Who was villain David Dragonpol in John Gardner's Never Send Flowers (1993) based on in real life?

DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
edited April 2023 in Literary 007 Posts: 17,946
OK, bear with me here...

I have a few theories on this of my own as I'm writing a monograph about this, Never Send Flowers one of my favourite James Bond continuation novels of all time. I've heard it said by the Bond forum poster (though not a member of MI6 Community) AMC Hornet (on CBn Forums) that he believes that John Gardner had Timothy Dalton in mind when he created the villainous ex-actor David Dragonpol in Never Send Flowers (1993), a novel where James Bond is assigned the task of finding the killer of five different people during the course of one week, amongst them Dragonpol's ex-girlfriend MI5 agent Laura March. Bond then has to foil a dastardly plot by the serial killer David Dragonpol to assassinate HRH Princess Diana and her two sons on a visit to Euro Disney in Paris. Dragonpol is described as 'The Man with the Glass Head' in Never Send Flowers from his ability as an actor and AMC Hornet thinks that this reflects Timothy Dalton as an actor and he was the James Bond actor of the time in July 1993 when the novel was published in the UK. AMC Hornet also noted on CBn Forums that David Copperfield would be another contender for the role of David Dragonpol, and a theatrical and magical theme does run throughout the novel, so that would also fit and Gardner may have had him in mind too when he created Dragonpol. Never Send Flowers also has horror genre elements with the separate serial killer brother of Laura March, namely David March, who beheaded several girls and kept their heads floating in jars in his refrigerator. It is also a crime novel with its serial killer plot and is thus very experimental as a James Bond spy thriller.

This might well be the case, but from Dragonpol dressing up as Richard III, I had another brainwave on who he was meant to possibly represent: Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, post-1986 or so when the plastic surgery began and he became more zany and wacky. The British tabloids labelled him "Wacko Jacko" due to several news stories like him buying the Elephant Man's bones and posing in a hyperbaric chamber that he said he believed would make him live to the grand old age of 150. It all fits, I think - was Dragonpol meant as a side-swipe at such celebrities? There are the links of Dragonpol's Schloss Drache and theatre museum and Jackson's Neverland Ranch, itself containing a theme park for disadvantaged children a la Euro Disney. There had been this famous interview later that year too and Jackson was at the height of his fame in 1993, before the child molestation accusations began, so to me he seems as likely an influence as any other actor/singer/celebrity I can think of:



So these are my thoughts on the inspiration for David Dragonpol - what are yours? I'm assuming here that you have read the novel, which was reprinted by Orion Books again in November 2012. Sadly John Gardner is no longer around to ask this question to, so what do my fellow MI6 agents think of my theory?

I know that John Gardner himself was a stage magician with the American Red Cross after the war and had many tomes on magic. He was a member of the Magic Circle since the 1960s as well as in American magic circles and he also had wanted to be an actor himself as well as writing several plays while he was the drama critic on the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald so there may well have been a large part of Gardner himself in the David Dragonpol character construct and his general bizarre manner. I think he is one of the best of Gardner's villains and the most intriguing, as well as another Gardner 1990s experimental Bond novel villain in Brokenclaw Lee Fu-Chu from Brokenclaw (1990). And Raymond Benson was to compare the Crown Prince Chang to a Michael Jackson lookalike in the Tomorrow Never Dies novelisation in 1997, so there is some form in this area, albeit some four years later than Never Send Flowers. David Dragonpol is also a rather fantasy-laden name (not based on reality, unless you include the Serbian World War II General Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović, executed for war crimes in 1946 - Gardner had many military tomes in his vast history book collection) for a Bond villain character and this seemed to fit in with the rest of the plot of the novel and the rather theatrical trappings of the villain of the piece, David Dragonpol himself. Dragonpol is built up throughout the novel as a rather insane person; an intellectual with a killer streak who loves nothing better than to carry out various assassinations worldwide in bizarre disguises seemingly just because he can and the fact that he enjoys doing so a la the equally mad Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his Castle of Death and Garden of Death in Japan to attract suicides - evil just for the sake of it, and quite a come down from his past atomic bomb and virus spreading plans in TB and OHMSS. Both Blofeld and Dragonpol were as mad as hatters in their respective novels. In fact, I see a lot of parallels between You Only Live Twice and Never Send Flowers novels, but (much) more on that when my monograph sees the light of day on The Bondologist Blog.

