng through a book on the news events of the 1990s and one of the photos showed Princess Diana in 1992 at Thorpe Park amusement and theme park - her young prince sons were with her, although not in the photograph - I assume that this was the type of image and photo that inspired Gardner to write Never Send Flowers and its plot about a serial killer who wanted to create the masterpiece (a la the filmic Scaramanga) in his own lifetime of the assassination of Princess Diana and her sons at Euro Disney theme park in 1992. I'm not sure if Princess Diana ever did really visit Euro Disney but that is a subject for further debate. Just thought that I would share that with those who may be interested.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    Any further interest as my thesis on NSF nears completion?

    All replies are very much appreciated!
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    I need to read it. I have 'No Deals Mr. Bond' on the coffee table to read at some point.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    007InVT wrote:
    I need to read it. I have 'No Deals Mr. Bond' on the coffee table to read at some point.

    Never Send Flowers is a good read - experimental serial killer plot and symbolic flower equalling death motif running through it that might appeal to a cover graphic designer such as yourself, @007InVT!
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Dragonpol wrote:
    007InVT wrote:
    I need to read it. I have 'No Deals Mr. Bond' on the coffee table to read at some point.

    Never Send Flowers is a good read - experimental serial killer plot and symbolic flower equalling death motif running through it that might appeal to a cover graphic designer such as yourself, @007InVT!

    I'll add that to the list! Be fun to dive into Gardner covers.
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Dragonpol wrote:
    007InVT wrote:
    I need to read it. I have 'No Deals Mr. Bond' on the coffee table to read at some point.

    Never Send Flowers is a good read - experimental serial killer plot and symbolic flower equalling death motif running through it that might appeal to a cover graphic designer such as yourself, @007InVT!

    I definitely want to try a jacket for this one.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    007InVT wrote:
    Dragonpol wrote:
    007InVT wrote:
    I need to read it. I have 'No Deals Mr. Bond' on the coffee table to read at some point.

    Never Send Flowers is a good read - experimental serial killer plot and symbolic flower equalling death motif running through it that might appeal to a cover graphic designer such as yourself, @007InVT!

    I definitely want to try a jacket for this one.

    As one of my favourite James Bond novels I look forward to your cover @007InVT!
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Hi Draggers,

    So far so good on NSF. Really enjoying it. Quite macabre at times but the pacing is excellent and Flicka is one hell of a Bond girl.

    I shall probably finish by the weekend.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    007InVT wrote:
    Hi Draggers,

    So far so good on NSF. Really enjoying it. Quite macabre at times but the pacing is excellent and Flicka is one hell of a Bond girl.

    I shall probably finish by the weekend.

    Glad you enjoyed it @007InVT. I just thought you might like it!
  • saunderssaunders Living in a world of avarice and deceit
    edited July 2013 Posts: 987
    Never Send Flowers was written in the middle of the more experimental latter half of Gardner's 007 tenure and this novel is suitably different from the rest of his Bond works. As has already been mentioned this almost falls into the category of crime thriller, rather than a straight spy thriller, but despite a overly convoluted plot I would argue it is a more satisfying read than the author's two previous 'experimental' works The Man From Barbarossa and Death is Forever.
    I like the Fleming themes of Bond as an investigator (Dr No) and hunting a world class assassin (The Man With The Golden Gun) and falling in Love (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and the European locations are suitably Bond like (though I draw the line at our 007 previously visiting and enjoying very much the charms of Disney). The book does feel rather small scale by Bond's standards and the limited number of main characters gives it a sparse feel rather reminiscent of the film version of The Man With The Golden Gun.
    What I dislike about this book are Gardner's usual unnecessary silly traits, the overly complicated double crossing characters (the effect magnified in this one by the inclusion of a pair of identical twins!), the stupid logic defying moments (such as Bond always knowing the travel plans of all the neighbours in his and adjoining streets, Bond and his Swiss partner being threatened with dismissal from their Intelligence services for...making love too loudly in a hotel!?!) and lastly Gardner's Achilles heel of choosing overly ridiculous names for his characters, I can't imagine Ian Fleming choosing the name Flicka for Bond's true love.
    Also by this stage Gardner has dispelled with any attempt to make his versions of Bond and M even remotely like Fleming's, rather than the tense, terse yet respectful loyalty of the original novels briefing scenes you now get two buffoons spouting poetry at each other.
    Having said this it's still worth a read and some of the scenes such as the escaping the MI5 watchers from his flat and the Disney section are particularly well handled (though the constant sycophantic endorsement of Disney and it's well run operations could have you believing you're reading a Disney travel brochure rather than a Bond novel).
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited July 2013 Posts: 18,024
    Thank you for your review @saunders. Very nicely written there. I am planning to release a series of articles on The Bondologist Blog concerning the experiment John Gardner James Bond continuation novels of the 1990s from Brokenclaw (1990) to Cold/Cold Fall (1996) as I feel this topic is hardly ever broached in all the writings on James Bond from various quarters. I hope that that is about to change.
  • RecipeRecipe Banned
    Posts: 56
    THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA. Review One.

