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.")
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" his senior year, 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. Compositions include "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 a print on demand book from Raymond himself! See the Shop page for details.
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. Today he is on the Board of Directors of the Ian Fleming Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Fleming and Bond memorabilia.
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.
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," but for all intents and purposes, he was a co-designer with Richard Garriott and 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.
Raymond currently teaches adult continuing educations classes at William Rainey Harper Colege in Palatine, IL. He taught "The Films of Stanley Kubrick" in the fall of 2001 and plans to teach a James Bond class in the winter of 2002.
James Bond 007
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). 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 mostof 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 continued to penn Bond novels through 2002 when he wrote the novelization of "Die Another Day," his last Bond novel.