Story-telling. That was the goal, but perhaps I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to create. Something.
In high school I was involved in the Drama Department. I thought I wanted to be an actor, so I jumped in to the many stage productions we did, and I wasn’t bad. I even pulled a Tom Hanks and won “Best Actor” two years in a row at the annual awards banquet. At the same time, I was developing my musical ability by playing keyboards in a couple of rock bands and composing songs. And I could type… believe it or not, in 1972 I won the Texas State championship in typing. That little skill would prove to be invaluable.
Ah, composing music. That’s writing, isn’t it? It may not be prose words in the way we think of “writing,” but in my mind it’s still telling stories. A song has a beginning, middle, and end, and thus it does tell a story of sorts. It’s an aural tale that exists in one’s subconscious, hopefully conjuring imagery for daydreams and night-dreams.
Interestingly, one major writing project I undertook in high school had to do with Stanley Kubrick again, in a way. In English class, we were to team up with a classmate and do some kind of presentation on a novel we had to read. Kubrick’s movie A Clockwork Orange had been released, but it hadn’t come to Odessa yet, so I hadn’t seen it—and I was also a year shy of being old enough to view this then-X-rated picture. But the teacher allowed my friend Jim and me to do the Anthony Burgess novel for class. I turned our presentation into a multimedia production. I cast a group of people, costumed them, and went around to various locations in Odessa to shoot still photos that illustrated the story. I wrote a narration for the slideshow and framed it as a segment of a futuristic “Johnny Carson Show,” in which I played an aging Carson interviewing Alex, the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange (portrayed by my friend Jim). I applied old-age make-up, we did costumes, and turned it into a 20-30 minute production. The teacher was so impressed that she got us out of classes for a day so that we could repeat the “show” during every period, and she invited all the other English classes to attend each performance.
So, already, I was telling stories in my own way. I had re-imagined Burgess’ novel, retold it as a slideshow “movie,” and directed it with my vision.
When I graduated from high school, I kept the old promise I’d made to myself and immediately left West Texas. I enrolled in the Drama Department of the University of Texas at Austin and moved to what was, and still is, the oasis of my home state.
One might ask, why didn’t I follow the Film/Television route? That indeed was a fork in the road. I could continue my studies in theatre, for which I’d gained a solid foothold in high school, or I could join a different university department and study film. I chose the former, mainly because I still had it in my head that I was an actor. It was only after a semester of college did I realize I was really a director.
RAYMOND BENSON is the author of 26 published books. From 1996 to 2002 he was the fourth—and first American—author to pen official James Bond novels. These have recently been collected in two anthologies, THE UNION TRILOGY and CHOICE OF WEAPONS. His latest series of thrillers began last year with THE BLACK STILETTO; the second part of the saga, THE BLACK STILETTO: BLACK & WHITE, will be published by Oceanview Publishing on May 30, 2012. Benson’s other suspense chillers include SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS, FACE BLIND, TORMENT, and EVIL HOURS. He is also a prolific writer of media tie-ins and has authored a number of novelizations of popular videogames, including METAL GEAR SOLID, TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL, HOMEFRONT, and HITMAN. Also a film historian, Benson teaches Film History at the College of DuPage and presents a monthly movie discussion show in Chicagoland with film critic Dann Gire.