After writing six original James Bond novels, three short stories, three novelizations, and one book about the James Bond phenomenon –Buffalo Grove author Raymond Benson has hung up the shoulder holster.
“It was equal parts heaven and hell,” Benson said of his seven years as a Northwest suburban Ian Fleming. “I got to travel to places all over the world, and meet people I otherwise would have never met. Overall, it was artistically fulfilling. I’m very proud of what I did.”
Traveling the world. Meeting celebrities like Hugh Hefner and his Playmates. Writing about Britain’s great secret sex symbol. Sounds like a job most guys would give a body part to have. So what’s the down side?
“The books weren’t as successful as I would have liked,” Benson said. “And, it was frustrating to have your hands tied all the time. The publishers didn’t like for me to delve into Bond’s psyche or human characteristics, which I really wanted to do. In ‘Double Shot,’ I pushed the Bond envelope by giving him blackouts caused by something wrong in his brain. They let me do that, but when I wanted to write about Bond’s parents, it was ‘Don’t even go there!'”
Gildrose Publishing in England prints the Bond series. They have temporarily stopped publishing Bond novels.
The Bond experience left Benson with another love-it-and-hate-it dilemma: the fans.
“Dealing with the fans got to be a big concern. The fans tend to be very opinionated, and there are lots of contingents. The hardcore fans are very obsessive and they think they know it all when it comes to matters of Bond. Plenty of them loved me, plenty of them hated me. You couldn’t imagine the cruel and insensitive hate mail I would get. I had to change my phone numbers and e-mail address it got so bad. There were days I wondered why I even bothered to do this.”
Economically, the Bond writing gig paid well, but “it certainly didn’t make me rich,” the author said. “Since Bond, I’m living now like I lived before, just another struggling writer. I’m doing temp work, speaking engagements, hustling for new writing gigs. “I’m not Stephen King or Tom Clancy who can churn out a best seller with just their names. The rest of us have to teach or do something to supplement our incomes.”
Benson does that by teaching classes at Harper College in Palatine, where next fall he will offer “The Films of David Lynch.”
Meanwhile, Benson’s new non-Bond thriller “Face Blind” (Dimensions) has just been published. He’ll be signing copies at 12:30pm on Tuesday, February 24th…
150 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60601
The story concerns Hannah, a New Yorker with a brain disorder that makes it impossible for her to identify facial features.
Benson describes “Face Blind” as a “Wait Until Dark” thrill ride that serves as his official emancipation from Bond.
“This is a great situation,” he said. “I’m my own boss. I can work at home. I can set my own hours. It’s just me and my dog, Spike, my muse. And let me tell you, as cool at it sounds, writing the Bond novels is not worth a body part.”