When 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.