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Raymond is still a Bond fan, but now he
1) doesn’t like new Bond movies.
2) writes fewer articles about Bond.
3) has a wider sphere of interests.
Int: You probably have heard about Ian Fleming, who was the first to create the famous spy James Bond. Another writer, Raymond Benson, continued Fleming's book series about Bond. Now Raymond has retired from writing Bond books, but is willing to share his experience. So, Raymond, when did you first start reading Ian Fleming’s novels about James Bond?
Raymond Benson: I first saw one of the James Bond movies, "Goldfinger", in the cinema when I was 9 years old and I was blown away. I immediately started reading whatever Bond books I could get my hands on. By the time I was 11 I had read them all even though I was too young at the time to fully comprehend them. I re-read them again around the time I was in high school, and that’s when I figured out what was so good about these books and I’ve re-read them several times since.
Int: You’ve been involved in the Bond fan community for a long time. How has it changed over the years?
RB: The Internet has changed it in many ways. Back in the 70s and 80s, there wasn’t a whole lot that could bring fans together and that’s the thing the Internet has done for them. In the past there were only fan clubs that published Bond magazines and some of the bigger cities held conventions where fans could meet each other more or less frequently. Now that the fans have the Internet they have created millions of Bond websites.
Int: Are you still a Bond fan?
RB: Of course! But it’s different now. I will still see the films as they come out and probably read the books if and when they are published. But the days of me writing articles about Bond are gone. I like to think I’ve moved on. There are plenty of other things that keep me engaged. I’m a huge fan of many different things, from various types of music and films to other authors and genres.
Int: Do you think Ian himself would have found the popularity of the series unexpected? *
RB: Yes. He didn’t think they would last so long. Unfortunately, he only saw the first two films and never got to enjoy the huge success that Bond brought others. As he once said, ‘It’s all been such a joke.’ However, I don’t think he would have appreciated the way James Bond is portrayed now, the way they’ve made him more politically correct, a ‘nicer’ guy, so to speak.
Int: Although the era of the cold war is over and spies are slowly becoming a thing of the past, do you think the public will ever lose an interest in James Bond?
RB: They don’t show any sign of doing so. The same can be said concerning fiction and movies about spies in general. You see, spies are not necessarily linked to the cold war — we had spies in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and we have spies today. Spies will never be a thing of the past. There will always be something for Bond to do.
Int: How does it feel not to be writing Bond now? What have you been doing with yourself in the past two years?
RB: Well, for seven years the job gave me the opportunity to travel the world, meet lots of people, and get my name into the publishing world. The income wasn’t what people sometimes think it was. You’d be surprised how many people automatically assume I was making millions of dollars. But I made the same amount of money as I would have made at an office job. Now that it’s over, I have to find ways to supplement the writing income. There are days when I miss the job, but overall I’m relieved not to have that Bond thing hanging over me.
Int: Do you have any advice for the next writer, whoever it may be?
RB: Make sure you’ve got a thick skin and stay away from Bond websites! Don’t get me wrong, the fans are very valuable to the Bond industry and I say God bless them all — even the ones that didn’t like my work. I certainly didn’t expect everyone to. One must understand that it’s a much tougher job than it seems. The pressure to produce on a timely basis is immense. It’s a balancing act between pleasing the publishers, the readers and pleasing oneself.
I’m a huge fan of many different things, from various types of music and films to other authors and genres.