By Ian Walkley
Since the devastating conclusion of HITMAN: BLOOD MONEY, Agent 47 has been MIA. Now fans awaiting the return of the blockbuster videogame and film phenomenon can pinpoint the location of the world’s most brutal and effective killer-for-hire before he reemerges in HITMAN: DAMNATION. When the Agency lures Agent 47 back with a mission that will require every last ounce of his stealth, strength, and undercover tactics, they grossly underestimate the silent assassin’s own agenda. Because this time, Agent 47 isn’t just going to bite the hand that feeds him. He’s going tear it off and annihilate anyone who stands in his way.
Raymond Benson is the author of 27 published books. His most recent original thrillers include THE BLACK STILETTO and THE BLACK STILETTO: BLACK & WHITE (and THE BLACK STILETTO: STARS & STRIPES is due out April 2013).
Raymond was the fourth–and first American–author to write official James Bond novels, the six titles of which are collected in the anthologies THE UNION TRILOGY and CHOICE OF WEAPONS. He is also a prolific media tie-in writer, having contributed novelizations of several videogame and movie franchises.
Raymond has been described by Lee Child as “a top-class thriller craftsman” and by David Morrell as “one of the best thriller writers in the business.”
First off, Raymond, readers of the last Hitman book will be wanting to know, is this a sequel?
It’s not a sequel, but it is a prequel of sorts to the upcoming videogame, HITMAN: ABSOLUTION. Still, it’s a stand-alone story, so I don’t think readers would necessarily need to know the videogame franchise to enjoy the book.
What appealed to you about Agent 47 that made you want to write this novel?
He’s a cool customer, a very intriguing character. For this book, we dug a little more into 47’s personality, to see what makes him tick. We thought it would be an interesting exploration if 47 found himself in an uneasy relationship with a woman during the course of a job. Sort of a romance, at least in the Hitman’s sense of the concept.
Who are some of the other characters we’ll meet in the book?
We take 47 into American politics. His assignment is to assassinate a presidential candidate who is also the leader of a religious cult, so that character, Charlie Wilkins, is a major part of the story. The aforementioned woman with whom 47 becomes involved is Helen McAdams, a member of the cult. She has her own issues, so hooking up with a strange and intense non-talkative guy like 47 is not a problem for her.
And what are the challenges that Agent 47 is up against?
47 must go undercover and completely become the “character” he is playing; and he’s in a situation in which he’s in constant danger of being discovered. The assignment itself is among the most difficult he’s ever faced. And as for the major threat in the story, let’s just say that a presidential election is at stake.
Sounds like good timing then. How will it appeal to people not into computer games?
As it’s a media tie-in, naturally the targeted audience is the millions of fans of the videogame franchise; that said, a good tie-in will appeal not only to the fans, but non-fans as well.
Did you need to do any specific research for the book?
I had to learn the franchise! That’s one of the challenges of a tie-in writer. Very often you’ll get a job to write for a long-standing franchise and you know nothing about it. I was familiar with HITMAN, and I was once in the gaming industry, so I had a bit of a head start on this one. Mostly, though, I studied the plots and characters of the various games, and worked with IO Interactive to get up to speed on the universe.
You wrote James Bond, and then Spike Berenger, and you not long ago released the second in the Black Stiletto series, with a female protagonist from the fifties and sixties. Now comes the release of HITMAN: DAMNATION about a clone assassin. Lee Child only writes Reacher. How do you get yourself into the different states of mind for the wide-ranging works you produce?
I keep my options open! The Black Stiletto series is my latest original line of work and that’s really what I’m concentrating on at the moment (the third Stiletto book will be published in April 2013, and I’m currently writing number four). It’s planned to be a five-book series. I take tie-in jobs because it’s good bread-and-butter work. I’ve always been able to multi-task; it must be because I was trained to be a theatre director!
Have you enjoyed writing some books more than others? Why?
I’ll always enjoy writing my original books more than the others because, well, they’re mine.
Do you have a particular writing process, or discipline?
I do. I’m a firm believer in outlining, and I spend a good deal of time on the outline (really a prose treatment, chapter by chapter) so that I end up with a road map for the book. When I’m writing, I try to complete a scene a day (scene = beginning, middle, end) and very often that’s a complete chapter.
You’ve been a director, games designer, novelist, screenwriter, and lots of other things. What is it that stands out for you in being a novelist? What do you enjoy about writing fiction?
I’m my own boss, and that’s important when you’re my age. They say writing is a lonely business, but it’s also an empowering one—you get to dictate your own hours, vacation, and do your own employee evaluations! Of course, you might have to answer to editors every now and then, but that’s better than most jobs. Also, I feel I’m able to apply everything I’ve learned in the other “professions” into my writing. It’s all-encompassing.
Do you see the digital generation raised on computer games continuing to play them as adults? Or do you feel they will grow out of them?
I don’t play games like I used to, mainly because I don’t have the time. Computer games came into my life when I was in my twenties, and I was in on the ground floor of them. I don’t have statistics, but I would guess that videogames appeal to teenagers and young adults for the most part. There will always be hardcore gamers, though, and I know some that are now in their sixties!
You also do some occasional piano playing. Do you play the piano when you need a break from the writing? Does it help with inspiration, or is it more for relaxing?
Playing the piano is great for releasing tension and frustration! It can also be meditative. Mostly, I do it for fun. Music has always been a big part of my life. Currently I play piano at my synagogue once a month for “contemporary” services. They let me rock out.
What do you see as the future of the thriller genre? And will be begin seeing more sex in thrillers, after the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon?
I think there’s always been sex in thrillers, it’s just that “Fifty Shades” has called more attention to our profession. And I wouldn’t call “Fifty Shades” a thriller. I’m sure there will be a zillion “Fifty Shades” wannabes now. Bandwagons are not necessarily good rides.
Raymond Benson is the author of 27 published books. His most recent original thrillers include THE BLACK STILETTO and THE BLACK STILETTO: BLACK & WHITE (and THE BLACK STILETTO: STARS & STRIPES is due out April 2013). He was the fourth–and first American–author to write official James Bond novels, the six titles of which are collected in the anthologies THE UNION TRILOGY and CHOICE OF WEAPONS. Raymond is also a prolific media tie-in writer, having contributed novelizations of several videogame and movie franchises.
To learn more about Raymond, please visit his website.