    It starts with a strong prelude. "Babi Yar". "They came in an orderly fashion, the Jews of Kiev..." but after that frankly it just loses me. Not sure 100% what Gardner was going for here now. Does not strike that key balance. Action vs. girls. This one is ALL action. Frankly to me it's a turn-off. And putting 007 in the context of WWII and the Naziism is a big step back. Most regresstive. Not even Fleming bothered with the Nazi threat post-Moonraker. It's just irrelevant. All just IMHO chaps.
  • saunderssaunders Living in a world of avarice and deceit
    Posts: 987
    Recipe wrote:
    THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA. Review One.

    It starts with a strong prelude. "Babi Yar". "They came in an orderly fashion, the Jews of Kiev..." but after that frankly it just loses me. Not sure 100% what Gardner was going for here now. Does not strike that key balance. Action vs. girls. This one is ALL action. Frankly to me it's a turn-off. And putting 007 in the context of WWII and the Naziism is a big step back. Most regresstive. Not even Fleming bothered with the Nazi threat post-Moonraker. It's just irrelevant. All just IMHO chaps.

    I'm surprised that you feel The Man From Barbarossa is all action, personally I feel until the last fifth there is a distinct lack of action, though I do agree that the book is missing a good heroine.
    This was really the first of Gardner's more experimental novels and with it's political intrigue and complex espionage plot it feels more like one of his non Bond books (though many of the plots themes are reminiscent of Icebreaker). Personally I don't mind the Nazi related plot even if it was rather old hat by 1991, and to be fair the real threat was actually orchestrated by disgruntled hardliner communists.
    To me this book is just too plodding and bogged down in complex plotting to be considered a great Bond read and is near the bottom of my rankings for his books, though apparently this was one of John Gardner's favourites.

  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    saunders wrote:
    Recipe wrote:
    THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA. Review One.

    It starts with a strong prelude. "Babi Yar". "They came in an orderly fashion, the Jews of Kiev..." but after that frankly it just loses me. Not sure 100% what Gardner was going for here now. Does not strike that key balance. Action vs. girls. This one is ALL action. Frankly to me it's a turn-off. And putting 007 in the context of WWII and the Naziism is a big step back. Most regresstive. Not even Fleming bothered with the Nazi threat post-Moonraker. It's just irrelevant. All just IMHO chaps.

    I'm surprised that you feel The Man From Barbarossa is all action, personally I feel until the last fifth there is a distinct lack of action, though I do agree that the book is missing a good heroine.
    This was really the first of Gardner's more experimental novels and with it's political intrigue and complex espionage plot it feels more like one of his non Bond books (though many of the plots themes are reminiscent of Icebreaker). Personally I don't mind the Nazi related plot even if it was rather old hat by 1991, and to be fair the real threat was actually orchestrated by disgruntled hardliner communists.
    To me this book is just too plodding and bogged down in complex plotting to be considered a great Bond read and is near the bottom of my rankings for his books, though apparently this was one of John Gardner's favourites.

    Yes, well I was thinking this myself - especially on the action in TMFB bit.
  • RecipeRecipe Banned
    Posts: 56
    By action I meant action in terms of plot movement. It is all plot development, plot development, plot development, with no room for the human element. You need to stop thinking of action in the way we understand it now post-LETHAL WEAPON action. "Running, jumping, shooting" is not the only description of action.

    BARBAROSSA shows Gardner sliding further into irrelevance. ICEBREAKER with its WWII backdrop was the beginning of the end. Or IMO Bond wearing "rope soled sandals" with a Navy blazer in FOR SPECIAL SERVICES was the beginning of the end :)) Gardner is responsible for bigger Bond fashion faux pax than even Roger Moore IMO :))

    Anyway this topic is about Never Say Flower... stay on topic thanks.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited July 2013 Posts: 18,024
    Recipe wrote:
    By action I meant action in terms of plot movement. It is all plot development, plot development, plot development, with no room for the human element. You need to stop thinking of action in the way we understand it now post-LETHAL WEAPON action. "Running, jumping, shooting" is not the only description of action.

    BARBAROSSA shows Gardner sliding further into irrelevance. ICEBREAKER with its WWII backdrop was the beginning of the end. Or IMO Bond wearing "rope soled sandals" with a Navy blazer in FOR SPECIAL SERVICES was the beginning of the end :)) Gardner is responsible for bigger Bond fashion faux pax than even Roger Moore IMO :))

    Anyway this topic is about Never Say Flower... stay on topic thanks.

    Stay on topic? You were the one that introduced The Man From Barbarossa to this thread out of blue sky.
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Just read in Pearson's bio of Fleming, that Ian got headaches from flowers and so did not have them around in the house!

    Considering this aversion, remarkable that he lived in Jamaica and feature them so heavily on his dust jackets.

    Confusing no?
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    Yes, very interesting.

    Never Send Flowers
    turned 20 yesterday - 15 July 1993 - 15 July 2013.
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Draggers,

    What's written on the notecard at Laura March's funeral. I feel a dust jacket coming on for this one!
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    "This Is How It Must End" is written on the card. One of the best, if not the best James Bond continuation novel!
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Great, thanks!

    I'll work on something over the next few weeks.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 18,024
    007InVT wrote:
    Great, thanks!

    I'll work on something over the next few weeks.

    My pleasure. I'm writing a series on the '90s Gardner novels and a monograph on Never Send Flowers is just a part of this series for The Bondologist Blog. Hey, maybe you could lend me your cover to accompany the article, @007InVT?
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