My entry into the world of publishing novels was indeed unorthodox. In 1996 I became the fourth—and first American—writer of official James Bond novels. Yes, it was daunting. I had big shoes to fill; not only Ian Fleming’s, but those of Kingsley Amis and John Gardner as well. The Glidrose Chairman, who happened to also be Ian Fleming’s original literary agent, believed I was up for the job. While my novel-writing experience was minimal, I had been writing professionally for well over a decade.
And he knew that I knew what Bond could and couldn’t do. In a way, I had to audition for not only Glidrose, but also for both the American and British publishers of Bond novels. First I had to write an outline of the story on spec. Once that was approved by all three entities, I was asked to pen the first four chapters. Again, these circulated among the powers-that-be, and I finally received the green light to proceed. It was announced to the world that I was the new “Ian Fleming” and suddenly I found television news people showing up at my front door.
I kept my day job at Viacom New Media for the first year of the Bond tenure, as I researched and wrote the first book. After all, I didn’t know how it would turn out. Ironically, a year later, exactly around the time my first 007 novel, Zero Minus Ten, was published in 1997, the software company decided to close its doors. But now I didn’t need the day job. I was a freelance author.
During my seven years of “Bondage,” I wrote six original 007 adventures, three novelizations of the Pierce Brosnan pictures, and three short stories. Six times some of my Bond work was published in Playboy Magazine. It was an honor to appear in that publication; Playboy had published the greatest writers of the latter half of the 20th Century.
The best part about the Bond gig was traveling to places I probably never would have visited otherwise, and meeting dozens of interesting personalities around the world, famous or not. I used my advances to perform research while walking in Bond’s footsteps through my stories. I went to England, Jamaica, Hong Kong, China, Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, Japan, Morocco, Spain, Gibraltar, France, Corsica… hung out with J. K. Rowling at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and visited the Playboy Mansion every time I was in Los Angeles… (Note: A photo album of my Bond travels is on my Facebook page.) It was a grand adventure to have undertaken, and I am eternally grateful to Ian Fleming Publications and the author’s heirs for allowing me to be a part of 007’s legacy.
Just as Bond actors periodically change, so do Bond authors. In 2003, my contract came to an end. Other writers have worked for the franchise since my departure, including Charlie Higson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, and, just announced, William Boyd.
As for me, I wanted to try my hand at original material. It was time to go through another door and take a new path.
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.