"They call him the Number Killer. A calculating assassin who always leaves a numerical calling card. But now he's picked the wrong victim - M's lover - and James Bond is going to beat the odds to make things even. From the desolate badlands of Texas to the crumbling ruins of Greece, the danger multiplies as Bond tracks his quarry to a sinister cult of fanatics shrouded in the teachings of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras. With a vicious cadre of killers trying to subtract him from the equation, Bond must infiltrate the cult and stop their chaotic computations - or the next number that comes up may be his own..."
-From the 1997 Putnam Hardcover Edition
Raymond Benson, continuing in the tradition of Zero Minus Ten , writes this novel as if he were writing for the screen. It plays out like any Bond movie, right down to what could be considered a pre-title sequence with Bond going to Greece to investigate some murders and winding up in bed with the Greek Intelligence officer assigned to assist him. Aside my criticism of following the Bond formula to a T, this book was quite enjoyable with many memorable moments.
Perhaps the most inspired section of the novel came when the retired M (Sir Miles Messervy) had a dinner reception attended by most of MI6 as well as others. In this scene, we not only see the domestic side of the former head of the Double-0 division, but the current M attends as well with her boyfriend, Alfred Hutchinson. It is a rare scene showing the personal life of the characters who are usually only seen in the office.
Needless to say, Mís Alfred is killed and Bond soon learns that his death was only the ice covering a very deep lake. His investigation takes him first to Texas where he is investigating Alfredís son, Charles. Coming to his aid in the Lone Star State is none other than retired Felix Leiter. The scenes they share together are extremely memorable and well written. They interact as two best friends from a long time ago who havenít seen each other in ages. There are many pages devoted to their dinner, where they caught up on old times over margaritas and Tex-Mex food.
The novel continues with Bond traveling to Greece where he begins to learn the truth about the Deceda. They are basically a cult of ten members with influences far and wide reaching. They are devout followers of the mathematician Pythagoras and believe that he had spoken to their leader and instructed him on a route of terrorism.
Most of last three quarters of the book reads like your typical Bond movie, in that there are some action sequences padding Bondís investigation of both the bad guys, and the Bond girlís body. The one interesting twist with the Bond girl is that she, Niki Mirakos, is essentially his equal. She works for Greek Intelligence and fully aware of Bondís womanizing tendencies. She admits from the start that when the mission is over, they will be too.
The final sequence also marks the return of an old ally of Bond, Stefan Tempo, son of Darko Kerim from the From Russia With Love mission. Although his scene is brief and to the point, it forms a nice sense of continuity between Flemingís novels and Bensonís. As a whole, the novel was an entertaining escape from reality for a few hours. It was classic Bond in almost every aspect, even including a torture scene. However, Bond has been escalated to such a super-human status that you turn the pages wondering what means Bond will use to escape. There isnít even the thought in oneís mind while reading that Bond wonít succeed. I would like to see a novel where Bond actually loses, since it will never happen in Hollywood. In closing, it was better than Zero Minus Ten as well as most of John Gardnerís attempts. With time, Benson can grow into an incredible Bond author. Keep at it!
The Decada, the villainous group in the novel, is essentially a cult
whose members are extremely influential. The novel was written and released during a decade of increased publicized cult activity, most notably the Waco, Texas massacre of 1993. Did any of these news stories influence your characterization of The Decada? If not, where did the inspiration for the group originate?
At the time I thought I wanted to create a SPECTRE-like group that could become a regularly-appearing nemesis for Bond. Ultimately that became The Union in the later books. The Decada drew its inspiration on the suggestion a Greek friend of mine made. I was originally thinking of having Greek mythology play a part in the organization but my friend suggested mathematics instead. It all fell into place after that.
The Facts of Death features a great scene with Bond and Felix Leiter reconnecting over drinks in Texas. However, there is no mention of Della or
Cedar Leiter. Was this because you were trying to separate yourself from the
Gardner era novels or was there a different reason for the omission?
I was told that I could "use" or "ignore" anything that Amis or Gardner or Pearson had done. Della was a creation of the films so she was easy to ignore. Cedar was more problematic but I could never buy her character, even though she appears in one of my favorite Gardner books. I simply chose to ignore her.
Through the introduction of Alfred Hutchinson, M's boyfriend and lover,
you humanize the character of Bond's boss in a way that no other author had
before, save possibly Kingsley Amis who dealt with M's kidnapping. What were
your goals in broadening the character of M and how do you feel about the
I really wanted to humanize her more and even give her a name. I thought it worked rather well. I couldn't help but picture Judi Dench in my mind when I did it.
After visiting Greece to scout locations for the novel with Mr Kiss Kiss
Bang Bang's Panos Sambrakos, you said, "I'm finding I'm having to rework
some of the plot. Once I've finished the research, I will probably rework
the outline to accommodate what I've seen. I want the next one to be more
'fun.'" What major changes did you make to the novel between the outline and
the final product? Also, do you feel that you succeeded in making the book
It was mostly in description of some of the locales. Some of the stuff in Cyprus needed reworking after I saw the locations and, if I remember correctly, when I was at the sites of Cape Sounion and Chios, I saw things I wanted to incorporate that I didn't know about before.
Interview with Raymond Benson conducted by
Adam Farrington-Williams and Greg Goodman.
The Facts of Death
Published: May, 1998
Author: Raymond Benson
Villain: Hera Voulopoulos;
Bond Girl: Niki Mirakos;
Allies: Felix Leiter;
Raymond Benson's Thoughts
Blast From The Past
Zero Minus Ten
Tomorrow Never Dies
The Facts of Death
High Time To Kill
The World Is Not Enough
Never Dream of Dying
The Man With The Red
Die Another Day
Raymond Benson Biography