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Looking Back: For Special Services


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#1 zencat

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 03:56 PM

The second in Qwerty's terrific "Looking back" series is now on the CBn main page...

[center]Posted Image
Looking Back: For Special Services
[4]John Gardner

#2 Mr. Somerset

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:00 PM

Great article. I read the book back in middle school, and it remains my favourite Gardner Bond.

#3 Loomis

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:19 PM

A bit of a dog, this one, although it ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks Benson was the only continuation novelist capable of rotten prose and really diabolical liberties with Fleming characters.

Having Cedar Leiter as the Bond girl forces us to picture 007 as a guy pushing 50 - not good. Okay, I'll sorta take that back: nothing wrong with an "old" Bond, as long as he does interesting things and has interesting reactions that arise from his being a bit over the hill. None of that here, of course, just a Bond who's ageing to no apparent creative end beyond Gardner's desire to shoehorn Leiter's daughter into the novel.

Apart from which, Gardner's writing is lazy in the extreme. The story isn't too bad (although it's most certainly no great shakes, either), but the way it's told results in a book that's a great big crashing bore.

Oh, and need I mention that fans of Fleming's Bond need not apply?

#4 Bryce (003)

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:25 PM

Ahhhh


FSS.

One of my favorites.

Three Zeros, Blofeld, Cedar, mind-control drugs in ice cream, the elevator shaft in DC, blowing up the cabin, Saab vs. Cobra race, thugs in NYC, NORAD.

Too much good stuff.

:)

*makes mental note to re-read For Special Services*

#5 zencat

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:27 PM

One of my favorites as well. Of all the Gardner books this is the one I'd most like to see turned into a movie. Great title too.

#6 Jim

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 04:34 PM

Did I really write that about For Special Services? God.

Anyway, bit of a time since I read it - at least fifteen years - but it's one of his most straightforward and although Cedar Leiter is a questionable development, that I can remember some definite incidents - Tara, the car race, the ants thingy, the breastless woman, the obvious twist, Bismaquer being sexually interested in Bond, some stuff in hotels (as ever) - suggests that it has lingered in the memory more than some of his later stuff; I couldn't tell you anything much about SeaFire, for example. Nor would you want me to.

#7 Trident

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 06:16 PM

When first reading it I found FSS not half bad. I found it better than LR and with more action and more like a Bond film than its predecessor. Cedar struck me as quite odd and not very credible. A spare time secret agent between college and cover job? Working without her father noticing? And then sent right to the head of a sister service in GB? I mean, how short of personel are the CIA? Haven't they got somebody slightly more versatile for such a task?

And thinking of Bonds age, as the mention of Leiters daughter forces us to do:
why had Bond to age at all? It never resulted in more than a slight greying of Bonds temples. And even that is completely forgotten in later books. I even got the intention sometimes, Bond had to work less hard in Gardners storys. The workout-routine of LR is never mentioned again and hardly ever grips the fighting Bond of the 80s the reader as the 60s model did.

Then the mention of Bond beeing severely criticised for using an old yet highly effective Browning while his Walther has been taken from the service. Ok, that happened in LR but I still don't see why Bond should use in exchange for an old gun an even older one. And now, in FSS, he has to use a H&K VP70, which is almost impossible to conceal if you are not a very massive person. And with a double action trigger for each single shot which calls for extensive practice to be mastered adequately. Why didn't they issue the VP 70 in the first place? If all officers of the service are to use it, as Gardner tells us? I simply don't get the idea.

