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Nobody Lives for Ever (published in American editions as Nobody Lives Forever), first published in 1986, was the fifth 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 Jonathan Cape and in the United States by Putnam.

Nobody Lives For Ever was the last novel to have its first edition cover designed in the style of Richard Chopping. Chopping had previously drawn nine Ian Fleming novels from 1956 to 1966 as well as Gardener's Licence Renewed in 1981.


En route to retrieve his faithful housekeeper, May, from a European health clinic where she is recovering from an illness, Bond is warned by the British Secret Service that Tamil Rahini, the current leader of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., now dying from wounds suffered due to his last encounter with Bond (as described in Role of Honour), has put a price on Bond's head. "Trust no one," Bond is warned.

Soon after, May and Miss Moneypenny, who had been visiting his housekeeper are reported missing, and Bond finds himself dodging would-be assassins while searching for his friends, assisted by a young debutante and her capable, yet mysterious, female bodyguard. Along Bond's journey of attempting to rescue Moneypenny and May, Bond is betrayed and chased by a number of people and organizations.

Plot summary[]

Harm on the road[]

James Bond is on holiday in Europe driving his Bentley Mulsanne Turbo. He plans to take the opportunity to pick up May, his housekeeper, who is in an Austrian clinic following health problems.

While stopping at a gas station, he spots a young woman, who is attacked by two thugs who have stolen from the station's cash register. Using his telescopic baton, Bond overpowers the two men. Even after dealing with them, the woman, an Italian named Sukie Tempesta, gives no details about herself. The two wait for the police to arrive before Bond continues his journey.

During his journey to Strasbourg in Grand Est, France -- Bond witnesses an car following him on the highway to suddenly explode. First having seen two men fell overboard during ferry crossing and the business with the gas station robbers, this is the third major incident to occur to him on a single day.

The next day, Bond receives a phone call from Moneypenny who informs him that she is also on vacation near Salzburg, where May's clinic is located. Leaving his hotel, Bond encounters a certain Paul Cordova, who is a member of New York organized crime. Afterwards, Bond continues his journey.

Later, in another hotel, Bond hears a woman, panicking and screaming for murder. Subsequently, Bond finds the body of Paul Cordova, who was in the same hotel as Bond last time.

Bond then meets Sukie Tempesta, who Bond finds out is a princess, at the hotel reception and has dinner with her. A sudden phone call from Bill Tanner informs him that Bond is in danger and that Steve Quinn, a resident SIS agent in Rome, will soon join him.

Learning about Head Hunt, picking up Nannie[]

Quinn meets Bond at his hotel, with the former informing that someone has put a price on Bond's head. M has learned that there is a competition called the "Head Hunt", in which the person that can bring Bond's head on a silver platter to Tamil Rahani, the leader of SPECTRE (having survived events of previous novel, Role of Honour) will be rewarded 10 million in Swiss francs.

M estimates that around thirty professional killers, notably from the Italian Red Brigades, the former SMERSH operatives and the Unione Corse (which is no longer led by Marc-Ange Draco) are after for him. Not only that, they are at liberty to kill each other -- which explains the three bizarre incidents Bond had earlier in the story.

The time limit for the complete the Head Hunt is three months, tied to Tamil Rahani's failing health. Because Rahani's parachute escape (during end of Role of Honour) went wrong, he sustained spinal damage, which then become cancerous. The specialists have given him mere months to live.

Bond then receives a phone call from the director of a clinic where May was treated. May, as well as Miss Moneypenny, have been kidnapped from the clinic premises.

Bond decides to go to the clinic and brings Sukie with him. On the way, Sukie has promised to pick up his friend Nannette "Nannie" Norrich in the small Italian town of Cannobio, situated in Piedmont, Italy. Bond ultimately has to bring her too in the journey.

While driving towards Salzburg with the two women, Bond's Bentley is attacked by killers. It turns out that Nannie has a gun and helps 007 to get rid of the pursuers. Sukie then tells Bond that Nannie is the president of "NUB" (Norrich Universal Bodyguards), a close protection company. M informs Bond that May and Moneypenny's captors have promised to release them unharmed, if Bond surrenders to them.

Osten and Becker[]

Bond continues his journey to Salzburg where he meets the inspector responsible for investigating the kidnapping, Heinrich Osten, alias “The Hook”. However the inspector turns out to be a dirty cop and, with the help of his men, he separates the girls from Bond, disarming him and taking him to an apartment.

Osten explains to him that he is interested in the Head Hunt reward and locks Bond alone in a room while waiting for someone to arrive.

Bond deals with the lock using his Q branch belt, which contains a set of miniature tools. Once the door is opened, Bond finds Inspector Osten and all of his men dead. It is therefore clear that someone is protecting Bond and killing those who intended to bring him to SPECTRE.

Bond finds Sukie and Nannie, they are still alive. He telephones the SIS contact in Vienna who sends Kommissar Becker to meet with him. He tells Bond that, based on certain clues, May and Moneypenny were taken to Frankfurt and then to Paris.

Goldener Hirsch and Klinik Mozart[]

Bond then receives a phone call from the kidnappers, asking him to go to the Goldener Hirsch Hotel in Salzburg along with Sukie and Nannie.

While at the hotel awaiting further instructions, Bond is attacked by a vampire bat in the bathroom. After he manages to get rid of them, Bond receives another phone call from the kidnappers, they ask him to go to a Paris hotel with the girls.

However, Bond knows that the kidnappers are at Klinik Mozart and have taken the director, Kirchtum, hostage. Bond infiltrates there, alone, and discovers that it was Steve Quinn who was behind the phone calls and that the latter works for Department Eight of Directorate S of the KGB, the new name of SMERSH.

Bond captures him, and after threatening his wife, he gets information. They want them to go to Paris so that someone can pick him up and bring him to Tamil Rahani, who is somewhere in Key West, Florida. Bond returns to his hotel and contacts the SIS. He then goes to the airport where a private jet is waiting for him and flies to Florida with the girls.

However, upon arriving at Miami International Airport, he is greeted by Steve Quinn and Doctor Kirchtum. They put him, without the girls, on a plane heading to Key West. They change vehicles to a car, then to a boat.

At sea, Sukie and Nannie intervene, kill Quinn and Kirchtum, and free Bond. Bond makes love with Nannie and buys a diving suit to infiltrate Shark Island, Rahani's hideout.

Shark Island[]

He breaks into the Shark Island property and finds Rahani. As Bond prepares to kill him, he is interrupted by Nannie, who has a gun drawn at Bond. Rahani, who is estimated by the doctor to have one or two days to live, promises Bond that May and Moneypenny will be released once her head is cut off.

Nannie takes Bond to an execution room where there is a guillotine and locks him in a cell. For the condemned man's final request, Bond asks for a plate of scrambled eggs and a bottle of Taittinger '73.

While Nannie goes to look for them, Bond takes the opportunity to escape the locks using Q branch gadgets. He enters the execution room and places explosives under Tamil Rahani's bed (who sleeps in the execution room) and returns to his cell.

Nannie returns and brings Bond to the execution room when the explosives detonate. Rahani dies and 007 takes advantage of the diversion to escape and free May and Moneypenny. They make their way to the exit where they find Sukie; having realized that Nannie was a traitor, she launched an assault on the island with the US Navy.




  • John Gardner's original title was "You Only Die Once."