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Licence Renewed - Small Title NovelLocationsEquipmentCharacters

Licence Renewed (published in American editions as License Renewed), first published in 1981, is the first novel by John Gardner featuring Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond. It was the first proper James Bond novel (not counting novelisations and a faux biography) since Kingsley Amis's Colonel Sun in 1968. Carrying the Glidrose Publications copyright, it was first published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape and in the United States by Richard Marek.

The release of Licence Renewed successfully relaunched the Bond literary franchise, being the first of 14 original novels by Gardner until his retirement in 1996. In that timeframe Gardner also wrote two novelisations.


The book takes place following the Fleming novels, now in the 1980s. Despite the 00 Section no longer existing, James Bond is assigned by M to investigate Anton Murik, a nuclear physicist suspected of collaborating with terrorists.

Posing as a mercenary for hire, Bond infiltrates Murik's castle in Scotland. He eventually comes to face assassination plots, as well as a terrorist attack planned on six nuclear reactors around the world.

Plot summary[]


When Licence Renewed begins, M reminds Bond that the 00 section has in fact been abolished; however, M retains Bond as a troubleshooter (pun intended), telling him "You'll always be 007 to me."

Bond is assigned to investigate an international terrorist named Franco, who suspected of having meetings with Dr. Anton Murik, a brilliant nuclear physicist who recently left the International Atomic Energy Commission.

Franco is identified and tracked by MI5 to a village in Scotland called Murcaldy. Since Murcaldy is outside of MI5's jurisdiction, the Director-General of MI5, Richard Duggan requests that M send Bond to survey Murik. After Duggan leaves, M instead assigns Bond to infiltrate Murik's Scottish castle, and gain Murik's confidence.

M has a bad feeling about the case, but gives additional briefing on Murik. He tells that Murik renowned nuclear physicist who claims to have invented a 100% safe and harmless nuclear reactor, which he was never able to build it due to a lack of funds and intrested investors. Also, Murik is the Laird of Murcaldy, a title which he gained by rather besmirched means. He is also investor in several companies, including aeronautics and Haute couture.

He owns a castle in the Murcaldy property, where he is usually accompanied by secretary Mary Jane Mashkin, his ward Lavender Peacock, whom he took in following the death of her parents. He is guarded by a bodyguard named Caber and other staff.

Before leaving Bond goes to Q branch to get his equipment. The Q branch has remained mostly unchanged and finds Major Boothroyd, the department's armorer who gives him his new service weapon, a 9mm FN Browning M1903. But there is a new addition to the Q branch, the softening with the presence of a new quartermaster, Ann Reilly, who immediately nicknamed by Bond as "Q'ute". Q'ute is told to be responsible for the new gadgets, which she has made Bond several of, and she ends up befriending him.

Ascot Racecourse, Castle[]

Bond finds Murik at the Ascot Racecourse, accompanied by Mary-Jane Mashkin and Lavender Peacock. Bond makes contact with Murik, where he feigns a coincidental meeting, by bringing back the necklace that was stolen from Lavender which Bond actually had stolen from her.

Bond then mentions to Murik that he is a mercenary looking for work. The secret agent makes a good impression, especially on the two women, and gets an invitation to the Scottish castle.

Later, Bond joins Murik in Scotland at the request of the physicist, where Lavender and Mary Jane are also situated. Murik gives a tour of his castle and Bond hides a bugging microphone in Murik's office. At dinner, Anton insists that 007 participate in the Murcaldy Games, a sort of village festival, which are to take place the next day.

Once in his room, Bond takes a microphone receiver out of his luggage and hear a discussion between Murik and Franco via the bug Bond placed in Murik's office He hears that next Thursday, "Operation Meltdown" will take place. There is talk about group of suicide terrorist taking control of six nuclear power plants around the world at the same time. The terrorist are to demand large amounts of money from the governments, or else the terrorists will cause a meltdown.

Franco is also ordered to kill a woman, whose identity Bond doesn't learn. Mary Jane arrives in his room, trying to flirt with him but Bond rejects her advances fearing that she will be sent by the Laird to test him, she leaves furious.

Next, Lavender tries to enter Bond's room. Bond tells her that there is something going on with Murik and that he will investigate it.

Highland games, plan, chase, capture[]

Bond participates in the Highland Games held in the meadows around Murik's castle. By suggestion of Mary-Jane, Bond is made to wrestle Caber, Murik's bodyguard and the Champion of Glen Murcaldy. Using the Q-branch Dunhill lighter, that's filled with the anesthetic Halothane, Bond uses to trickery to administer the chemical on Caber. Bond defeats Caber in wrestling, with Murik then proclaiming Bond as the new Champion of Murcaldy.

After becoming the new champion of the Laird of Murcaldy, Murik decides to involve Bond in Operation Meltdown and indulges Bond on his plan. Murik gives a speech on the dangers of nuclear energy production and his studies on fusion for a new generation power plant.

