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Win, Lose or Die - Small Title NovelLocationsEquipmentCharacters

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[]

Prelude & Briefing[]

A Japanese oil tanker called Son of Takashani, is attacked at the Strait of Hormuz, by unknown group of men raiding the ship by parachute. The attackers refer the operation, which is meant to serve as training for a attack in the future, as as "Win".

A few months later, a Mediterranean radar base satellite intercepts a conversation between two leaders of a group known as BAST (Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terrorism). The BAST is planning to infiltrate and attack the British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, which is to host a top-secret meeting between the British, the Russian, and the American VIPs under the cover of the "Landsea 1989" war simulation.

To counteract this, M asks James Bond to return to active duty in the Royal Navy in order to infiltrate the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible during the Landsea 1989 and identify potential sleeper agents.


In the months leading to the top-secret summit, Bond spends his time training at RNAS Yeovilton [Wikipedia], where he is promoted from Commander to Captain. He trains with other trainees to fly a Navy Sea Harrier jet.

During his first training flight, Bond's Harrier is almost hit by a real missile, which narrowly missed pulverizing him. Afterwards, one of the Harriers is found missing. No one believes Bond about the missile, since everyone had a technical malfunction in their on-board instruments. The Harrier that's gone missing was actually hijacked by a BAST operative, with the group knowing of Bond's future role in Landsea 1989 and attempted to kill Bond with the missile.

On the air base, Bond starts flirting with Clover Pennington, a WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service) aviator. She unconsciously reveals to him that she and others are aware of his assignment on the Invincible, a fact normally kept top secret. Bond decides to keep a close an eye on her.

Meanwhile, BAST coerces an married mechanic working aboard HMS Invincible to work for them, by putting him in a compromising situation with a photograph of him with an underaged girl.

Bond updates M and meets him at his home. He provided him with a report from Pennington concluding that the incident was due to a technical failure of his on-board instruments.

During the following days Bond continues to practice flying, and another BAST conversation captured by satellite is conveyed to M. In it is mentioned a plan calling a one of the BAST leading members named Saphii Boudai alias "The Cat" to eliminate James Bond during his Christmas break. As a countermeasure, Bond and M intend to try to attract "The Cat" by having Bond celebrate Christmas openly in a villa outside Naples.


Bond arrives to the villa near Naples, where he is welcomed by Beatrice Maria da Ricci, who introduces herself as the servant. A few hours later, Bond catches her trying to sneak into the villa with a gun. It turns out that she is actually a fellow agent and that she was watching the villa and that she saw someone enter.

They find the intruder and after injuring it, the perpetrator flees. Beatrice explains to Bond that she is to act as his bodyguard. As they are returning from shopping, Bond catches a quick gaze of woman who appears to be Clover Pennington.

Bond spends Christmas Eve with Beatrice. No attack happens and they only learn of M's daughter and grandchildren). The next morning, when Beatrice goes to open the door of Bond's car, it explodes and engulfs her in front of Bond's eyes. People arrive, including Clover, who tells Bond that Beatrice may have been "The Cat" after all.

Boarding HMS Invincible[]

Bond is taken to a military base nicknamed "Northanger" where he undergoes medical examinations and debriefings with agents from his department, as well as those of the CIA.

Bond begins boarding HMS Invincible and is introduced to base commander "Toby Lellenberg" (who is actually Bassam Baradj, alias "The Viper", the true leader of BAST) and his cohort "Julian Farsee" (who is Ali Al Adwan, alias "The Serpent"). They let Bond board - because eliminating him now would lead to Landsea 1989 being cancelled, and they also want to gauge him out and mislead him into false sense of security.

The Invincible is commanded by Vice Admiral John Walmsley and the Landsea 1989 exercise begins. Bond is explained the scenario of the simulation; a coup d'état aimed at overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev broke out in the USSR following the discontent caused by his Glasnost policy, with the anti-Gorbachev faction undertaking series of tactical operations against NATO member countries to demonstrate their power. The final objective of the exercise is to stop hostilities and reach political negotiations without the conflict escalating on international scale.

The three admirals arrive by a helicopter, accompanied by with their bodyguards, to observe the exercise. They are Geoffrey Gould from the United Kingdom, Edwin Gudeon from the United States and Sergei Yevgennevich Pauker from the USSR. They are introduced to Bond, and one of Pauker's bodyguards, Nikola "Nikki" Ratnikov, makes a fool of Bond.

HMS Invincible, murder[]

A few hours later there was a knock on Bond's door, one of the American bodyguards was found with his throat cut in the WRNS toilets. A recording was found on his body where he asked his services to verify the identities of other people he met on the ship.

Bond leads the investigation and questions everyone present. When he checks the list on his side, he notices that one of the "Wrens" (nickname of members of the British Women's Royal Naval Service), Sarah Deeley, does not exist. "Deeley" is brought to be questioned by Bond, but she draws a knife and attempts to kill him. Bond survives with the help of other guards, and they subdue her.

HMS Invincible, Hamarik[]

After discussing recent events with the Commander, they conclude that there is no need to cancel the "Stewards' Meeting" which is soon to begin in total secrecy. For their part, the Americans sent another bodyguard, Daniel Woodward to replace his late colleague. However, BAST have replaced Woodward with Abou Hamarik, alias “The Man”, and he, along with a interrogation specialist Donald Speaker, who was requested by Bond, arrive by helicopter.

