The CommanderBond.net ‘Looking Back’ series concludes the Raymond Benson era with an examination of his three short story contributions to the literary James Bond canon: Blast From The Past, Midsummer Night’s Doom and Live at Five. Published in 1997 and at two different points in 1999, respectively, these elusive short stories provide readers with another look at Benson’s take on Bond.
CBn takes a look back at the three Raymond Benson James Bond short stories (plus a fourth, unpublished one)–included are publication details, the original blurbs and trivia notes.
“Blast From The Past”
Who’d want to kill James Bond’s son? After a bomb blast, a car chase and an encounter with an old enemy, 007 finds the deadly answer.
First published in the January 1997 issue of Playboy magazine, Blast From The Past represents the true beginning of Raymond Benson’s literary 007 era, preceding the publication of his first Bond novel, Zero Minus Ten (which hit bookshelves in April of that year).
The story concerns a revenge-driven Irma Bunt, who still hasn’t forgotten about Bond’s climactic confrontation with Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Japan, targeting 007 and those who matter most to him.
Until October 2008, the January 1997 issue of Playboy was the only place fans could track down this short story, making it one of the most difficult titles in the literary 007 canon to come by. It will be included in the upcoming James Bond: The Union Trilogy: Three 007 Novels omnibus, to be published by Pegasus Books in the US and UK, and also including Benson’s novels High Time To Kill, Doubleshot and Never Dream of Dying.
Benson has previously mentioned that due to spacing issues, roughly one-third of Blast From The Past was edited out of the Playboy magazine editions. The full version of the short story has been published in French and Italian and will finally be made available in English in the 2008 James Bond: The Union Trilogy omnibus.
“Midsummer Night’s Doom”
Five minutes into the briefing, M turned her chair to face him and asked, ‘What do you know about Playboy, 007?’
James Bond blinked. ‘Ma’am?’
‘The magazine, 007, how much do you know about it?’
Bond shrugged and said, ‘Only that some people have been known to read the articles, and that I need to renew my subscription.’
Midsummer Night’s Doom continued the James Bond/Playboy relationship first started in Benson’s previous short story, Blast From The Past. This story was included in the January 1999 issue, release during the same year as High Time To Kill, The World is Not Enough novelization as well as his third short story, Live at Five
Assigned by ‘M’ to attend a Playboy party at Hugh Hefner’s mansion, this light-hearted and whimsical story finds Bond investigating the suspected sale of human eye technology to the Russian Mafia.
Like Blast From The Past before it, this Playboy publication was–and remains–the only place fans can find this Bond short story. The January 1999 issue it was included in celebrated 45 years of the Playboy company.
Benson has since stated that this particular story was written more for fun and is not meant to be taken as seriously as some of his other Bond adventures.
Real-life Playboy playmates Victoria Zdrok and Lisa Dergan, in addition to Hugh Hefner, feature in the storyline.
“Live At Five”
Live at Five: A 007 short story written exclusively for TV Guide readers.
TV Guide issue containing Live at Five
Raymond Benson’s third short story, Live at Five, differed from his previous two in that this one featured in a November 1999 issue of TV Guide rather than the Playboy magazine.
Included as part of the issue’s ‘Totally Bond’ celebration to mark the then-upcoming theatrical release of The World is Not Enough, Live at Five represents the shortest of all the 007 short stories to date.
Set in the present day, but with a flashback to before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Live at Five concerns James Bond assisting in the daring defection of Russian ice skater Natalia Lustokov to West.
Live at Five was included in the 13-19 November 1999 issue of TV Guide and, like Midsummer Night’s Doom before it, has yet to be republished anywhere else.
Two editions of this particular TV Guide were produced: the first was the standard publication and the second was an oversize magazine-style version that included accompanying artwork by Steve Chorney for the Live at Five short story. Both editions retailed for $1.99.
“The Heart of Erzulie”
The Heart of Erzulie concept artwork / by Shea Bennett
You’re forgiven if this is the first time you’ve heard of this one.
First reported on exclusively by CommanderBond.net back in 2004, The Heart of Erzulie represents the fourth and currently, unpublished short story by Raymond Benson featuring James Bond.
The author revealed to CBn that he had written this voodoo-themed story on spec during his Never Dream of Dying and The Man with the Red Tattoo novels.
Said Benson: ‘It wasn’t very good. I did it on spec, just for something to do during the off months between the outline and research trip for Tattoo. It was called The Heart of Erzulie, and it took place in Jamaica. IFP [Ian Fleming Publications] thought it was too much of a Fleming pastiche. I guess I agree. Oh well, it kept me busy for a month.’
Several literary Bond fans hope that we’ll one day see this story included in a Benson omnibus or similar collection. Time will tell…
- 1997: Blast From The Past
- 1999: Midsummer Night’s Doom
- 1999: Live at Five
Your Own Opinion On Raymond Benson’s 007 Short Stories
Want to share your thoughts and opinion on Raymond Benson’s James Bond short stories? Feel free to discuss them by visiting this thread and give your personal ratings in this thread on the CommanderBond.net Forums.