I've given this matter a lot of thought, as I hope you can see from this thread!

--Dragonpol. :)
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Comments

  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe "I tolerate this century, but I don't enjoy it."Moderator
    Posts: 13,931
    Not News, moved to Literary 007.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited September 2013 Posts: 17,946
    Not News, moved to Literary 007.

    Sorry. My mistake. I posted in too much haste. I obviously meant to put it in Literary 007, so thanks for doing that for me, @MajorDSmythe.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    Any interest out there on my thesis at all?

    I'd really love to hear from you as this is something I'm very interested in. I know it is an arcane area of Bondology, but that is what I in fact specialise in on The Bondologist Blog - what I call Lesser Spotted Bondology.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,694
    Haha, this particular article must hit close to home for you, @Dragonpol. ;)
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    Haha, this particular article must hit close to home for you, @Dragonpol. ;)

    Indeed. The clue's in my username - I meant to add that in my OP. Dragonpol is my name on here and I'm proud to carry it as a reminder of John Gardner's massive contribution to the literary James Bond between 1981 andf 1996. I think that Dragonpol also fits in with my alternative take on all things Bond. Dragonpol encapsulates this better than anything else, I hope. I wouldn't be surprised at all if many members here weren't aware of who Dragonpol even was before I posted this thread, so I feel I owe it to John Gardner to keep his flag flying high. I hope to get some great responses on this topic.
  • Draggers you're too nice to make a good villain ;). I did my evil best to make you one.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited March 14 Posts: 17,946
    oo7 wrote: »

    With all due respect, this is on a completely different subject, @oo7. Yes, Sir Henry, I am too nice, but Dragonpol was complex, just as I am.
  • oo7oo7
    edited September 2013 Posts: 1,068
    Draggers you're too nice to make a good villain ;). I did my evil best to make you one.

    <object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/YHit_vQ1f7Q?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/YHit_vQ1f7Q?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>
    Dragonpol wrote:
    With all due respect, this is on a completely different subject, @oo7. Yes, Sir Henry, I am too nice, but Dragonpol was complex, just as I am.

    Dragonpol wrote:
    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
    from the first thread on gardner.

    and what a awful michael jackson example. I'll take this one
    <object width="420" height="315"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/6B2wtC91_0U?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/6B2wtC91_0U?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="420" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Quantum Floral Arrangements: "We Have Petals Everywhere"
    Posts: 28,694
    What are you still on about now, @oo7? If you haven't anything constructive to say other than the same comments over and over, I suggest you leave this thread and go on your merry way. Spamming the place with repetitious commentary, videos and gifs gets us nowhere on the discussion front.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited September 2013 Posts: 17,946
    I was actually referring to the post-1986 plastic-surgery addled Michael Jackson, not the Thriller era one, if you care to actually read my OP, @oo7, but then you are too busy grinding your axe to notice this, I suspect. It's clear you have a personal agenda against the Lord Dragonpol for reasons best known to yourself.
  • edited September 2013 Posts: 6,396
    What are you still on about now, @oo7? If you haven't anything constructive to say other than the same comments over and over, I suggest you leave this thread and go on your merry way. Spamming the place with repetitious commentary, videos and gifs gets us nowhere on the discussion front.

