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Bond continuation author Raymond Benson interviewed

28-Oct-2009 • Literary

Raymond Benson is most well known as the author who became the third major contributor to the James Bond collection of stories. Accepting the assignment in 1996, he spent the next seven years adding six novels, three short stories and three movie novelizations to the series. But before tackling this endeavor, Raymond had already spent more than two decades carving out a career for himself in several other areas of the entertainment industry. Musical Theatre Composition -- Play Writing -- Directing -- Video Game Design.

BuzzNews talked to Benson about his career.

Travis: How does a boy from Texas wind up living in Chicago and becoming the "Official Bond Novelist"? What got you here and what brought you to the attention of Ian Fleming Publications?

Raymond: I grew up a Bond fan, having been a child of the 50s and 60s... Was fortunate to see the original Connery films in the theater... Started reading the books at the same time, so from the get-go I was heavily into Bond. But I became a normal person, finished high school, went to college in Austin, Texas, studied theatre, graduated with a degree, and went to New York City to direct plays.

In the early 80s, I got the idea to write a non-fiction "encyclopedia" about Bond, because at the time there weren't any. Now they're a dime a dozen. It was 1981 when I made contact with a publisher, submitted a proposal, and lo and behold I got a contract to write the book. It took three years to complete. During that time I traveled to England and met members of Ian Fleming's family, his business associates, friends and colleagues... And then when the book came out in 1984, the Fleming people were pleased with it. This was THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION.

The book established me as something of a Bond expert, so I got involved with the American Fan Club and wrote articles for their fanzine, BONDAGE Magazine, spoke at fan conventions, and whatnot. Meanwhile, Glidrose Publications (that's what Ian Fleming Publications was called then) and I stayed in touch. I did small oddjobs for them (no pun intended).

Travis: (snickering)

Raymond: Then, in late 1995, John Gardner announced he wanted to retire from writing the Bond books. IFP contacted me to see if I was interested in taking over. I was flabbergasted. I had to write an outline of a story on spec. Once that was approved, I had to write the first four chapters on spec. Then, once that was approved, I was awarded the contract. The press release went out in March 1996 that I was the new author.

Travis: Sounds like a very interesting set of twists and turns

Raymond: It was a dream that I didn't think I was allowed to dream.

Travis: Do you think your experience in play writing and theatrical production helped?

Raymond: Absolutely. I owe a lot to my Directing professor, Francis Hodge, who wrote the most widely-used textbook on stage directing in the country. Hodge taught me how to tell a story, no matter what the medium-- theatre, writing, whatever. I've used all the principles in everything I've done.

Travis: How did you go about laying the groundwork for your incarnation of James Bond?

Raymond: I was told by IFP that I could "use or ignore" anything that the other continuation authors (Amis, Pearson, Gardner) had done. I didn't contradict anything Gardner did, I just changed a few things back, like the whole "Captain"/"Commander" thing and the gun Bond uses.

Travis: Gardner had promoted him to Naval Captain at one point in his series but you started your series with him still being a Commander.

Raymond: Exactly. And I always felt that the Walther PPK should be Bond’s gun, his signature piece, no matter what the time period. I also gave Bond back his vices. The smoking/drinking/womanizing.

But there were some things of Gardner's I acknowledged... I mentioned a few of his women characters at some point.

Basically, the Bond continuation novels should not be taken as an extension of the series that was before it.... they are separate series by individual authors... the only thing we really need to be faithful to is Fleming’s universe. After all, if we were REALLY being a continuation, then Bond would be in his 90s by now

Click over to BuzzNews to read the entire interview.

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