(Check out the 7-minute video profile of Raymond, made by Columbia College Chicago’s The Student Loop, here.)
Raymond Benson is the author of approximately 40 published books, the most recent being BLUES IN THE DARK (Oct. 2019), IN THE HUSH OF THE NIGHT (May 2018), and THE SECRETS ON CHICORY LANE (October 2017). Among his several original suspense novels, he is the author of the acclaimed “Black Stiletto” saga that began with THE BLACK STILETTO in 2011 and continued with THE BLACK STILETTO: BLACK & WHITE (2012), THE BLACK STILETTO: STARS & STRIPES (2013), THE BLACK STILETTO: SECRETS & LIES (2014), and THE BLACK STILETTO: ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS (also 2014). He is mostly known for being the third–and first American–writer to be commissioned by the James Bond literary copyright holders between 1996-2002 to take over writing the 007 novels. In total he penned and published worldwide six original 007 novels, three film novelizations, and three short stories. An anthology of his 007 work, THE UNION TRILOGY, was published in the fall of 2008, and a second anthology, CHOICE OF WEAPONS, appeared summer 2010. His book THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION, an encyclopedic work on the 007 phenomenon, was first published in 1984 and was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award by Mystery Writers of America for Best Biographical/Critical Work.
Using the pseudonym “David Michaels,” Raymond is also the author of the NY Times best-selling books TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL and its sequel TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL—OPERATION BARRACUDA. Raymond’s original suspense novels include EVIL HOURS, FACE BLIND, SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS (which won the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Thriller of 2006 at the Love is Murder Conference for Authors, Readers and Publishers), TORMENT, and ARTIFACT OF EVIL. A HARD DAY’S DEATH, a “rock ‘n’ roll thrillers,” was published in 2008, and its sequel, DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE, published in March 2009 and nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel. Also published in 2008 was the novelization of the popular videogame, METAL GEAR SOLID; its sequel, METAL GEAR SOLID 2—SONS OF LIBERTY, was published in the fall of 2009. With John Milius, Raymond penned HOMEFRONT: THE VOICE OF FREEDOM (2011). HITMAN: DAMNATION was published in 2012. DYING LIGHT–NIGHTMARE ROW, the tie-in prequel to Techland’s videogame “Dying Light,” was published in Polish in 2015 and in English in 2016.
In the late 1980s and first half of the 90s, Raymond worked as a computer game designer for various companies. For his work in this field he is the recipient of the Newsweek Editors’ Choice Award, the Parents Choice Award for Excellence, and two Digital Hollywood Awards. Raymond also spent over a decade in New York City, directing numerous stage productions off-off-Broadway and composing music for many other shows. Raymond has taught courses in film genres and history at New York’s New School for Social Research, Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and currently presents Film Studies lectures with Daily Herald movie critic Dann Gire. Raymond was honored in Naoshima, Japan, with the erection of a museum dedicated to one of his novels (see article), and he was also an Ambassador for Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture between 2006-2018. An accomplished pianist, Raymond regularly performs solo at various local venues. Based in the Chicago area, Raymond is an active member of International Thriller Writers Inc., Mystery Writers of America, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, a full member of ASCAP, and served on the Board of Directors of The Ian Fleming Foundation for sixteen years.
MORE DETAILED BIOGRAPHY
The Early Years
Raymond Benson was born on September 6, 1955, in Midland, Texas. At the age of five, his family moved to Odessa, Texas, where he spent his formative years until his graduation from Permian High School in 1973. (Raymond likes to call the town “Odessalation” and yes, this is the same high school and town featured in the book and movie FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS!)
From a very early age, Raymond exhibited an interest in the arts. He took piano lessons while he was still in elementary school, but he quit them after less than two years because he “wanted to play what he wanted to play.” From then on, Raymond taught himself and ultimately gained concert-level proficiency as a pianist.
He also expressed a great interest in movies and books. To this day, he considers that his best education for becoming a writer was to have read a lot as a child. In junior high and high school, he was active in drama and speech classes, and served as Vice President of his high school’s Drama Department for two years in a row.
Raymond points to two events from his childhood that had major impacts on his life—seeing the movie GOLDFINGER at age nine, and seeing the movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY at age thirteen. The first film began his lifelong love of James Bond, and the second film showed him “what a director really does.” (To this day, Raymond cites 2001 as his favorite film, and Stanley Kubrick as his favorite film director.)