    Hear hear! I was about to say the same. It does appear @oo7 has some kind of agenda against Draggers. It's the only time he seems to pop up on these boards is to make some inanane comment against him, usually bookended by a childish video.
  • oo7oo7
    Posts: 1,068
    I have no axe to grind, I'm just found a stock of good gifs and having some fun with them, hardly spam as they are all used in context.
    this thread is spam, its the third incarnation. that is constructive critic of the post brady
    everyone's so strung out these days
    I dont think so willy, you can check my threads and see some pretty good stuff going on.
    In before the lock. good day
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited September 2013 Posts: 17,946
    oo7 wrote:
    I have no axe to grind, I'm just found a stock of good gifs and having some fun with them, hardly spam as they are all used in context.
    this thread is spam, its the third incarnation. that is constructive critic of the post brady
    everyone's so strung out these days
    I dont think so willy, you can check my threads and see some pretty good stuff going on.
    In before the lock. good day

    You've already shown yourself as a spammer in the past though, posting copious amounts of irrelevant material on my past memberships of other forums and bans there - just look them up for anyone who doesn't believe me. You've contributed nothing to this thread, which is on a separate topic so please buzz off and find another member to harangue. Your gifs are irrelevant to this thread, and as such, they are the purest form of spam. You are not a moderator, so please don't start behaving like one.

    --Dragonpol.
  • Do we need to have a referee here? Please keep your run-ins confined to PM.
  • oo7oo7
    Posts: 1,068
    I was just stating the fact you already had two other posts covering the book and the character. gifs can spice up any thread, I doubt posting james bond gifs on a james bond forum is that far off topic.
    You are not a moderator either, so please dont act(little dragonpol joke there) like one.

    --oo7.
  • saunderssaunders Living in a world of avarice and deceit
    edited September 2013 Posts: 987
    I think I can understand the poster's logic when suggesting Timothy Dalton as the inspiration considering Tim's role as dastardly movie screen idol/Nazi spy Neville Sinclair in the 1991 film Rocketeer (coincidentally made by Disney), it's fairly obvious that Tim took much influence from Errol Flynn.
    Personally I disagree, I recently read NSF and was also intrigued which celebrity was the inspiration for David Dragonpol. Though I clearly haven't given it as much thought as @Dragonpol I would dispute his Michael Jackson theory, you only have to read Gardner's work to realise he wrote through the eyes and experiences of an older man with little real interest for the more modern figures of the arts and entertainment worlds (The writer hadn't even seen a Bond film since 1979!). David Dragonpol is almost certainly based on an English performer and his deep (though twisted) love for the Laura character would rule out a more notorious hell raiser type such as Errol Flynn. It's also clear from the character's history and future projects that his real interest involves the stage rather than the big screen or other media (though it's clear when he has attempted this medium it is to great artistic and financial success), I therefore propose that the most likely candidates as inspiration for David Dragonpol are either Peter O'Toole or Laurence Olivier (who as a son of a clergyman would of struck much resonance with Gardner's own background), they are both great actors who have enjoyed massive success on the stage and been able to transfer it to the silver screen while managing to attain a level of privacy not managed by later celebrities.

    Anyway those are my thoughts for whatever they are worth!
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    Do we need to have a referee here? Please keep your run-ins confined to PM.

    Indeed. Enough of this madness. Back to the thread, please. I'm genuinely interested in on-topic discussions, which was what the thread was intended for in the first place...
  • Dragonpol wrote:
    Do we need to have a referee here? Please keep your run-ins confined to PM.

    Indeed. Enough of this madness. Back to the thread, please. I'm genuinely interested in on-topic discussions, which was what the thread was intended for in the first place...

    Good call. Both of you need to find a ignore button for each other if one exists. If one doesn't, it should be looked into if possible. Draggers, if you don't like the gifs, IFM for spam and let a mod handle it.

  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    Dragonpol wrote:
    Do we need to have a referee here? Please keep your run-ins confined to PM.

    Indeed. Enough of this madness. Back to the thread, please. I'm genuinely interested in on-topic discussions, which was what the thread was intended for in the first place...

    Good call. Both of you need to find a ignore button for each other if one exists. If one doesn't, it should be looked into if possible. Draggers, if you don't like the gifs, IFM for spam and let a mod handle it.

