"When a British businessman and his family are killed in Japan, James Bond suspects a mass assassination. Investigating with the help of beautiful Japanese agent Reiko Tamura and his old friend Tiger Tanaka, Bond discovers that two powerful factions controlled by the mysterious terrorist Goro Yoshida are playing God. Between them they have created the perfect weapon, one small and seemingly insignificant enough to strike anywhere, unnoticed. With an emergency G7 summit meeting just days away, it's a race against time as Bond confronts both man and nature in a desperate bid to stop the release of a deadly virus that could destroy the Western world."
-From the 2003 Cornett Paperback Edition
In an era of contrived attempts to "personalize" Bond's missions or "peal back the layers" of Bond's psyche, it's refreshing to have a straightforward Bond-on-a-dangerous-assignment-in-an-exotic-locale adventure, and that's what Raymond Benson delivers in The Man With the Red Tattoo, his best stand alone Bond thriller to date. This time, Mr. Bond, it ISN'T personal. Halleluiah! Even the return of the Walther PPK seems to be Benson's way of saying, "Let's just use what has always worked and enough with the self-conscious 'updating' of the character." In this way I think The Man With the Red Tattoo is well ahead of the curve (and just reinforces the fact that Benson is the best of all the post-Fleming Bond authors).
But a straightforward plot doesn't mean The Man With the Red Tattoo is lacking complexity of character. Just the opposite is true. Japan holds dark memories for Bond, and that aspect is not ignored. Whereas John Gardner might have given a passing reference to Bond's legendary ordeal in You Only Live Twice, Benson uses the "ghosts" of Bond's past as a full-fledged complication. Fans will not be disappointed in how Benson weaves elements of the Fleming masterpiece into this current book, nor will they be disappointed in the action. Gunfights and fistfights abound in The Man With the Red Tattoo. It's probably Benson's most violent book to date -- the body count is quite high -- but this seems to be in keeping with the Asian action movie milieu the book frequently evokes. The methodology of the villain's master plan is ingenious and is the best conceived caper we've had, book or film, in quite some time. And speaking of films, have I mentioned that The Man With the Red Tattoo would make an amazing Bond movie? Well, it would.
For the seasoned Bond fan The Man With the Red Tattoo is the perfect book at the perfect time. For those who have yet to read a Benson book and are looking for a classic cocktail of Bondian action, suspense, and exotic locales, you would be well advised to start right here.
Written by John Cox
When writing your final Bond adventure, when did it become clear in your mind that you wouldn't return?
After it was done. During the process I was considering asking for a year off just to recharge my batteries. As it turned out, Glidrose wanted to suspend the books for a while too. I wanted to do other stuff and so it all sort of worked out that way for both sides.
The design of Yoshida's killer-mosquitoes is a quite ingenious method of eliminating one's victim. Where did this idea originate?
In my head! Sometimes you just have to force yourself to be creative... :)
What were some of the highlights from your research trip to Japan and what specific locations or experiences did you work into the novel?
I always tried to visit all the locations in my novels. Everything you read about in "Tattoo" is real and I was there. I particularly liked Noboribetsu (the hot springs, Hell Valley, the Ainu villages) and Naoshima Island (where Benesse House is located). On a side note, I was able to meet Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi, which was a real treat.
Interview with Raymond Benson conducted by
Adam Farrington-Williams and Greg Goodman.
The Man With the Red Tattoo
Published: May 2, 2002
Author: Raymond Benson
Villain: Goro Yoshida
Bond Girl: Mayumi McMahon;
Allies: Tiger Tanaka;
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