Bond thus discovers Murik's plan to use Franco and other terrorists to hijack six nuclear power plants cause them to have a "China Syndrome" meltdown, which will lead to panic over the use of nuclear technology and give his opportunity to build his safe reactor. To ensure that Murik can never be connected to this terrorist act, he plans to use Bond to assassinate Franco once the operation is finished,

Bond pretends to accept the job, using it as a guise to flee the castle and contact the authorities. Bond boards his Saab 900 Turbo and speeds out of the castle, eventually finding out that he is pursued. After a long chase, Bond's Saab is rammed by Mary Jane's BMW, and ends up in a ditch.

Bond is brought back to Murik's castle, where is taken to a torture room. There, he is drugged and interrogated by Murik and Mary Jane. But Bond does not give in, forcing Murik to bring Bond with him tomorrow.

Next, Bond is in a plane, which belongs to a airline company that Murik has greatly invested in, that's is heading to Perpignan, France


Bond and Murik's group arriving to the Perpignan, during the Saint John's Eve celebrations. Once landed, at the airport, Bond takes advantage of the presence of a group of guards to get away from Caber and Murik and escapes in the crowd of the ongoing celebrations.

In the middle of the celebrations, Bond manages to quickly contact M, but is forced to flee when one of Murik's men ends up calling him out.

During his escape, he notices a poster indicating a fashion show at the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, in which Lavender participates in. Recalling how Franco was hired to kill someone, Bond realizes that the target of assassination is Lavender.

Bond finds Franco while he is preparing to assassinate Lavender. He interferes, causing Franco to miss and hit Mary Jane instead, killing her. Bond kills Franco, but is then captured by Caber and brings him back to Murik.

With Bond brought to him, Murik explains the last details of his plan to him. Murik reveals that his people have been infiltrating the target nuclear plants for a entire year, working there while smuggling equipment in.

The ransom will be paid in the form of diamonds, and Bond and Lavender will die under atrocious suffering in a nuclear power plant near Orléans, one of the targets of Operation Meltdown.

Murik regrets the death of Mary-Jane who, according to him, was a brilliant scientist compared to Lavender, "a whore" whom he wanted dead. Moreover, Murik reveals that he is responsible for for the plane crash that killed Lavender's parents, and would had killed her too, if he had not been ill. This effectively means that Lavender was the true heir of the Murik lairdship all along.

Bond is locked in a room with Lavender where they talk and express their love for one another.


The next day, they all board Murik's C-14 Starlifter, a large military cargo plane, which acts as the Operation Meltdown's operational base. Tied-up Bond can only watch as Murik's plan is carried out, all the while the governments of the world are in a state of crisis.

Once he discovers how to interrupt the terrorist operation, Bond manages to untie himself. He neutralizes Murik and sends the cancellation code to the terrorists. Caber intervenes and at the end of the fight he flies through the air through the hold and with Lavender striking a knife on him. The terrorists receive the abort code and abandon their mission. Fighter planes soon arrive by Murik's plane, who were deployed due to M, and order it to land. However, Murik has escaped by parachute.

Bond goes to the Mulcardy Castle accompanied by Bill Tanner, with Bond believing that Murik has returned to his castle to destroy the documents that would validated Lavender as the true laird of Mulcardy. Bond's intuition turns out right and they find Murik.

Bond and Tanner chase Murik, who is trying to run to the helicopter and escape the scene. Bond manages to shoot Murik in a back with a Gyrojet pistol, which kills Murik.

After the mission is over, Lavender has inherited the title and the castle and becomes Lady Murik of Murcaldy. Bond lovingly spends his vacation with Lavender, the latter planning to study to become better at managing her estate and makes James promise to come and see her often.



Behind the scenes[]

Updating James Bond[]

When hired to begin a new series of James Bond novels, author John Gardner was tasked with updating James Bond and his allies and transporting them into the 1980s.

"I described to the Glidrose Board how I wanted to put Bond to sleep where Fleming had left him in the sixties, waking him up now in the 80s having made sure he had not aged, but had accumulated modern thinking on the question of Intelligence and Security matters. Most of all I wanted him to have operational know-how: the reality of correct tradecraft and modern gee-whiz technology." — John Gardner

Updating the timeframe to the 1980s, Gardner's series picks up the career of James Bond some years after the Fleming novels ended. Due to the timeframe change Gardner's series suggests that Fleming's stories, took place in the 1960s and 70s, rather than the 1950s and 60s.

Likewise with James Bond, his companions and allies, specifically those working for the British Secret Service such as M, Bill Tanner, Miss Moneypenny, and Q are also all transported to the 1980s, although Q is rarely mentioned and is mostly substituted by Ann Reilly, a genius of gadgetry who is prompty nicknamed "Q'ute" by fellow workers as well as Bond, not long before being added to Bond's long list of romantic conquests.


  • An early segment of the book that takes place at the Ascot Racecourse, where Murik is shown cheating. The segment is similar to a scene in the 1985 Bond film, A View to a Kill, but it's not known if this was a deliberate nod to Gardner's book or a coincidence.
  • John Gardner had initially asked Glidrose to title the book "Meltdown". In the end; however, Glidrose settled on Licence Renewed, a title that in actuality has little, if anything, to do with plot of the novel.
  • Heavily influenced by the 1979 film The China Syndrome, the book's eponymous nuclear meltdown scenario was derived from the fanciful idea that a nuclear plant's super-heated core would tunnel its way to the other side of the world.

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