Benson, Raymond 1955–
Benson, Raymond 1955–
PERSONAL: Born September 6, 1955, in Midland, TX; son of M.H. (a geologist) and Beulah Benson; married, 1987; has children. Education: University of Texas—Austin, B.F.A. (with high honors), 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Music, film, playing piano.
CAREER: Worked for E.P. Conkle Workshop for Playwrights, 1974; URI Theatre, Kingston, RI, guest artist, 1976; Alley Theatre, Houston, TX, apprentice stage manager and director, 1978–79; Technimetrics, Inc. (financial services company), worked as sales assistant and marketing associate, c. early 1980s; special typist for I.M. Pei (architect), late 1980s; Origin Systems (computer gaming company), Austin, TX, head writer, 1990–92; MicroProse Software, Inc., Hunt Valley, MD, game designer, 1992–93; freelance game designer and author, 1993; Viacom New Media, game designer, 1993–97; freelance writer. Composer of music for theatrical productions, including: Alice in Wonderland, produced in Houston, TX, 1978–79; Paper Tiger (text by Thomas Brasch), produced by New York Theatre Ensemble, 1980; The Resurrection of Jackie Cramer (text by Frank Gagliano), produced in New York, NY, 1980; The Man Who Could See through Time (text by Terri Wagener), produced in New York, NY, 1984; and Charlotte's Web, produced in New York, NY, 1984–85. Designer or codesigner of interactive computer games, including Ultima VII—The Black Gate, 1992, Ultima VII, Part Two: Serpent Isle, 1993, Return of the Phantom, 1993, Dark Seed 2, 1995, Are You Afraid of the Dark?—The Tale of Orpheo's Curse, and The Indian in the Cupboard (based on the book and movie of the same name). Member of board of directors of Empire Stage Players, Inc., New York, NY, 1980–81, and Ian Fleming Foundation. Visiting instructor, New School, 1989, 1990, and Columbia College Chicago, 1995; William Rainey Harper College, Palatine, IL, adult continuing education teacher, 2001–.
MEMBER: International Thriller Writers Inc., International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, Mystery Writers of America, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Off-Off-Broadway Award for Musical Composition for the Theatre, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 1980, for The Resurrection of Jackie Cramer and Paper Tiger, and 1984, for The Man Who Could See through Time; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, c. 1984, for The James Bond Bedside Companion; Parents' Choice Award and Newsweek Editors' Choice Award, both 1994, both for computer game Are You Afraid of the Dark?—The Tale of Orpheo's Curse; Best CD-ROM and Best Children's Game awards, Digital Hollywood, for The Indian in the Cupboard; a museum in the Kagawa Prefecture of Japan was dedicated in 2005 to Benson's novel The Man with the Red Tattoo; named Kagawa Ambassador, 2006, for his contributions to Japanese tourism.
"JAMES BOND" SERIES; BASED ON THE BOOKS BY IAN FLEMING
The James Bond Bedside Companion, introduction by Ernest L. Cuneo, Dodd (New York, NY), 1984, new and updated edition, introduction by Ernest L. Cuneo, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1988.
Zero Minus Ten, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Tomorrow Never Dies (novelization based on the screenplay by Bruce Feirstein), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Facts of Death, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
High Time to Kill, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
The World Is Not Enough (novelization based on the screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Bruce Feirstein), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1999.
DoubleShot, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
Never Dream of Dying, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
The Man with the Red Tattoo, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
Die another Day (novelization based on the screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author and designer of role-playing game You Only Live Twice II—Back of Beyond, 1986, and computer text-adventure games for Mindscape, Inc.: A View to a Kill, 1985, and Goldfinger, 1986; author of unpublished/unproduced play based on Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. Contributor of two "James Bond" short stories to Playboy, 1997, 1999, and one to T.V. Guide, 1999. Contributor of introduction to The Science of James Bond, by Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg, Wiley (New York, NY), 2006, and of essay to James Bond in the 21st Century—Why We Still Need 007, edited by Glenn Yeffeth and Leah Wilson, Benbella Books (Dallas, TX), 2006.
The Pocket Essential Guide to Jethro Tull, Pocket Essentials (London, England), 2002.
Face Blind (suspense novel), Twenty First Century Publishers, 2003.
Evil Hours (novel), Twenty First Century Publishers, 2004.
(Under pseudonym David Michaels) Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(Under pseudonym David Michaels) Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell—Operation Barracuda, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Second Chance (one-act play), first produced in Chicago, IL, by Darknight Theatrical Productions, 2005.
Sweetie's Diamonds (novel), Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.
Also author of computer text game The Mist, based on the Stephen King book, for Mindscape, Inc. Contributor to periodicals, including Cinema Retro, Bondage, Dossier, and James Bond 007 Fan Club Magazine. Contributor of short story to These Guns For Hire, edited by J.A. Konrath, Bleak House Books (Madison, WI), 2006. Author of short stories "The Plagiarist" and "Thumbs Down," available as "Amazon Shorts," from Amazon.com, 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Called an "heir to Ian Fleming," Raymond Benson took the reins as the fourth author of the "James Bond" novels following creator Fleming's death in the mid-1960s. A stage composer and director as well as a writer, Benson first became a Bond fan at age nine, when he saw the film Goldfinger. He collected Fleming novels, telling Celebrity Café interviewer Dominick Miserandino that he revisited the books when he was in high school, "and that's when I fully appreciated them. I've re-read them several times since."
