Raymond Benson novels

Being starved for anything Bond (and the fact that we won’t get Forever and a Day until November in the states), I’ve started reading the continuation novels that I never before had much interest in.

I read the first 3 Benson novels a while ago, but I remember not enjoying them very much. They felt too much like novel versions of rejected Brosnan scripts. I picked up The Man with the Red Tattoo on audiobook last week and have been pleasantly surprised.

What is the general opinion about Benson’s novels? Until the bizarre one-off model taken recently, I felt that Benson was definitely number 3 after Fleming and Gardner’s distant number 2 (I also have only ever read one Gardner novel).

Zero Minus Ten definitely ticked all my boxes. Benson’s description of fine dining and gamesmanship are right out of the Fleming playbook.
The Facts of Death suffers from the same ‘put in more of this’ attitude that plagues Gardner’s For Special Services.
High Time to Kill (AKA A Better Way to Die), like Gardner’s Icebreaker, is a pleasant change of pace from the usual formula.
Doubleshot is totally predictable. By the end of the first chapter I knew how the story would end, and by the end of the second chapter I knew how it was going to reach that conclusion. That’s the problem with all ‘double’ stories, and adding a pair of twins only exacerbates the matter.
Never Dream of Dying reads like a fan-fic: resurrecting old characters, a blind character with extrasensory powers, cinematic moments such as said blind man crumpling a photo of 007, etc.
The Man With the Red Tattoo starts out needing a better title, resurrects old characters and finishes with a boring climax. I wasn’t too sorry when Benson decided not to continue (one thing Gardner never had to deal with was internet flaming).
Again, this is just one opinion. Others are bound to disagree.

I enjoyed the first few Gardners, less because of their quality than the fact they scratched an itch as I started them more out of desperation than anything else during the dry spell between LTK and Goldeneye. But scratching an itch was about all they did for me. They grew increasingly less satisfying and I honestly believe he didn’t enjoy writing them but was under contract and fulfilled that obligation.

Benson’s novels struck me as amateurish and I agree with AMC_Hornet about them having a fan fiction quality to them. I also agree that Zero Minus Ten and High Time to Kill are his best. I loved his Bond Bedside Companion though. He’s a better writer of reference material than fiction.

None of the continuation books (I’ve read them all) have personally checked all the boxes as much as Colonel Sun. That book is worthy of a film adaptation in my opinion.

1 Like

Scratching the itch and then feeling less satisfied was how I felt the first time I tried to read Benson’s novels. By the time I reached Doubleshot I had had enough. Personally, I’ve liked Benson’s non-Bond work much better. His two Splinter Cell novels are excellent, despite having a decidedly Bondian feel. I’ve enjoyed The Man with the Red Tattoo, though I haven’t finished it yet and am somewhat dismayed that it doesn’t have a great climax. I don’t think any of the continuation authors have had great titles. One of Flemming’s biggest strengths was being able to create an intriguing title. The Man with the Red Tattoo is just piggybacking off of that.

1 Like

I read somewhere that the Gardner books were considered “the real deal” in the '80s while the movies were thought to be “trivia”. Come the late '90s, it was the Benson books that were considered “trivia” and the films were the real deal.

I read ‘The Union Trilogy’ in a monster-sized omnibus and liked them well enough, though High Time to Kill owes quite a debt to the film Cliffhanger (Benson knew this at the time).

Sub Zero owes a lot to Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit and High Time to Kill.

I think the only Benson I’ve read is Never Dream of Dying.

I’ll get around to the others…at some point.

A great bad-guy line in it: “Never dream of dying, Mr Bond. It just might happen.”

1 Like

I think that the curse of being a 007 author is that they all hope that their book gets made into a movie. Even Ian Fleming himself said that he wanted his books on screen. As for Raymond Benson, Never Dream of Dying I feel would make a great movie. The reason is that you could see a Bond movie through a ally’s eyes. Rene Mathis deserves another shot at a cinematic redemption, he is Bond’s ally as much as Felix Leiter in some ways. I also feel that Blast From The Past would make a great subplot for if a older 007 movie is done. Irma Bunt has a lot of potential to be a great villain, who comes back to haunt 007 in more ways than one.

1 Like

I actually started literary Bond with the Benson novels. I was very young, and enjoyed them thoroughly. I recently went back and reread Zero Minus Ten and High Time to Kill. Those are definitely the best, and if I agree with AMC_Hornet on all of his descriptions. If I was to go back and read them again, I think I would find them very flat.

That said, I still prefer Benson to Gardner. Benson’s dialogue and plot ring true, even if his characters are undeveloped and resurrected from the movies. Gardner’s novels are unbelievable to the point where I just put them down for months at a time because it’s so off the wall and unplanned.

  1. Flemming
  2. Benson
  3. Gardner
  4. One-off authors
  5. Boyd
1 Like

For me, as someone who has been to Gibraltar many times, DOUBLE SHOT was a good , if very predictable story,but strategy away I could tell that Raymond Benson had never been there, as the way he discribed main Street was straight out of a brochure!

I think that the Raymond Benson novels originally had a limited print run, here in the UK and the price of them on the second hand market was astronomical, so i ended up buying ex library book hard backs from America. I was glad I did, as the later UK released compilation paperbacks, do look very flimsy

1 Like

s-l400 (3) German language edition of THE FACTS OF DEATH, TITLED " Death on Cyprus" in German. I wonder who the man as James bond in the photograph on the cover is?

1 Like

I remember the book but didn’t buy it at the time. The model was probably chosen for the Brosnan likeness, a common feature of Bond continuations and games of that era, if I recall correctly. Don’t think I’ve seen the guy since, so likely not somebody who started a huge career from there.

1 Like

They’d have been better having the model with his back to us, so we at least think it’s Brosnan.

I think it was a try to reproduce the TOMORROW NEVER DIES cover, more or less…


Oh yes, i see what you mean, I guess they could not afford to hire Douglas James?

It’s a paperback cover. For a book that will at best take a couple of years until it fades entirely into obscurity. Such stuff was more or less photoshopped in an afternoon, the models taken from a pool and given the usual small fee. As long as the impression of the cover was vaguely Bond-ish that probably had to do.

Interesting, as normally you just see a silhouette of bond, unless it is a movie tie in, where you see poster from the movie or a photograph of the actor, ie LTK, GOLDENEYE, TND and the Christopher Wood adaptions

Just so. Though sometimes the German translations of the continuations went a strange route…

These are (from top left to bottom right):

Zero Minus Ten, Icebreaker, The Facts of Death, For Special Services, Role of Honour and Win, Lose or Die. Sticking out are the ones where they tried the Connery look on Icebreaker and Moore’s on Role of Honour. Also very odd is Dalton’s face on the last one. I don’t even remember if that was not published after Brosnan was announced in the role.