Among his many accomplishments in high school were being awarded “Best Actor” two years in a row, being named “Most Musical Male” his senior year, named by the faculty to be included on the “Senior Hall of Fame,” and winning the UIL State typing championship in 1972.
He graduated from high school with honors in 1973.
The College Years
Raymond moved to Austin, Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1973. He enrolled as an Acting major in the Drama Department, but after one semester, he changed his major to Directing. Today he still acknowledges the influence his directing professor, Francis Hodge, had on his education.
His first professional theatre work occurred in the summer of 1974, in-between his freshman and sophomore years. He was hired by the E. P. Conkle Workshop for Playwrights (sponsored by the U.T. Drama Department) to compose music for a new play, OUT OF GAS by Michael Robert David. The following summer, he served as Assistant to the Producers for the Conkle Workshop, composed music for the play HUGO MARTYR by Jeffrey Kindley and collaborated with playwright Frank Gagliano on an entirely-sung theatre piece, THE RESURRECTION OF JACKIE CRAMER (Raymond would ultimately work on no less than six different productions of JACKIE CRAMER around the country.)
In 1976, Raymond took the spring semester off from school so that he could travel to Rhode Island and New York to perform JACKIE CRAMER at various venues. He was a guest artist at URI Theatre (University of Rhode Island, Kingston, R.I.), and premiered the musical off-off-Broadway at the New Dramatists Inc. in New York City. Raymond fell in love with New York, and he vowed that he would go there after he graduated from college.
He returned to Austin for the fall 1976 semester. Raymond’s first directing assignment was the play TOTAL ECLIPSE by Christopher Hampton, about the lives of poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. His first professional directing job came once again with the Conkle Workshop in the summer of 1977, directing Andy Nance’s BIG DOINGS AT THE GWYNES FARM.
Raymond graduated with a BFA in Directing (with high honors) from UT Austin in 1978. However, his plan to move to New York was circumvented by a job offer from the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. Deciding that this would be a good opportunity, he became an Apprentice Director at the Alley for the 1978-1979 season. There, he composed music for the long-running ALICE IN WONDERLAND (by Eva Le Gallienne and Lewis Carroll) and directed the apprentice production MOONCHILDREN by Michael Weller.
The New York Years
Raymond moved to New York City in the summer of 1979 and immediately got involved with the theatre scene there. His first project was to direct his own production of THE RESURRECTION OF JACKIE CRAMER at the New Dramatists Inc. He soon joined fellow former UT Drama Dept. colleagues in the formation of a theatre company called Empire Stage Players. He served on the Board of Directors from 1980-1981.
Throughout the early eighties, Raymond directed several productions off-off-Broadway and composed music for a variety of projects. Among the shows he directed were: LUDLOW LADD by Michael Colby and Jerry Markoe; PAPER TIGER by Thomas Brasch; BOX AND COX by John Maddison Morton; and HANDFUL OF LIGHTS by Dan Duling. THE RESURRECTION OF JACKIE CRAMER finally received an off-Broadway production in 1980 under his own direction. Theatrical compositions include music for productions of MISS JULIE (August Strindberg); PAPER TIGER (Thomas Brasch); DEIRDRE (Norman Morrow); ULTIMATE JOY (Marvin Cohen); THE MAN WHO COULD SEE THROUGH TIME (Terri Wagener); CHARLOTTE’S WEB (Joe Robinette); and THE LUCKY CHANCE (Aphra Behn). As a member of ASCAP, Raymond has received over ten “popular music awards.”
While the theatre scene in New York kept Raymond active at night and on weekends, he worked a day-job at a financial services firm called Technimetrics, Inc. to make ends meet. There he learned valuable skills as a sales assistant and marketing services associate.
His interest in James Bond (since age nine) never faltered. In 1981, he began a personal project of writing a non-fiction book about the character. At the time, nothing like it had ever been done before. He wanted it to include a history of the 007 phenomenon, a biography of Ian Fleming, and analyses of all the Bond books and movies. When he pitched the idea to a publisher, much to his surprise he got a contract to write the book. Raymond spent the next three years concentrating on the project, including traveling to England to research, and writing what eventually became THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION. It was published in the U.S. by Dodd Mead & Co. in 1984. The book was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award (Mystery Writers of America) for Best Biographical/Critical Work of that year. It was later updated in 1988, and published for the first time in the U.K. by Boxtree Ltd. The original editions are now out of print and are much sought-after items by Bond collectors. However it is now available as an e-book.
