Win, Lose or Die

Win, Lose or Die

Coronet Books British paperback edition.
Author John Gardner
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series James Bond
Genre Spy fiction
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 220 pp
ISBN 0-340-41524-X
OCLC 20012807

Win, Lose or Die, first published in 1989, was the eighth novel by John Gardner featuring Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond. Carrying the Glidrose Publications copyright, it was first published in the United Kingdom by Hodder and Stoughton and in the United States by Putnam.

Beginning with this novel, and continuing for the remainder of the John Gardner series, Bond is promoted to the Royal Navy rank of Captain.

Plot summary

M receives word that a terrorist organisation known as BAST (Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terrorism) is planning to infiltrate and destroy a top-secret British Royal Navy aircraft carrier-based summit scheduled a year hence between American President George H. W. Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. To counteract this, James Bond is returned to active duty in the Royal Navy and promoted from Commander to Captain, in order to infiltrate the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible and identify potential sleeper agents.

In the months leading to the top-secret summit, Bond spends his time training at Yeovilton learning to fly a Navy Sea Harrier jet. With knowledge of Bond's task, BAST decides that Bond is a hindrance to their plans and attempts to kill him, once attempting to shoot him down while in his Sea Harrier during a training exercise. Later, when Bond goes on holiday in Italy, another attempt is made on his life. Bond escapes and, presumably, ends up taking the life of his then-current girlfriend, Beatrice Maria da Ricci.

Returning from holiday Bond boards HMS Invincible and is tasked with security for the secret summit referred to as the "Stewards' Meeting" all the while a massive war game is being carried out between American, British, and Soviet Navies known as Landsea '89. Before long Bond is at the centre of a murder investigation of an American Naval Intelligence officer, and while away to report the incident BAST has executed its plans to capture the ship and hold the world's three most powerful leaders for a 600 billion dollar ransom.


Publication history


Private Eye's anonymous critic complained that each Gardner book takes "Bond a further step or two away from the tall, resourceful ladykiller who first appeared in Casino Royale, and that "the real Bond atmosphere has been dead for upwards of 30 years." The critic also believed that Bond was a product of his times. "Gardner manages to remove most of the characteristics that made [Bond] interesting" and that the book's explosions, throat-cuttings and neck-breakings, "[have] an odd, perfunctory quality." The novel, "has none of Fleming's ability to build up tension or introduce detail casually. When Gardner talks knowledgeably about aircraft specifications the effect is only to reassure us that he has read the appropriate flight manual." The critic also accuses Gardner of "can't quite bring himself to take it seriously.[1]

Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times noted how different Fleming and Gardner are. "Ian Fleming wrote as a hedonist who prospered by dramatizing a life's worth of fantasies - acquisitions, indulgences, guilt-free sex and violence. John Gardner writes in Win, Lose or Die as a military affairs reporter who describes the operations of a Harrier VTOL aircraft as lovingly as Fleming described Pussy Galore. Gardner is long on facts, short on feelings. This is the eighth of the counterfeit James Bonds by Gardner." Commenting on the villain, Champlin writes, "Its leader, who intends to dispose of practically everyone, is as colorless a supervillain as ever Bond has faced. Call him Drabfinger." The book "is all so unamusing and juicelessly programmatic. The persistence of the series, despite these pallid copyings, is the ultimate tribute to the richness of Fleming's original invention.[2]

The Globe and Mail critic Margaret Cannon said, "this isn't Ian Fleming's James Bond, but the eighth book written by John Gardner, the recreator of Bond, and it's a far cry from the original. Bond, with his libido and gadgetry, is a creation of the fifties, when sex was furtive and gadgets were fun. Today, such authors as Tom Clancy serve up real technological frights that make all of Bond's plots seem like the innocent revels they are. Furthermore, Gardner's Bond is too American – too breezy and beefy - to be the real 007. This one needs to RIP."[3]

Kirkus Reviews said that, "Despite too many acronyms, too much artillery, and too many layers of deceptive identity, this is still one of Gardner's better Bonds, guaranteed to make you feel excited as well as a little foolish."[4]

See also


  1. "Moonraking it in". Private Eye. 4 August 1989.
  2. Champlin, Charles (July 16, 1989). Los Angeles Times. Missing or empty |title= (help) Available online.
  3. Cannon, Margaret (22 July 1989). "Murder & Mayhem: Crimes for days of gin and tonic". The Globe and Mail. p. C.17.
  4. "Win, Lose or Die". Kirkus Reviews. 15 June 1989. Available online.
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