    That I will do. Sound advice as always, Sir Henry. I would be wise to follow it. Now on with the thread...
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    edited September 2013 Posts: 23,755
    To be fair, fellas, @oo7 does have a point about multiple threads. So @Dragonpol, please make this the definitive one. Because there have been enough interesting posts made here, I guess we can keep it open.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    DarthDimi wrote:
    To be fair, fellas, @oo7 does have a point about multiple threads. So @Dragonpol, please make this the definitive one. Because there have been enough interesting posts made here, I guess we can keep it open.

    Yes, certainly. This is the final thread on Dragonpol/Never Send Flowers topic. Thank you for allowing it to live, DD.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    saunders wrote:
    I think I can understand the poster's logic when suggesting Timothy Dalton as the inspiration considering Tim's role as dastardly movie screen idol/Nazi spy Neville Sinclair in the 1991 film Rocketeer (coincidentally made by Disney), it's fairly obvious that Tim took much influence from Errol Flynn.
    Personally I disagree, I recently read NSF and was also intrigued which celebrity was the inspiration for David Dragonpol. Though I clearly haven't given it as much thought as @Dragonpol I would dispute his Michael Jackson theory, you only have to read Gardner's work to realise he wrote through the eyes and experiences of an older man with little real interest for the more modern figures of the arts and entertainment worlds (The writer hadn't even seen a Bond film since 1979!). David Dragonpol is almost certainly based on an English performer and his deep (though twisted) love for the Laura character would rule out a more notorious hell raiser type such as Errol Flynn. It's also clear from the character's history and future projects that his real interest involves the stage rather than the big screen or other media (though it's clear when he has attempted this medium it is to great artistic and financial success), I therefore propose that the most likely candidates as inspiration for David Dragonpol are either Peter O'Toole or Laurence Olivier (who as a son of a clergyman would of struck much resonance with Gardner's own background), they are both great actors who have enjoyed massive success on the stage and been able to transfer it to the silver screen while managing to attain a level of privacy not managed by later celebrities.

    Anyway those are my thoughts for whatever they are worth!

    Thank you very much for those thoughts - you've given me much more food for thought there, @saunders. Precisely the sort of response I was hoping for!
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 9,117
    Dragonpol wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    To be fair, fellas, @oo7 does have a point about multiple threads. So @Dragonpol, please make this the definitive one. Because there have been enough interesting posts made here, I guess we can keep it open.

    Yes, certainly. This is the final thread on Dragonpol/Never Send Flowers topic. Thank you for allowing it to live, DD.

    Really? Can I hold you to that?

    Given that I've only plodded through NSF once and that was when it was first released so we're talking 20 odd years ago I can't really add anything useful here.

    One mildly interesting thing did strike me though in perusing your post Draggers when you made the point about Gardner's early career in magic. The thought struck me that perhaps David Copperfield might be a template for Dragonpol?

    But I honestly can't remember a thing about the character so as you are almost certainly the worlds foremost expert on NSF I'll let you decide if that theory has any validity.
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,946
    Dragonpol wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    To be fair, fellas, @oo7 does have a point about multiple threads. So @Dragonpol, please make this the definitive one. Because there have been enough interesting posts made here, I guess we can keep it open.

    Yes, certainly. This is the final thread on Dragonpol/Never Send Flowers topic. Thank you for allowing it to live, DD.

    Really? Can I hold you to that?

    Given that I've only plodded through NSF once and that was when it was first released so we're talking 20 odd years ago I can't really add anything useful here.

    One mildly interesting thing did strike me though in perusing your post Draggers when you made the point about Gardner's early career in magic. The thought struck me that perhaps David Copperfield might be a template for Dragonpol?

    But I honestly can't remember a thing about the character so as you are almost certainly the worlds foremost expert on NSF I'll let you decide if that theory has any validity.

    Yes, Ice, I have no further territorial demands in Europe, if you will.

    Thanks for your gracious reply.

    I did add in a mention of David Copperfield as AMC Hornet had suggested him as a possibility on the CBn Forums. I think you should give NSF another read for old times' sake though, Ice. It might well surprise you with its literary brilliance! :)
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited September 2013 Posts: 17,946
    I'd really love to hear from some other members on this one before this thread heads for oblivion as I (obviously, by now) find Never Send Flowers and its villain, David Dragonpol, most fascinating. As such, I really love to hear others' takes on this Bond continuation novel which saw its 20th Birthday through in July 2013.

