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You’ve Had Your Six: James Bond Author Raymond Benson, March 30 at the Bettendorf Public Library PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 09:03

Raymond BensonWhen John Gardner retired from writing James Bond novels (after 15 years and 14 books) in 1996, the company that oversaw creator Ian Fleming’s literary estate chose as his successor somebody with impeccable credentials.

Despite being an American, Raymond Benson knew 007 – both the literary and cinematic character – backward and forward. In the mid-1980s, he had written and designed three Bond-based games: two computer titles and a role-playing adventure. More importantly, he had researched and authored The James Bond Bedside Companion, an unauthorized and exhaustive look at Fleming and the Bond books and movies that was originally published in 1984 and updated in 1988.

From 1997 to 2002, Benson wrote six original James Bond novels, three novelizations based on Bond movies, and three Bond short stories.

But it would be a disservice to pigeonhole the 55-year-old Benson – who lives in the Chicago suburbs – as merely a Bond writer. He has had a varied career in theatre, music, video games, and novels beyond his Bond output. His latest book, Homefront: The Voice of Freedom, is a prequel to the upcoming video game Homefront. (The book was co-written by John Milius, who also wrote the game.) And in September, Benson will publish the first of what he hopes to be a five-novel series of adventures aimed at women called The Black Stiletto. As he put it in a phone interview last week: “I’ve moved on from Bond.”

Well, mostly. Benson will be discussing the British super-spy at a March 30 lecture at the Bettendorf Public Library, and like the Bedside Companion, his lecture will cover all things Bond.

 
Hail and (Not Yet) Farewell: On Ray Bradbury, Near His 90th Birthday -- The Moline Public Library’s Fahrenheit 451 “Big Read” Campaign PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 05:35

(Author's note: This article was originally published in September 2010, but it serves as a fitting review of the career of Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2012.)


"But of course he was going away, there was nothing else to do, the time was up, the clock had run out, and he was going very far away indeed."

Sam Weller, Ray Bradbury, and Black Francis in June. Photo by Nathan Kirkman.Unless one believes that Mr. Electrico's command to Ray Bradbury should be taken literally, the famed author will likely not be on this planet to celebrate his 100th birthday.

For those unfamiliar with the Bradbury mythology, Mr. Electrico was a carnival magician Bradbury saw in 1932, when he was 12. Sam Weller describes the event in his 2005 biography The Bradbury Chronicles: "Mr. Electrico then approached the bespectacled, wide-eyed boy in the front row. Taking the [electrified] sword, he tapped Ray on each shoulder, then on the brow, and finally on the tip of his nose and cried, 'Live forever!'"

"Why did he say that?" Bradbury said to Weller. "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. Just weeks after Mr. Electrico said this to me, I started writing every day. I never stopped."

Immortality, of course, already belongs to Bradbury. His 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (published in 1932) and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) as a mid-20th Century cautionary-tale classic imagining a future full of numbing technology and invasive government. (See the sidebar "Pleasure to Burn -- Reading Fahrenheit 451.")

The book is the subject of the Moline Public Library's Quad Cities-wide "Big Read" campaign, which begins September 27 with a keynote lecture by Weller and closes on October 31 -- Bradbury's favorite holiday. (For a list of Big Read events, see the sidebar "Fahrenheit 451 -- Area Book Discussions, Panel Discussions, and Film Screenings.") But while Fahrenheit 451 is undoubtedly Bradbury's lasting long-form work, Weller noted in an interview last week that the book isn't typical of the author.

 
Follow the Character: Author Daniel Woodrell, April 15 at Augustana College PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:59

Daniel WoodrellOne thing you might notice picking up Daniel Woodrell's novel Winter's Bone is how thin it is -- less than 200 pages.

And when you start reading, you might be struck that it's been carved incredibly lean. While relatively plainspoken, the sentences are dense, with a mix of dialect from the Ozarks and artfully turned idioms that feel instantly right. One has to sip Woodrell's language.

"I do like to make it apparent to the reader that you need to probably read everything," Woodrell said in a phone interview this week, promoting his reading at Augustana College on April 15. "'I won't put in any flab, but you have to read what's here' is kind of my deal with the reader. ... Pay attention to the sentences."

 
Bringing Out the Dead: Minda Powers-Douglas Offers a Visual History of Chippiannock Cemetery PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:57

Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island has its share of impressive monuments, from the elegant resting place of the Cable family to the massive 30-ton boulder (for Edward Burrall) and the six-ton polished-granite sphere (for Dean Tyler Robinson).

But for Minda Powers-Douglas, author of the new Chippiannock Cemetery book in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series, it's the modest, handmade grave markers that mean the most.

 
Presumed Impossible: Author and Attorney Scott Turow Speaks at the Adler Theatre, January 26 PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Literature
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 14 January 2010 06:00

Scott TurowYou might think that the art of writing fiction would have little in common with the art of practicing law. Scott Turow would beg to differ.

"They're actually very similar tasks," says Turow, the bestselling author who is also a partner at the Chicago law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. "You know, you've got to shape characters and shape witness testimony ... . You are an author in both venues to a great extent, and particularly as a prosecutor, you really do need to keep your eye on the narrative, and make sure it's compelling."

 
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