The end then comes with a surprise: Blofelds daughter, an idea I found far better than Cedar Leiter. But the fact is not spelled out to advantage. Nena Bismaquer just gives the information and is shoot quickly afterwards. The promising situation of a revenge between Nena and Bond is discarded without any good reason in the space of one and a half pages. And with this comes the second BIG mistake the novel makes. Its not Bond who kills Nena. Its Felix Leiter in team with a couple of giant pythons. Bond is stunned into shock after seeing Nena kill of her husband and revealing her true identity. He only comes to his senses as Luxor enters the room and Nena prepares to shoot him. A task she might well have achieved, had not Luxor taken the first shot intended for Bond. Hurling a chair in her direction Bond then sends Nena into the cage of the pythons and is again paralysed while watching the snakes closing in on his adversary. To me that always seemed a bit much of shock, paralysation and so forth for Bond. It somehow had the feeling of Bond dreaming all these actions. Granted, Gardner had Bond shot up with a drug for hours but I had wanted to see him actually take part in the action and not only witnessing it.

Still I liked the book back in 82 (even after all this bashing), the year I bought the paperback. And somehow I still like it. Its far better than many later ones and I wish, Gardner had developed further in the direction of Fleming than he did in his later works.

#8 DLibrasnow

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 06:53 PM

I always liked the title - especially given the Fleming connection - but I also felt underwhelmed by the novel. In my opinion it's one of the weaker Gardners.

#9 doublenoughtspy

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 06:59 PM

My favorite Gardner. Bringing back SPECTRE was brilliant. Teaser on the plane was fantastic. The Cedar thing did make me a bit uncomfortable.

#10 Qwerty

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:21 PM

Always been one of my top three Gardner's. The plot, the characters, and the action just flow smoothly in this one. I also liked the way the return of SPECTRE was handled.

#11 zencat

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:24 PM

My favorite Gardner.  Bringing back SPECTRE was brilliant.  Teaser on the plane was fantastic.  The Cedar thing did make me a bit uncomfortable.

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I'm wondering how Gardner and Glidrose were able to get away with using SPECTRE and an heir of Blofeld in this book?

#12 DLibrasnow

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:38 PM

Because McClory was only granted the movie rights in the court settlement.

#13 zencat

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:42 PM

But there is still weirdness. The final two issues of the graphic novel A Silent Armageddon was cancelled because they contained Blofeld's son. There's also clearly some issue with the video games as Blofeld had to be called "number 1" in GE:RA. And seeing as FSS came out while NSNA was being produced, I'd think the issue would be hotter than ever.

But Gardner did use SPECTRE in two more books so...maybe not.

#14 Turn

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Posted 25 April 2005 - 07:53 PM

I think Gardner came up with the Cedar Leiter character to do a couple of things: as a reason to reintroduce Felix to build that link with the old series and to give him a woman who we all knew he couldn't touch and there would be that sexual tension, sort of like with Gala Brand in MR. Maybe Gardner though that would also draw Bond more to Nena Bismaquer in the story and take the focus off Cedar and as to what her true identify was.

#15 Genrewriter

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 05:42 PM

Great article, Devin. I'm a fan of this book as well, it's just a really fun read.

#16 Qwerty

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 06:55 PM

Great article, Devin.  I'm a fan of this book as well, it's just a really fun read.

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Thanks. :) I was lucky to read almost all of the Gardner's in order the first time and seeing SPECTRE had returned in this one was a great surprise.

#17 Tanger

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 01:30 AM

Great article Qwerty. FSS is easily Gardner's best and it deserves all the praise it gets. I loved reading this one; it's definitely one of those you can't put down and then end up finishing in one sitting. All the elements of a classic Bond Adventure in my opinion.

#18 Tanger

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 01:31 AM

Great article Qwerty. For Special Services is easily Gardner's best and it deserves all the praise it gets. I loved reading this one; it's definitely one of those you can't put down and then end up finishing in one sitting. It features all the elements of a classic Bond Adventure in my opinion. Every Bond fan should read it.

#19 K1Bond007

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 02:43 AM

Going slightly off topic, if I wanted to purchase a continuation novel (Amis, Gardner, Benson) -new- where should I look first? Amazon seems to have nothing. Just looking for a good source before I possibly break down and buy used or whatever from whomever over the Internet.