    In other news I've also changed my avatar to reflect how Timothy Dalton might have looked in the role of David Dragonpol.
  • saunderssaunders Living in a world of avarice and deceit
    edited September 2013 Posts: 987
    Like your new avatar @Dragonpol

    I think you may of gone about as far as you can with this thread, it would perhaps be interesting for you to sum up by explaining the reasons behind your fascination with this book, though I consider it to be one of Gardner's better later novels, it's certainly nowhere near the standard of his first five, and to be honest I can't really understand your passion for it, do the locations mean something personal to you? Are you inspired by the notion of a theatre museum? Do you just really like Disney? I genuinely would be interested in finding out what makes Never Send Flowers so special to you?
  • Posts: 7,653
    while readin NSF and the villain got clearer I felt a flashback towards Jack Higgings-Solo (1980) a.k.a. The Cretan Lover, in which a celebrity concertpainist is also a deadly efficent killer.

    I was underwhelmed with NSF even if I did not mind the Euro Disney part simply because that placement made sense as place to target the the princess and the princes. And why should Bond dislike Disney, I feel that some fans think that Bond dislikes anything to do with popular culture and if he doesn't that would be unfaithfull to the character. I am of the believe that even Bond has some guilty pleasures like all of us do and Disney seems to fit the bill perfectly.
  • saunderssaunders Living in a world of avarice and deceit
    edited September 2013 Posts: 987
    SaintMark wrote:
    while readin NSF and the villain got clearer I felt a flashback towards Jack Higgings-Solo (1980) a.k.a. The Cretan Lover, in which a celebrity concertpainist is also a deadly efficent killer.

    I was underwhelmed with NSF even if I did not mind the Euro Disney part simply because that placement made sense as place to target the the princess and the princes. And why should Bond dislike Disney, I feel that some fans think that Bond dislikes anything to do with popular culture and if he doesn't that would be unfaithfull to the character. I am of the believe that even Bond has some guilty pleasures like all of us do and Disney seems to fit the bill perfectly.

    Who doesn't love Disney? I can understand why people dislike the idea of Bond in a Disney park (especially when he apparently 'enjoyed it very much'), it doesn't seem to fit in with the clubman bachelor image that we know, Fleming on the other hand would of been fascinated by the parks, not for the joy and thrill of the rides but rather his journalistic nose would of been interested in how the parks are operated, what security operations are in use and any murky tales of scandal. I suppose it's not completely ludicrous to imagine that if Fleming had lived longer he may very well of been drawn to the idea of having Bond visit such a interesting tourist vacation spot in a similar manner to the Las Vegas locations used in DAF.

  • Posts: 7,653
    saunders wrote:
    SaintMark wrote:
    while readin NSF and the villain got clearer I felt a flashback towards Jack Higgings-Solo (1980) a.k.a. The Cretan Lover, in which a celebrity concertpainist is also a deadly efficent killer.

    I was underwhelmed with NSF even if I did not mind the Euro Disney part simply because that placement made sense as place to target the the princess and the princes. And why should Bond dislike Disney, I feel that some fans think that Bond dislikes anything to do with popular culture and if he doesn't that would be unfaithfull to the character. I am of the believe that even Bond has some guilty pleasures like all of us do and Disney seems to fit the bill perfectly.

    Who doesn't love Disney? I can understand why people dislike the idea of Bond in a Disney park (especially when he apparently 'enjoyed it very much'), it doesn't seem to fit in with the clubman bachelor image that we know, Fleming on the other hand would of been fascinated by the parks, not for the joy and thrill of the rides but rather his journalistic nose would of been interested in how the parks are operated, what security operations are in use and any murky tales of scandal. I suppose it's not completely ludicrous to imagine that if Fleming had lived longer he may very well of been drawn to the idea of having Bond visit such a interesting tourist vacation spot in a similar manner to the Las Vegas locations used in DAF.

    I do agree with your assesment.

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