I’d always enjoyed board games. When I was a young teenager I was hooked on Avalon Hill war strategy games. The advent of computer games opened a new, entertaining world that we accessed only on home computers and, half a decade later, videogame consoles. I particularly loved the text-adventure games made by Infocom because they were story-based, all text, challenging, and usually had a sly sense of humor.
After I’d received the contract to write The James Bond Bedside Companion, I acquired an agent (one of many over thirty years!). This one called me one day and said a game developer based outside New York City contacted him, looking for a writer of text-adventure computer games. The whipped cream and cherry on top of the prospect was that the company had a license to do a James Bond title, based on the upcoming Roger Moore film, A View to a Kill.
I couldn’t not do it. The door opened and I enthusiastically stepped through it. I quit my day job, and for the next decade or so, most of my creative writing was done at my new day job: I became a computer game designer and writer. I was paid to tell stories, and for that gig I was responsible for three titles. It wasn’t long before I got another writing/designing job of creating a new adventure for the already existing pencil-and-paper James Bond 007 Role-Playing Game.
This road eventually led me and my family away from New York. Now married and with an infant son, I thought it best to pursue something more secure. At first I enrolled in court reporting school. I’d had a crazy notion that if I became a court reporter, I’d be inspired by all kinds of true crime stories and could write novels (I’d already written one unpublished mystery which shall forever remain in the bottom drawer).
But I wasn’t comfortable with this experiment, so I turned around, stepped out the court reporting door, and ran back to the path from which I’d temporarily strayed. And I landed a full time job as a writer at the prestigious game company, Origin Systems, in Austin, Texas.
After two years of productive and critically-acclaimed work there, I was wooed to join MicroProse Software, a company based outside Baltimore, Maryland. The pay was better and I could write and design the kinds of games I liked. The title I created there was pure story-telling… it was a sequel, of sorts, to The Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately I joined MicroProse just as the developer began having financial troubles, and a year later half the employees, including the entire department of which I was a member, were let go.
Luckily, I had built something of a reputation as a game designer/writer, and I immediately secured a freelance job for a game company in California to write and design a horror/science fiction adventure game based on the paintings of surrealist artist H. R. Giger, the man who created the look of the creature in Alien. And just as I was completing the project, I was recruited by Viacom New Media in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.
With yet another move across country, we were set for a while. At Viacom I had the pleasure of writing and designing for licensed franchises from such entities as Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and MTV. I’m proud that my two titles there won several software awards for gaming, including the Parents’ Choice Award and Newsweek’s Editor’s Choice.
Then, in late 1995, while sitting in my office at Viacom, when I least expected it, I received a phone call from my friend in London, the Chairman of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.
“Raymond, John Gardner is retiring from writing the Bond books. How would you like to give it a shot?”
A very big door had just opened.
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.