Raymond became Vice President of the James Bond 007 Fan Club (based in New York) until its demise in 1990. He contributed various articles to the club’s magazine, “Bondage,” as well as to the British James Bond Fan Club’s magazine, “007.” In 1989, he landed a job with the New York Daily News to interview actor Timothy Dalton.
Raymond’s interests were always varied. He became interested in role-playing games when the first DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS system emerged in the late seventies. When THE JAMES BOND 007 ROLE-PLAYING GAME was published by Victory Games in 1983, Raymond wanted to get involved. He was hired to write and design one of the adventure modules for the game,YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE II—BACK OF BEYOND (published in 1986). This gaming experience caught the attention of others. Computer games were just beginning to become popular, especially the Infocom-style “text adventures” of the mid-eighties. Raymond was hired to design and write three text-adventures for Mindscape Inc.—and two of them were James Bond games: A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) and GOLDFINGER (1986), as well as an adaptation of Stephen King’s THE MIST (1985).
In the latter eighties, Raymond supplemented his artistic endeavors with an interesting day-job with the famous architect, I. M. Pei. Raymond spent four years at Pei’s firm as a spec typist.
Another interesting sideline was teaching in the Media Department at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. In the spring 1989 semester, Raymond taught a class on James Bond and how the character (and films) influenced society. Students had to read several Ian Fleming novels and critique a number of the movies. The following year, in 1990, Raymond taught a class on Cult Films, screening various popular movies of this ilk.
Raymond loved his eleven years living in Manhattan, describing it as one of the most exciting periods of his life.
The Computer Game Years
In 1987, Raymond got married and became a father two years later. Faced with the prospect of raising a child in Manhattan, Raymond decided to move his family back to Austin, Texas, in 1990. At first, he had the idea of enrolling in court reporting school so that he could make money as a court reporter by day and write by night. However, this plan didn’t suit him, and the computer game industry came calling once again.
Answering an ad in the local paper, Raymond landed a job as a writer for Origin Systems Inc., one of the best and most-respected computer game companies in America. His first assignment was a prestigious one—head writer on the latest installment of the popular “Ultima” series. This became ULTIMA VII—THE BLACK GATE, published in 1992. His credit on the game was “Screenplay and Story Direction,” and he led a team of writers to create the plotline, dialogue for over 250 characters, and “direct” the staging of the plot and subplots.
An offer from MicroProse Software Inc., in Hunt Valley, Maryland, was too good to pass up, so in the summer of 1992, Raymond moved his family across country again to become a full fledged “game designer.” At MicroProse, Raymond designed and wrote the critically-acclaimed adventure game, RETURN OF THE PHANTOM. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1993, MicroProse was forced to lay off almost half of their employees because of financial problems, and Raymond was one of the casualties.
As a freelancer following the lay-off, Raymond designed and wrote DARK SEED 2, the sequel to the popular game based on the artwork of fantasy/horror artist H. R. Giger. DARK SEED 2 was eventually published by Cyberdreams Inc. in 1995.
Late in 1993, Raymond was hired by Viacom New Media as a game designer, and he once again moved his family across country to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, where they remain to this day.
At Viacom, Raymond co-designed, wrote the screenplay and directed the story for the children’s game, ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?—THE TALE OF ORPHEO’S CURSE (based on the popular Nickelodeon television show). The game was lauded with the Parents’ Choice Award and the Newsweek Editors’ Choice Award for 1994. His game THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (based on the film and book of the same name) won the Digital Hollywood “Best CD ROM” and “Best Children’s Game” awards. He was in the process of developing several projects when Viacom decided to close down their software entertainment division in 1997.
Raymond also spent two semesters teaching “Interactive Screenwriting” (a fancy term for “computer game designing”) at Columbia College Chicago.