#20 Qwerty

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 03:25 AM

eBay and half.com are always good. If you'll notice, there are links to specific eBay searches on the main literary page for each novel. (Click on the following to be taken to the For Special Services one: For Special Services.)

http://search.ebay.c...ices_W0QQfsopZ1

#21 JKD68

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 11:33 PM

I love the whole "Grand Prix" chapter. Great writing IMO. Right up there with "Silver vs. Yellow" in Icebreaker.

#22 Zing!

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 04:37 PM

I have to say I was more than a little disappointed by FSS. Cedar's character just seemed unrealistic and her involvement in the case too coincidental considering she is the daughter of Bond's best friend. The sexual tension is not achieved, and tends to make Bond seem like a dirty old man. I enjoyed the return of SPECTRE, but I saw Nena's revelation coming a mile away, and felt the ultimate showdown was way too rushed. Gardner uses the whole book to build up Bond's eventual meeting with the new Blofeld, then ends it all in two pages. I did find the car chase somewhat exciting, but for the most part I found myself rather bored and forcing myself to continue.

#23 hcmv007

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 08:56 PM

[quote name='doublenoughtspy' date='25 April 2005 - 13:59']
My favorite Gardner. Bringing back SPECTRE was brilliant. Teaser on the plane was fantastic. The Cedar thing did make me a bit uncomfortable.

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[/quote


yep

#24 Frostyak

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 03:34 AM

Let me start by saying that I have read nearly all of the Fleming books. I love them. I think they are great. Simple and complex at the same time.

But part of me likes the Gardner books more. Until recently though, I didn't know why. I only read them with great hesitation always knowing in my mind that the Fleming books had to be better. But after I read the first three Gardner novels I was amazed. Part of that may be due to the fact that whenever I read the Fleming novels I can only picture Sean Connery. No matter what book, thats all I see. But when reading the Gardner novels I see my own take on Bond. I also see my own memories of the 80s in my mind. The Fleming novels took place in a time long before my own existance. Reading his books I can only imagine an idealized place in time. The Gardner books for me are different though. More vivid. Subconciously, I believe they remind me of my own past and in that I find a comfort.

- Chris

#25 zencat

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 03:36 AM

I also see my own memories of the 80s in my mind.  The Fleming novels took place in a time long before my own existance.  Reading his books I can only imagine an idealized place in time.  The Gardner books for me are different though.  More vivid. Subconciously, I believe they remind me of my own past and in that I find a comfort.

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Well said, Frostyak. I never really realized it, but I think this is also why I enjoy the Gardner books so much. I can even just look at the covers and teleport back to the time and place read it.

Welcome to CBn. :)

#26 tdalton

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 04:24 AM

For Special Services is my favorite of Gardner's continuation novels, and I really think that EON should give serious consideration to adapting this novel for the screen as part of the official James Bond franchise.

#27 Skin 17

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 03:55 PM

For Special Services is my favorite of Gardner's continuation novels, and I really think that EON should give serious consideration to adapting this novel for the screen as part of the official James Bond franchise.

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If they did that they might have to change Cedar's character. She makes Bond look old.

#28 marmaduke

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Posted 05 March 2006 - 10:09 AM

I really enjoyed For Special Services.For me it had all of the classic ingredients of a good Bond novel:
Glamour, excitement and exotic locations (This may sound odd, but being English and living in England I prefer my Bond adventures set anywhere but England) .I thought that Gardner produced an excellent Bond novel with FSS, and one he could be proud of. :tup:

#29 mttvolcano

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 11:33 PM

In this particular novel, Cedar(Felix's Daughter) is introduced. Since when did he have children. In the Fleming books he must be extremely old or Bond seems to be older.

I like Gardner, and his novels, but he strays i think to far from the 007 formula.

#30 Qwerty

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:55 AM

Merged your topic here, mttvolcano. :)




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