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Born in 1926, John Gardner lived his first years in the bleak mining village of Seaton Delaval near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Educated at King Alfred's School, Wantage, he served with 42 Commando, Royal Marines, at the end of World War II. Back in England, and once more a civilian, he continued his interrupted education at St John's College, Cambridge, eventually ending up as drama and art critic on the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, where he began to write plays in his spare time.

His first book was the autobiographical Spin the Bottle, shortly followed by eight novels about his famous character Boysie Oakes, the agent who always blundered while retaining a paradoxical sense of schoolboy humour. After several other thrillers came his successful trilogy about Herbie Kruger, comprising The Nostradamus Traitor, The Garden of Weapons and The Quiet Dogs. In 1979 John Gardner was invited by the literary copyright owners to carry on with James Bond where Ian Fleming left off; so far he has produced twelve titles, including Licence Renewed, Death is Forever and Never Send Flowers.