The James Bond 007 Years
When Raymond wrote THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION he met members of the Ian Fleming family, as well as Peter Janson-Smith, the Chairman of Glidrose Publications (the company Fleming had set up to handle the Bond literary business—the name has since been changed to Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.). Raymond stayed in touch throughout the eighties and early nineties, performing various odd jobs (such as being commissioned to write a stage play based on Fleming’s first Bond novel, CASINO ROYALE—which has never been produced). In late 1995, Raymond received a phone call from Janson-Smith. John Gardner, the current author of the Bond books, had announced that he was retiring from the gig. Janson-Smith asked if Raymond would be interested in “giving it a shot.”
Raymond was floored but met the challenge. Throughout most of 1996, he wrote his first James Bond novel, ZERO MINUS TEN, as well as a short story, BLAST FROM THE PAST. The short story appeared in the January 1997 issue of Playboy Magazine. ZERO MINUS TEN was published by Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K. in April 1997, and by Putnam in the U.S. in May. The novel was also serialized by Playboy in their April and May 1997 issues.
Raymond penned the novelization of the Bond film TOMORROW NEVER DIES (based on the screenplay by Bruce Feirstein), and it was published in November 1997.
His second original Bond novel, THE FACTS OF DEATH, was published in 1998 and was excerpted in the July 1998 issue of Playboy.
A new short story, MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DOOM, appeared in the 45th Anniversary issue (January 1999) of Playboy. In this unique story, James Bond meets Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion!
Raymond’s third original Bond novel, HIGH TIME TO KILL, was published in 1999, and the novelization of the Bond movie, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (based on the screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade & Bruce Feirstein), was published in November 1999.
Another short story, LIVE AT FIVE, was published in the November 13, 1999 issue of TV Guide magazine.
A fourth original 007 novel, DOUBLESHOT, was published in 2000 and was also serialized in the June 2000 issue of Playboy.
NEVER DREAM OF DYING, Raymond’s fifth original Bond novel, was published in 2001.
Raymond’s final original 007 novel, THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO, was published in 2002. His last work for James Bond was the novelization for DIE ANOTHER DAY (based on the screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade), which was published in November 2002.
An anthology of three of Raymond’s James Bond novels, entitled THE UNION TRILOGY, was published in the U.S. in October 2008. A second anthology, CHOICE OF WEAPONS, was published in August 2010.
In 2003, Raymond left the world of James Bond to write his own original works. The first of these, EVIL HOURS, was actually written between Bond novels and was originally published as an electronic book in early 2001 by Publishing Online. It has recently been revised and officially published by Twenty First Century Publishers in 2004.
THE POCKET ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO JETHRO TULL was published in 2002.
His suspense novel, FACE BLIND, was published in 2003 by Twenty First Century Publishers.
The best-selling TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL (written under the pseudonym “David Michaels”) was published in 2004 by Berkley Books, followed by the equally best-selling TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL—OPERATION BARRACUDA in 2005. Both books were in the top ten of the New York Times Best-Seller List.
Raymond’s suspense novel SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS was published in 2006. It won the “Lovey” (Readers Choice Award) for Best Thriller of 2006 at the “Love is Murder Conference” for Writers and Readers.
The rock ‘n’ roll thriller A HARD DAY’S DEATH was published in April 2008. Its sequel, DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE, was published in March 2009 and was nominated for a “Shamus Award” for Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel by the Private Eye Writers of America. A tie-in short story, ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DEATH, was published in the May/June 2009 issue of CRIMESPREE Magazine.
Raymond’s novelization of the popular Konami videogame, METAL GEAR SOLID, was published in May 2008. The sequel, METAL GEAR SOLID 2—SONS OF LIBERTY, was published in November 2009.
Raymond was one of the six authors who penned the “Gabriel Hunt—-Hunt for Adventure” series for Dorchester Publishing. His was the sixth and final entry, entitled HUNT THROUGH NAPOLEON’S WEB (by “Gabriel Hunt”); it appeared as an e-book in 2010, and in print in 2011.
Two novels “from the vault” were published as e-books in 2011: TORMENT–A LOVE STORY, a supernatural thriller, and ARTIFACT OF EVIL, a thriller blending modern day crime, historical characters, and fantasy.
Raymond co-wrote HOMEFRONT—THE VOICE OF FREEDOM with screenwriter/director John Milius (“Apocalypse Now” co-writer; “The Wind & the Lion,” “Red Dawn,” “Conan the Barbarian” director/writer, etc.). The book is a tie-in “prequel” to THQ’s apocalyptic videogame, and was published in early 2011. Another videogame tie-in, HITMAN: DAMNATION, was published in July 2012, based on IO Interactive’s popular HITMAN series. DYING LIGHT–NIGHTMARE ROW, a prequel tie-in to Techland’s videogame “Dying Light,” was published in Polish in 2015 and appeared in English in 2016.
