"James Bond, 007, finally comes face-to-face with his most cunninjg nemesis - the enigmatic, blind criminal mastermind behind the sinister organization known only as the Union. It begins when a police raid goes horribly wrong, killing innocent men, women, and even children. Bond knows the Union is behind the carnage, and vows to take them down once and for all. His hunt takes him to Paris, into a deadly game of predator and prey, and a fateful meeting with the seductive Tylyn Mignonne, a movie star with a sordid past, who may lead bond to his final target - or his own violent end...
-From the 2002 Mass Market Paperback Edition
Raymond Benson has a great respect for, knowledge of, and facility with the original Ian Fleming books about James Bond. As a result, he is able to recreate the well-known formula in ways similar to Mr. Fleming while reflecting and refracting powerful connections to the earlier stories. A thoughtful tip of the hat comes to every one of Mr. Fleming's books at one point or another in the story. As such, the book at some level of a Fleming tribute as much as an action novel. Unfortunately, Mr. Benson lacks the hard edge fascination with the bizarre, the deviant, and evil-doers that gave readers an eye-opening experience in Mr. Fleming's books. All James Bond fans will love the story, but it's a kinder, gentler version.
Bond is on the trail of a recent nemesis (of the last few books), Le Gerant (manager or managing director in French) who is head of the evil organization, the Union. They are for hire to the highest bidder and specialize in providing arms for terrorist purposes. The story opens before a raid on a rotting film production facility in southern France. The French authorities have intelligence that arms are being hidden inside. They plan to attack while shooting is going on in one of the adjacent sound stages. Commander Bond disagrees, but it's a French operation, and the attack takes place under Commandant Malherbe (creative name for someone whose leading a doomed operation -- Mr. Benson is good with names that way). It's a Union trap for the French, and soon the French attackers are being cut down. In the desperate struggle that follows, Bond's counterattack causes a fire that burns down the occupied sound stage, killing 19 and injuring many more. The fall-out from the attack leads to Bond's friend, Rene Mathis (From Russia with Love) being put on leave for two months. Disgusted, M. Mathis resigns to track Le Gerant on his own. Bond wants to continue the chase as well, and wins reprieves from M as he makes progress.
The book's overriding theme is about seeing and blindness. The theme is explored in terms of visual acuity, identity, foretelling the future, and communication. In this element, Mr. Benson exceeds the master. Although Mr. Fleming also explored complex themes in many dimensions, Mr. Benson is better at it here than Mr. Fleming was at the height of his talents.
One of the book's most interesting parts is the way that characters you haven't read about in decades are woven back into this tale. This connection gives the book a powerful way to continue your impressions from those wonderful stories. You will have one major surprise along the way when someone supposedly dead reappears.
As in all Bond stories, this novel has much more action than character development. Yet, you will find a few new dimensions to 007 that will probably interest you. There is a graphic description of "safe sex" in one encounter here that feels very much like Fleming at his best.
The action all occurs right on schedule, from the obligatory opening scene to the post-battle wind-up with the leading lady. Many of the scenes make good use of the local scenary, and I thought that the Corsican descriptions were especially fine.
After you read the book, I suggest that you also think about how risk and reward should be evaluated in your life. When is it a good idea to plunge ahead, and when is temporary caution more appropriate.
Written by Donald Mitchell
What were some of the advantages and disadvantages of using The Union in a trilogy of novels, versus as a stand-alone villainous organization?
Like SPECTRE, it gave Bond an on-going nemesis. It allowed me to build a mythology behind the group that was able to evolve. I wouldn't say there were any disadvantages!
You seem to bring back a lot of older Bond allies in your novels, specifically Draco in Doubleshot. What is the reasoning behind these old friends returning and why have Draco turn against Bond after all these years?
Some people have got it in their heads that they should criticize me for using characters that Fleming created. That's nonsense. Any writer who is working from an already-established universe (Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, whatever) has the full use of that universe and what has gone before. As a reader I would expect it.
As for Draco, the fans that have given me grief for what I did with him in Never Dream of Dying are totally missing the point about who Draco really is. Draco is a villain. He always was. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he's the head of the Union Corse, i.e., a mafia organization. He's a very bad guy. That's why Bond is reluctant to get involved with him. They only become "friends" due to the relationship Bond has with Draco's daughter. They gain a respect for each other. But does Bond "hang out" with Draco? What happens between them after Tracy's death? Do you think Draco continued to have a good relationship with Bond? I don't think so. I believe what I did with Draco is *totally* realistic.
Glidrose and the publishers agreed with me. The whole idea behind Never Dream of Dying was the notion of how would Bond react if he were forced to kill a relative? Draco wasn't exactly a relative at that point - he was Bond's *former* father-in-law. But that was still a close enough relationship that it had to be dramatic for Bond. I just want to shake the Bond fans who cry and moan that I did something terrible to Draco. Those fans aren't looking past their image they have of Gabriele Ferzetti's super-nice-guy portrayal of the character in the On Her Majesty's Secret Service film, which in my opinion was not what Fleming's character was.
Interview with Raymond Benson conducted by
Adam Farrington-Williams and Greg Goodman.
Never Dream of Dying
Published: May 3, 2001
Author: Raymond Benson
Villain: Le Gerant;
Organization: The Union
Bond Girl: Tylyn Mignonne
Allies: Rene Mathis;
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