Well, yes – it’s true. Raymond WAS James Bond for nine books. I mean, you can’t get any closer than than, can you? Just take a gander at Raymond here – talk about imersing yourself in your work! But he does look great, doncha think? I have to give him a lot of credit though – imagine wearing a tux all the way through ZERO MINUS TEN (1997), THE FACTS OF DEATH (1998), HIGH TIME TO KILL (1999), DOUBLESHOT (2000), NEVER DREAM OF DYING (2001) and his finale – THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO (2002). That’s quite an impressive set of credits. And even more fascinating (besides being Bond for so many years)-The Japanese Bond fans aka the Kagawa Prefectural government-this year opened a permanent ‘007 MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO MUSEUM on the island-and have honored Raymond with the title of Ambassador! Now, those are fans!! Add to all this – he’s done the film novelizations for TOMORROW NEVER DIES, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and DIE ANOTHER DAY. And did I mention his non-fiction – THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION? Yep, that’s his as well. And then there are the computer games, the stage plays he’s written and directed, and uh, let’s see – oh, hell – go to his website: http://www.raymondbenson.com
But there is much more to Raymond’s writing career besides Bond – so much more – it would take an hour just to type his credits. You can read all about that on his website – and please do – Raymond is truly a renaissance man! Last year he spent nearly three weeks in Italy promoting the re-issue of ZERO MINUS TEN, a week as a judge of the Courmayeur Noir Festival along with Val Kilmer and Jeffery Deaver. Currently, his work can be found in the anthology -THESE GUNS FOR HIRE, and earlier this year – he interviewed Hugh Hefner for CINEMA RETRO, and there’s more – EVIL HOURS will be re-published in Italy! Raymond’s newest – SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS is out and is one heck of a terrific read – so start there and then you’ll see what a truly talented guy this is.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about this amazing guy, come see what he’s got to say –
EE: So, Raymond – I imagine having to don a tux while writing those Bond books became annoying after a time. I’ll bet your neighbors did a double-take when you took out the garbage.
RB: Ha! Most of the time I write wearing only underwear or (gasp) less. That’s the luxury of working out of one’s home. My commute from the bedroom is ten feet. I must admit, though, that when I do interviews like this, I dress a bit more formally. I have a white shirt on, but no pants. (and it was nine books – six originals and three movie novelizations!)
Ahem – I do hope the shirt is buttoned at least.
EE: Uh, I don’t think I’m going to ask you what your Walter Mitty dream is – I mean, you lived it through NINE books, but well – is it possible you still have one you’d like to tell us about?
RB: I suppose I may have ‘lived it’ while writing the Bonds…but I certainly wouldn’t want to be Bond. I don’t have that kind of tolerance to torture and pain. I really dislike the kind of martini he drinks, and even some of the meals Bond eats turn me off. I’m a coward when it comes to gambling at a casino, and I’m even more of a wimp with the physical stuff like jumping out of airplanes without a parachute, fighting someone on top of a moving train, driving like a maniac in heavy traffic while bullets are flying all around, or having less than a minute to disarm an atomic bomb. (Hmm…the ladies…now tht might be a different matter…) But I suppose my Walter Mitty dream right now is simply to make a success of my recent non-Bond novels and the stuff I have yet to write!
Oh, darling…that’s no Walter Mitty dream! After what you and Bond have been through – that’s a cakewalk.
EE: I’m told you and your pal, Hugh Hefner had quite a difficult time staying on track during that day at the Mansion when you two were reminiscing about your your six appearances in Playboy – the excerpts from the novels and the two Bond short stories Hef published in Playboy – just what caused all the interruptions?
RB: Hef is not only a kind and generous person, he’s also an animal lover. On the grounds of the Playboy Mansion are kinds of exotic animals. In fact, I believe he’s the only private citizen in L.A. with a zoo license. There are flamingos and dozens of other species of strange birds, monkeys, Japanese koi, dogs and more dogs, it’s amazing… oh, did I mention the bunnies?
Bunnies? Ohh, how sweet! I just love rabbits. So cute, so cuddly…so… Wait. We’re are talking about rabbits, aren’t we?
EE: Rumors are you’ve had to hire two bodyguards or your November 25th book signing at Murder by the Book in Houston due to the unprecedented number of female fans expected. Can it be true those women don’t realize you’re NOT Bond?
RB: Don’t ask, don’t tell!
Oh, like that, huh? Hells bells – my lips are sealed.
EE: One of my most trusted spies has informed me that you are persona non gratis in Hong Kong. Is it true several of the main Triads have a price on your head because your description of their ceremonies in ZERO MINUS TEN were so on the money – the cops can’t guarantee your safety?
