Raymond Benson, author of The James Bond Bedside Companion and several continuation novels, talks about his days as a collector.
When and how did you first get bitten by the Bond bug?
It was around Christmas 1964/early 1965 after Goldfinger was out. I actually heard the soundtrack album first–the John Barry score was my introduction to James Bond, and what a dynamic first impression that was! I got my father to take me to the movie, and I was seriously damaged. I started reading the books, even though I was only nine years old. The double feature release of the first two films came within a few months, and the fourth film at the end of ’65/early ’66… So I was inundated with James Bond for a solid formative year. Through the years I would re-read the books and of course keep up with the films. All this eventually culminated in a 1984 labor of love book, The James Bond Bedside Companion.
What’s your favourite item in your collection and why?
A decade ago I sold my beloved collection of first editions and Fleming signed hand-written letters. So now my favorite items would have to be my own first editions as part of the Bond author family. I was honored to fulfill a dream I didn’t even know I was allowed to dream.
What item would you most like to add?
Another set of first editions to replace the ones I sold wouldn’t be bad! But that’s likely not to happen. The prices have skyrocketed for Fleming material. I did get a good price for the set in 2006, though. One of the more unique items was a UK first edition of Thunderball inscribed and signed by Ernest Cuneo to me, on the dedication page of the book (the novel was dedicated to Cuneo), as a sort of second generation dedication.
What’s your biggest obstacle to collecting, or is there a tip you’d like to share?
Obviously, the cost. I really don’t “collect” anymore. I keep up with the movies and the new novels, but that’s about it. I own the “essential” reference books. I recently sold my original 1965 Gilbert “World of James Bond” action figure set, complete with “sets” and props/vehicles from the films. It was thought to be long lost, but I was surprised to recently find it in my mother’s garage.
I know serious Bond memorabilia collectors, and many of them are close friends. I understand the malady, because at heart I am still a fan.