September 2011 saw publication of THE BLACK STILETTO, the first entry in Raymond’s new original thriller series, published by Oceanview Publishing. The story of a female vigilante in the Eisenhower/Kennedy eras, this “action/adventure tale for women” was called “prime escapism” in a Booklist starred review. The second book, THE BLACK STILETTO: BLACK & WHITE, was published late May 2012. The third book, THE BLACK STILETTO: STARS & STRIPES, was published in April 2013. THE BLACK STILETTO: SECRETS & LIES was published in January 2014, and the finale, THE BLACK STILETTO: ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS was published in November 2014. An anthology e-book, THE BLACK STILETTO: THE COMPLETE SAGA, was published in 2015 and has been a best-seller on all digital platforms. The serial was optioned by ABC Studios in 2015 for a possible television series to be produced by actress/producer Mila Kunis, but is now in development by others as a feature film.
In 2014, Raymond teamed up with fellow Bond-author Jeffery Deaver and co-edited the short story anthology, ICE COLD—TALES OF INTRIGUE FROM THE COLD WAR. In the spring of 2015, the e-book short story anthology, 12+1: TWELVE SHORT THRILLERS AND A PLAY, was published. His tie-in to the “Dying Light” videogame, DYING LIGHT–NIGHTMARE ROW, was published in Polish in 2015 and in English in 2016.
October 2017 saw the publication of THE SECRETS ON CHICORY LANE from Skyhorse Publishing. IN THE HUSH OF THE NIGHT was published by Skyhorse in May 2018. Raymond’s latest novel is BLUES IN THE DARK, published in October 2019.
Odds and Ends
Since 2001, Raymond has occasionally taught adult continuing education classes at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Among the courses were “The Films of Stanley Kubrick,” “The Films of David Lynch,” “The Films of Alfred Hitchcock,” “Classic Foreign Cinema,” and “The James Bond Phenomenon.” Currently he teaches Film History at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Raymond is a regular contributor to the magazine “Cinema Retro,” a publication dedicated to the films of the 60s and 70s (but not exclusively!). Recently he has been contributing articles and reviews to “Progression” Magazine, a publication focusing on progressive rock music.
In 2007, Raymond teamed up with Dann Gire, the film critic of Chicago’s DAILY HERALD suburban newspaper to form “Dann and Raymond’s Movie Club.” This popular program meets monthly at public libraries. Raymond and Dann present engaging discussions about film genres, directors, and actors.
An accomplished pianist, Raymond has performed solo at local venues such as the Palm Court Restaurant in Palatine, Illinois, Mariano’s, and at parties and other events. See the Appearances page for more info.
In early 2005 Raymond returned to the theatre world with the production of his one-act play SECOND CHANCE (co-written with Doug Redenius), which was produced in Chicago by Darknight Theatrical Productions as part of DARKNIGHT GALLERY, their evening of TWILIGHT ZONE-style one-act plays.
In 2005, the government of Kagawa Prefecture in Japan erected a museum dedicated to Raymond’s final James Bond novel, THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO. Located on the island of Naoshima, the “007 Man With the Red Tattoo Museum” contained exhibits created by Japanese artists that illustrated scenes and objects featured in the novel, as well as other 007 memorabilia. The museum remained open for eleven years. Additionally, Raymond served between 2006-2018 as a Kagawa Ambassador for his contributions to the area’s tourism.
Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, named Raymond as the 2007 JOSEPH G. ASTMAN DISTINGUISHED CONFERENCE SCHOLAR. The award was established in 1985 in recognition of the outstanding role of the late founder of the Hofstra Cultural Center. Previous recipients of the award include such luminaries as E. L. Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates, John Cage, Marilyn French, Lucine Amara, Tovah Feldshuh, Peter A. Quinn, Donald Spoto, Walter Isaacson, Peter Riddell, and many other scholars, historians, and artists.
Raymond is an active member of International Thriller Writers Inc., The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and ASCAP. He served on the Board of Directors of The Ian Fleming Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Fleming and Bond memorabilia, from 1995 to 2011.