TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is happy to announce former ‘James Bond’ novelist Raymond Benson’s new book series, The Black Stiletto, to our thousands of readers.
We first interviewed Raymond in our March 1, 2010 issue (click on to see article). Since then he has been quite busy and the following year released the first book of his new series. The new series has quite an appeal to women. Raymond, please tell us about The Black Stiletto and the theme behind it.
RB- Thank you and it’s nice to be back. The project started in early 2009 when I was sitting with my literary manager, Peter Miller, and we were discussing what I should do for my next big thing. He said, “You really need to come up with something that women will like, because book-buyers are mostly women.” Facetiously, I said, “How about a female superhero?” We had a good laugh, and then Peter got serious and said, “You know, that’s not a bad idea.” Coincidentally, I already had in my head a different premise for a story about a grown man who is taking care of his elderly mother in a nursing home—she has Alzheimer’s—and he discovers some dark secret about her past. I didn’t know what that secret was. I’d had some experience with Alzheimer’s… my mother-in-law had it and was dying at that time…she passed away in the fall of 2009. So, in short, I combined the two ideas. The grown son discovers that his dying mother was the legendary Black Stiletto, a masked vigilante who was active between 1958 and 1962, became famous, and mysteriously vanished. It became two parallel stories—one in the past, which is the Stiletto’s story told in first-person, in diary form; and one in the present, told in first person by the son.
TAEM- You have also created a trailer for this at www.theblackstiletto.net . This is most ingenious and creates a believable storyline for your work. How did you devise this achievement and who was the producer for it.
RB- I produced it and wrote the script. A very talented young filmmaker in Hollywood, Brad Hansen, directed and edited it. We hired a crew and actors and I put as much money into it as I could afford. It’s not your run of the mill book trailer! It was meant to be more of an infomercial than a trailer. I later had a more traditional book trailer made for the third Black Stiletto novel earlier this year, and that was done by a company that specializes in book trailers.
TAEM- Please tell us about your first book in the series, The Black Stiletto, and the theme behind it.
RB- Martin Talbot, a man pushing fifty, has a mother, Judy Talbot (nee Cooper), who is dying of Alzheimer’s. Martin is divorced and has a teenage daughter, Gina, who is graduating from high school. Judy’s lawyer gives Martin a sealed document which reveals that she was the legendary crime-fighter, the Black Stiletto, and provides info on where he can find the evidence. I’ve set up the mythos that the whole world knows who the Black Stiletto is, but they don’t know her identity. Martin finds a set of five diaries, one for each year between 1958-1962, that his mother wrote, along with the Stiletto costume and other ephemera. It’s a bombshell. Then he starts reading… the first book in the series is the first diary (1958). In it, we learn how young Judy Cooper runs away from home (Odessa, Texas) because of an abusive stepfather, and lands in New York City. She is a misfit in many ways, a tomboy, a victim of abuse, and an angry little girl. She befriends other misfits in bohemian Greenwich Village, learns how to fight, and eventually becomes the Black Stiletto. The first book is the origin story, but it takes Judy on a couple of missions of revenge. In the present, Martin must deal with a threat from his mother’s past—an elderly ex-convict—who think he knows the Stiletto’s identity.
TAEM- Describe the main protagonist in the series and the appeal that she has as a character for you.
RB- I’ve always been comfortable writing female protagonists. You might not think that would be true of a guy who once wrote James Bond novels! But at least three of my original thrillers prior to the Stiletto have female protagonists. I wanted the Stiletto to be very true to form, though, so I had several women read the manuscript when I finished it. One popular romance writer told me that if she hadn’t known it had been written by a man, she would have been convinced that a woman had written the book. Judy Cooper is a feminist before that word was in our vernacular. She’s tough and smart and socially-conscious… she wants to protect the underdog and fight for justice. For example, she gets involved in the civil rights movement in the late 50s. She also has a sense of humor and is a very plucky, likable character. I’ve fallen in love with her, and I think women readers—and male ones, too—will do the same!
TAEM- On your trailer for the series you also produced the theme song for it. Who wrote the song for it ?
RB- You mean the song in the second trailer, the one for the third book, “The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes”? That was written and performed by Will Arrington (www.willarringtonmusic.com), who happens to be the nephew of one of my best friends from high school! Very talented young man.
TAEM- Your second book, released in 2012, is titled The Black Stiletto: Black & White. Where does this pick up from the storyline in your first work?
RB- The first book ends with Judy’s diary entry of December 31, 1958, and the second book begins with her entry of January 1, 1959! The five books are continuous, so it’s really one big story. Each book does have its own plot, though. “Black & White” delves deeply into the civil rights movement, and there are a lot of African American characters—both good and bad. Judy also falls in love with an FBI agent who’s got standing orders to catch the Stiletto! And in the present, Martin is starting to have problems with his daughter, Gina, who has gone off to college in New York; she is beginning to display traits that are way too similar to her grandmother’s for Martin’s comfort level. A woman also enters Martin’s life, and she happens to be his mother’s doctor.
TAEM- The following year the third book in the series, The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes, was released. Describe the enthusiasm that your readership has shown for it and the previous books and the showing that it has on Amazon.
RB- Very recently Amazon Kindle listed all three books as the Deal of the Day, and they did quite well. The first book got in the Top 10, and the other two hit the Top 20. My publisher and I were very pleased. Slowly but surely, we’re getting the word out. It’s the kind of franchise that should also appeal to the “geek” crowd—the folks who go to Comic-con, read comics, like superheroes, and such.
TAEM- What are the links on Amazon that our readership can locate and buy these ?
“The Black Stiletto: Black & White”: http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Stiletto-White-ebook/dp/B007ZBB8XU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383078633&sr=8-1&keywords=black+stiletto+kindle
“The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes”: http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Stiletto-Stars-Stripes-ebook/dp/B00B5I6PY6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1383078633&sr=8-2&keywords=black+stiletto+kindle
These are the links to Amazon Kindle editions. They’re also available for Nook and other e-book readers, in print editions (hardcover and trade paperback) and as audio books.
TAEM- It was described in the Library Journal as a “mashup of the work of Gloria Steinem, Ian Fleming, and Mario Puzo, all under the editorship of Stan Lee.” This sounds like it has the making of being produced in a number of formats like comics, television, or cinema. Are there any plans to that extent in the works at present ?
RB- The film rights were acquired by Lonetree Entertainment, which is currently one of the producers of Denzel Washington’s next movie, “The Equalizer.” They’re currently developing it in Hollywood as a potential feature film or television series. As you know, “developing” is a broad term, so it’s in the “fingers crossed/hope-and-pray” stage. I’d love to see it adapted into graphic novels or manga, too.
TAEM- We also understand that there are two more books in the series that you are working on. Can you give us a sneak preview of them and tell us when we will be able to see them ?
RB- They’re both finished. “The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies” will be published January 7, 2014. In that chapter, Judy Cooper moves to Los Angeles and meets Martin’s father—the identity of whom has been a mystery in the first three books. And a through-line of that character leads to the present with a set of villains that threaten Martin, Gina, and dying Judy, who is closer to the end of her life. The finale is “The Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings,” and that will be published in November 2014. Everything comes to an end and all questions are answered. It was quite cathartic to finish a five-book book, believe me. I was exhausted!
TAEM- Raymond, it is once again an honor to be able to interview you in our publication. We look forward to announcing your upcoming books in the future and know that our readers will look forward to purchasing them. We wish you much luck with this new series and hope that you will inform all your fans about our interview with you.