Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Requiem for a novelization

With the news that there will be no novelization of Skyfall, I thought I'd take a look back at the past James Bond novelizations. Looks like these seven (007!) books will now stand alone as "the novelizations."

What was nice about the Bond novelizations, and why I had hoped for a Skyfall novelization -- despite being aware that novelizations themselves on the way out -- is that they were always treated as something more than marketing knockoffs. The first two novelizations were written by the screenwriter, Christopher Wood. The final five were penned by continuation novelists John Gardner and Raymond Benson.

These were also quality books. In fact, many consider Christopher Wood's James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me as one of the very best continuation novels. John Gardner's Licence To Kill is a fan favorite as he fit the story into the literary continuity (yes, poor Felix is fed to sharks again!). Raymond Benson's Tomorrow Never Dies improves on a weak film by filling in plot holes and fleshing out the characters of Elliot Carver and Wai Lin.

The Bond novelizations were also printed in nice hardcover editions, at least in the UK, and that's what I'm showcasing here. The 007 Novelizations (see how that works two ways?). Let us have a moment of silent contemplation.

By Christopher Wood
By John Gardner
By Raymond Benson

The good news is 2012 will not be totally novelization free. Orion will be reprinting John Gardner's Licence To Kill and GoldenEye as part of their new paperback reprints.

UK novelizations (hardcover) publication:
James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me by Christopher Wood, Jonathan Cape, 1977
James Bond and Moonraker by Christopher Wood, Jonathan Cape, 1979
Licence To Kill by John Gardner, The Mysterious Press, April 1990. (Paperback published in 1989.)
GoldenEye by John Gardner, Hodder & Stoughton, November 1995.
Tomorrow Never Dies by Raymond Benson, Hodder & Stoughton, November 1997.
The World Is Not Enough by Raymond Benson, Hodder & Stoughton, November 1999.
Die Another Day by Raymond Benson, Hodder & Stoughton, November 7, 2002.


  1. I don't think it's safe to say they'll never be another Bond novelization, though at the moment it may seem unlikely. A couple of years ago, how likely did reprints of Licence to Kill and GoldenEye seem? (novelizations reprinted 15-20 years after the movie has come and gone? STAR WARS aside, that's practically unheard of) Or indeed the Gardners at all? How likely did any future continuation novel seem? There's a thread on CBn circa 2005 where the odds of the Gardner books ever again getting another run - and indeed the future of BookBond as a whole beyond periodic Fleming reissues - is made to sound very, very bleak. But now look where we are.

    Like I iterated in another post, I think there's been an effort the last few years post-Benson to bring BookBond back from out of the shadows of FilmBond, and showcase it as something with it's own unique, separate identity, it's own universe. A novelization would, of course, muddy those waters right now, but who knows what the game plan will be in the future?

  2. I agree with Luke that, as nice as this post is (and it's very nice indeed to see those particular--in some cases elusive--hardcovers pictured together), it may be a bit premature for a requiem. I don't think we've seen the last of Bond novelizations. The novelization itself may be on the way out (though still far from gone), but as you illustrate so eloquently in this post, Bond novelizations have never been TYPICAL novelizations anyway. I think that there will always be a market, however niche, for James Bond books, and novelizations for these films will always sell well enough to justify their publication (even if, Heaven help us, publication itself in the future turns out to be electronic). I really don't believe that the decision this time was made for economic reasons as much as, as Luke intimates, the fact that the current regime at IFP are keen to create their own Bond brand distinctive from the films. In the future, that may not always be the case. And I'm sure that at SOME point, there will be a regular Bond author again. And if a film comes out during the tenure of a regular continuation author, then a novelization might make more sense. Let's hope, anyway!

  3. Great comments, guys. You could be right. This might not be the end, just a pause. Hope so. :)

  4. Also, Licence to Kill, April 1990? Presumably there was a paperback first.

    1. Yes. I thought that might cause confusion. The Coronet paperback was released with the movie in 1989. The Mysterious Press hardcovers (and these are just the hardcovers I'm listing here) were published in 1990.

  5. I hope, with all these Bond novels coming out in trade paperback, someone will consider a new life for the Christopher Wood books. For many readers, they would be new stories...

  6. I'm tempted to pick up the recent reprints of Licence to Kill and GoldenEye as I recently got a few of the reprinted Gardner books, having never read any of them before. I'm also hoping they'll do reprints of the Wood novelisations because I'm dying to read those!


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