My eleven years living in Manhattan, mostly during the 80s, were terrific. I was in my late twenties and early thirties—the best age to be in such a vibrant, creative city. You can actually feel the energy on the street, and in those days it was like a drug. I stayed busy in theatre—directing and composing for shows off-off-Broadway and even an off-Broadway production of that old favorite, The Resurrection of Jackie Cramer.
At the same time I had an interesting day job first working as a “sales associate” (aka secretary, thus the typing skill came in handy) and then “marketing associate,” which, coincidentally, involved more writing and project managing—producing the company’s printed literature.
But I often joke now that “there was no money in theatre, so I turned to writing.” Never fails to get a laugh.
So, simultaneously with the theatre and the day job, I set about writing a book. The genesis came when some friends of mine and I were sitting around and attempting to answer the question that came up, “If you had to write a book, what would it be?” I responded facetiously with, “Oh, I think I’d do some kind of encyclopedia, coffee table type book on the history of James Bond.” My friends’ expressions indicated that some kind of eureka moment had happened, and they all agreed, “You should do that, Raymond, because you know a lot about James Bond!”
And I did. I was still a fan after all the years since seeing Goldfinger with my father in late 1964.
The more I thought about it, the more I considered it was something that could be fun to do. A friend of mine had just published a joke book, so he introduced me to his editor. I had no literary agent. I pitched the idea and immediately got the contract and advance to write the book. Unbelievable.
Over the next three years, I researched, traveled to England to meet members of Ian Fleming’s family and business people, his friends and colleagues, and Bond fans. Most importantly, I developed a very friendly relationship with the Chairman of Glidrose Publications, the company that owns the James Bond literary copyright and is now called Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. And I wrote.
In 1984, The James Bond Bedside Companion was finally published and my real career as a writer began. The folks at Glidrose liked the book, too, and the Chairman and I stayed in touch. (This was during the time when the late John Gardner was the current Bond novelist, and I had become friendly with him, as well.) Happily, I did little odd jobs (no pun intended) for Glidrose over the next decade, including penning a James Bond stage play. I wrote and directed a staged reading of an adaptation of Fleming’s Casino Royale in New York.
And then I got a computer (a good ol’ Apple IIc), and, with it, computer games. Story-based adventure games.
Unexpected sharp left turn ahead. The road of doors branched again.
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.