Helicopters arrive, bringing the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher; United States President George H. W. Bush and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Meanwhile, the admirals leave with their respective helicopters, leaving the bodyguards on the ship. The VIPs are introduced to Bond and during the "Stewards' Meeting", without any advisors of assistants, will discuss financial subjects, counter-terrorism and the nuclear arms reduction.

While BAST sabotages one of the ship's turbines, the interrogations conducted by Donald Speaker yield nothing. Nikki finds Bond and tells him of her suspicions about Woodward, who she thinks is Hamarik, because she had seen his photo during a mission in Afghanistan. Bond requests a photo of Woodward and shows it to Nikki, who confirms its Hamarik. Bond accompanied by other guards prepare to go arrest Hamarik when an explosion rings out in the engine room, with turbine now off-line. They manage to injure and catch Hamarik, but Nikki dies in the confrontation.

Rota, the real Cat, Harrier fight and rescue[]

The ship must make a stop at the Naval Station Rota in Spain to change the it turbine. Just before reaching the new destination, Bond receives a message from his superiors asking him to come ashore for a meeting. At the base, much to Bond's surprise, Beatrice is alive. Her death was staged, with M simply not seeing it fit to warn Bond. Beatrice tells them that they are trying to track down the leader of BAST, Bassam Baradj, whose real name is Robert Besavitsky, because he has plans for the three world leaders. She shows Bond a photo of Baradj before he leaves back to the HMS Invincible.

Aboard, the ship was hijacked during Bond's absence. BAST has already sent a ransom demand for six hundred billion dollars to the release of the three leaders. Arriving on the bridge, Bond is greeted by Clover Pennington, who turns out having been "The Cat" all along, with all the "Wrens" aboard being her underlings.

She asks the armed Wrens to take Bond to his room, where Bond learns that the Wrens took control sipping powerful sleeping pills in the food of the crew. Furthermore, there are three hours left before the ransom deadline and that the governments have responded negatively to the ransom demand. Bond is then taken to the cells. All the while back on land, Ali al Adwan is arrested by authorities after his hotel phone was traced.

In the ship cells, when Donald Speaker brings him his meal, 007 seizes his chance and manages to disarm the man and get out of his cell. Bond goes to the bridge and hijacks one of the Sea Harriers. Bond gets aboard just in time, as the Harrier, that had disappeared from RNAS Yeovilton and tried to kill Bond way back, opens fire on the ship. A dogfight begins with the two Harrier Jump Jets. Bond emerges victorious, but the damage his plane suffered forces him to eject. A rescue helicopter picks him up and takes him back to Naval Station Rota.

There, Bond and co. decide to attempt a night-time hostage rescue operation on HMS Invincible. Bond takes a lead of a ten-man commando squad and after reconnaissance with thermography, the launch the operation and take the ship back piece by piece. The heads of state are alive and saved from the terrorists.


After rescuing the three VIPs, it has been found that Baradj is at a hotel in Gibraltar. Bond and Beatrice go to arrest Baradj, but they are spotted and Baradj flees, with Bond and Beatrice giving chase. Baradj escapes into the interior of the rock, but is killed by Beatrice just before he can kill Bond.

The novel ends at the villa near Naples where Bond spends time with Beatrice.


  • Bassam Baradj
    Born Robert Besavitsky in New York, Baradj is the main leader of BAST, codenamed "Viper." Beginning his criminal career as a small-time robber, Baradj is a conman, sociopath, and master of disguise, adept at changing his identity to disappear when the need suits him. BAST's plot to take over and hold the world's three most powerful leaders was his idea. He is later killed by Beatrice Maria da Ricci in Gibraltar as he is about to murder Bond.
  • Abou Hamarik
Abou Hamarik
  • Hamarik, codenamed "Snake," is the second of three leaders of BAST. He is able to infiltrate the HMS Invincible by killing an American Naval Intelligence officer who has been called into replace another that was murdered onboard the carrier. Hamarik is found out and is wounded by Nikki Ratnikov after he had taken Bond and a number of secret service agents from the three nations hostage. After the incident, Hamarik is arrested by Bond.
  • Clover Pennington
    First Officer Clover Pennington is a Wren with the Royal Navy. She is scretly the third head of BAST, codenamed "Cat." Under Pennington's leadership while Bond is away BAST is able to take over the aircraft carrier with a number of supporters (all Wrens), whom were aboard the ship for the Landsea '89 war game. Pennington is accidentally killed by one of her supporters after being used as cover and pushed into a room by Bond.
  • Beatrice Maria da Ricci
Beatrice Maria da Ricci
  • Ricci is a secret operative working for the British secret service who has been tasked with protecting Bond, specifically while on holiday. She is supposedly killed while on holiday in Italy with Bond, however, she makes a return later on informing Bond that her death was appropriately faked in order to save Bond from another attempt on his life by BAST. She and Bond later team up to arrest Bassam Baradj, although ultimately she kills Baradj while saving Bond's life.
  • Nikki Ratnikov
    Nikki Ratnikov is a secret service agent from Russia who was sent to protect Mikhail Gorbachev during the Steward's Meeting. She is killed by Abou Hamarik during an exchange of gunfire while on board the HMS Invincible. During the exchange she successful wounds Hamarik, which later leads to his arrest.