In addition to adapting screenplays to the page, Benson has created original "James Bond" novels, beginning with his first effort, 1997's Zero Minus Ten. This tale finds Agent 007 on the trail of espionage in Hong Kong, just days before the island's political control is transferred from Great Britain to China. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found some fault with Benson's maiden effort, dubbing it "more a self-conscious homage than an organic story to sink into." Booklist contributor Alan Moore found more to like, calling Zero Minus Ten "a decent enough yarn [with] a James Bond we can trust."
In The Facts of Death Bond takes on Decada, a Greek cabal planning a devastating chemical and biological attack against Turkey. The globetrotting sleuth goes from Europe to the United States in search of the group's weapons sources; in doing so he falls into Decada's clutches "and the result is several quintessential 007 escape/rescue scenes," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. High Time to Kill takes the secret agent into the Himalayas to investigate the murder of an official of the Bahamas. A terror group called the Union is the prime suspect. In 2000's DoubleShot, Bond faces the Union again, this time when the enemy unleashes a Bond look-alike to frame 007. A critic for Publishers Weekly concluded that DoubleShot "will have Bond fans cheering," while Booklist contributor Mary Frances Wilkens deemed the novel "as good as Bond gets in the post-Fleming era."
Benson's sixth original 007 novel, The Man with the Red Tattoo, was greeted by Allreaders reviewer Harriet Klausner as "the best of the neo-Bond light tales." The story, which deals with a deadly virus, "includes virtually all the requisite components," noted a Publishers Weekly writer, pointing to the "evil villain … exotic settings and beautiful women." Those foundations were put into place by Fleming himself. As Benson told Miserandino, he never tries to copy Fleming's style. "What I try to do is capture the spirit of his writing and be as faithful as I can to his character."
Retiring from writing the Bond novels in 2003, Benson, who had also pursued a successful career in the 1980s and 1990s as a computer game designer, set out to make his mark as a novelist outside the Fleming spy series. Although he did publish two novels based on Tom Clancey's "Splinter Cell" stories, he released his first truly original fiction works, Face Blind and Evil Hours, in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Gaining more critical attention, however, was his more recent suspense book, Sweetie's Diamonds. In this story, a teenager named David Boston releases a Pandora's box when he finds old pornographic tapes of his recently divorced mother. When his friend tattles to his family about what David found, the story gets into the newspapers, causes David's mother to be fired, and, worst of all, attracts the attention of thugs who believe that their former porn star stole their diamonds. Though a Kirkus Reviews writer felt the novel was "skippable," Booklist critic David Pitt asserted that Benson "proves here that he is equally adept at more realistic thrillers" as he was on his Bond books.
Although no immediate successor for Benson was found to continue the Bond series after he left in 2003, the character has remained popular in his many film ap-pearances. The author warned his successor of the challenges of trying to fill Fleming's shoes in an interview published in the State: "Whoever (writes the Bond novels) is going to be in the hot seat…. Whoever is in this spot is going to be under a microscope." He added: "My consistent nightmare … is that I shall be remembered only as the author who took James Bond through the '80s and into the '90s. Yet I am proud of my work on the 'Bonds' and believe that the books did the job."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, winter, 1986, review of The James Bond Bedside Companion, p. 100.
Booklist, April 15, 1997, Alan Moore, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 1392; May 15, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of High Time to Kill, p. 1672; May 15, 2000, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Double-Shot, p. 1732; May 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Never Dream of Dying, p. 1618; June 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Sweetie's Diamonds, p. 64.
Boston Herald, May 11, 1997, Erica Noonan, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 61.
Chicago, June, 1998, Terry Sullivan, "From Indiana, with Love," p. 160.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1997, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 478; May 1, 1998, review of The Facts of Death, p. 598; April 15, 1999, review of High Time to Kill, p. 571; April 1, 2001, review of Never Dream of Dying, p. 430; May 15, 2002, review of The Man with the Red Tattoo, p. 678; December 15, 2005, review of Sweetie's Diamonds, p. 1300.
Library Journal, March 1, 1998, Cliff Glaviano, review of Tomorrow Never Dies, p. 143.
Newsweek, June 30, 1997, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 8.
Observer (London, England), March 30, 1997, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, July 15, 1996, Jean Richardson, "The Name Is Benson, Raymond Benson," p. 20; April 21, 1997, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 61; May 4, 1998, review of The Facts of Death, p. 205; May 10, 1999, review of High Time to Kill, p. 55; May 15, 2000, review of DoubleShot, p. 86; June 4, 2001, review of Never Dream of Dying, p. 56; June 3, 2002, review of The Man with the Red Tattoo, p. 66.
State (Columbia, SC), July 28, 2003, Bobby Bryant, "After 50 Years, Where Do the James Bond Novels Go from Here?," interview with Benson.
Sunday Times, March 2, 1997, Andrew Lycett, "Never Say Never Again," interview with Raymond Benson, p. 160.
Texas Monthly, June, 1998, Jordan Mackay, "Bond Plays On," p. 84.
Times Educational Supplement, July 17, 1998, review of Zero Minus Ten and The Facts of Death, p. 33.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 22, 1997, review of Zero Minus Ten, p. 7.
Allreaders, http://allreaders.com/ (November 25, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of The Man with the Red Tattoo.
Celebrity Café, http://www.thecelebritycafe.com/ (August 31, 2002), Dominick Miserandino, interview with Raymond Benson.
CommanderBond.net, http://www.commanderbond.net/ (December 21, 2006), interview with Raymond Benson.
Raymond Benson Home Page, http://www.raymondbenson.com (November 6, 2006).
Universal Exports Web site, http://www.universalexports.net/ (November 7, 2006), interview with Raymond Benson.