RB: You know, I really thought I would be come the Salmon Rushdie of the Bond novelists. It’s true that I described in detail the sacret initiation ceremony that Triads used in that book. But the Royal Hong Kong Police gave me a transcript of it! (This was back in 1996 before the handover). I asked them if I could get into any trouble if I used it…and the two inspectors who specialized in Triads just looked at each other and grinned.
Aieee!! Well, you could always call on Jackie Chan if you get in a pinch.
EE: While we all know Sean Connery is your favorite Bond, and you even thought Timothy Dalton did a great job – the buzz around Thrillerville is that when you gave the producers of the new Bond flick – Casino Royale – a thumb’s up on Daniel Craig as the new Bond – Craig was so grateful – he’s been sending you flowers. Flowers? Is this a new guy thing?
RB: No, no, it wasn’t flowers. It was socks. He’d heard about the usual outfit I wear when I work at my computer. He thought I could use some.
Oh. Socks. Okay. I feel better now.
EE: But back to your other life – Is it really true you were bored to teares while doing research for your latest – SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS? Gosh, I’d think checking out the adult porn industry would have been rather exciting, er, illuminating.
RB: Research? Who needed research? Ahem. Seriously, folks, I do take pride in the amount of research I do for all my books. For Bond, I had to get the weaponry and technical and British-ness right. For TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL, I had to get the military jargon right. For SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS I had to…you know.
Yes, well – we’ll just have to use our imagination I suppose.
EE: And what about those computer games you’ve so successfully created? Was this hiatus from writing block-busters prompted by your inner child crying out?
RB: Actually, the computer game portion of my side-winding career was an unexpected left-turn that happened to come around at the right time and in the right place. I was always a game-player and by the 1980’s I had become enamored of role-playing games like ‘Dungeons & Dragons’. When home PCs started becomming big in the mid-80’s, this style of interactive story-telling game was a natural port over to the computer. I got in on the ground floor an dedid it for about ten years. I left the industry behind, though, when I started writing novels full time. A funny thing about that ‘inner child’ stuff…I was usually one of the oldest people working at the various game companies that employed me!
Well, we’re just glad you got Dungeons & Dragons out of your system and turned to writing!
EE: You won’t need your tux for this, but we’d all like to know which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at next year’s ThrillerFest.
RB: You, Elaine.
And now that I’ve buttered you up, let’s see if I can think of some runners-up. So many of my favorite writers are already friends of mine, so dragging them to a corner wouldn’t be that difficult. Actually, some of them I really wouldn’t want all to myself in a cozy corner. Eww. I suppose I’ll just let that question slide and see if anyone seeks me out for a cozy corner.
Well, now that you buttered me up – I’ll do the same – you won’t have a problem, okay? You’ll probably need those body guards again. When the gals out there see you in your tux, you’ll be swamped!
EE: So, is it true that since you are officially an Ambassador to Kagawa Prefecture in Japan, you insist your students at William Rainey Harper College address you as ‘Sensei’ in your classrooms?
RB: No, but I do insist that they bow every time they enter and leave the classroom.
I’ll try to remember that next time we meet. But, my memory does depart me on occasion. 🙂
EE: Who would be your ideal SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS book tour mate? Be careful here, your wife may be reading this.
RB: Well, if my wife is unable to make it, then I’d want the actress playing the lead character in the movie that should be made based upon the book. It’d make a terrific vehicle for a talented and attractive leading lady in her 40’s. (Are you listening Hollywood?)
Drat. That leaves me out. I just turned…well, nevermind.
EE: You’re having six guests for dinner, other than Miss Moneypenny, who would you invite, and what would you serve?
RB: I assume I can name dead people as well as living. Whenever I’m asked a question like this, I always name my heroes – Ian Fleming, Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx (sorry Zeppo, no room!), and Marilyn Monroe for some glamour. Gosh, they’re all dead. What does that say about me? And what bizarre conversations would incur! It would be such a lively even that we’d all forget to eat, so who cares what I’m serving…
You forgot one guest – I think you’d need a medium too.
Many thanks to Raymond Benson for playing ON THE BUBBLE with us today. Might I add that the real Raymond – is just as charming as any of the Bond men – and I look forward to seeing him again next year at ThrillerFest. It’s been great fun to chat with this incredibly multi-talented guy, and a thrill (no pun intended) to read his extraordinary escapades with 007! But wait until you read SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS! WHEW!
See you next week, when my guest will be…well, you’ll have to check back to find out. I mean, this is a ‘mystery’ blog, right?