I had the great pleasure of interviewing Raymond Benson for ITW this month!
Raymond Benson knows something about superheroes. He’s been writing larger than life franchises and tie-ins for METAL GEAR SOLID, HITMAN, and JAMES BOND for decades. It makes him the perfect author to reinvent the genre. Or perhaps, just like the Prog Rock (Jethro Tull, Yes, Gentle Giant) he loves returns to vogue every generation, it’s time for a return to a fresh, humanized hero, even if she is still super.
It’s working …
“One of the most original heroines I’ve read in a long time…” — Sandra Brown
“A mashup of the work of Gloria Steinem, Ian Fleming, and Mario Puzo, all under the editorship of Stan Lee.” — LIBRARY JOURNAL
THE BLACK STILETTO: STARS & STRIPES is the third book in a projected five novel series.
Raymond, can you set up the series for those who have not read books one and two, please?
It’s a story about a woman ahead of her time, fiercely independent in a world where women weren’t allowed to be so. She’s a feminist before that term was in our vernacular. And while it’s about a woman who puts on a costume and mask and fights crime—she has no superpowers, really. More importantly, it’s also a story about a woman with Alzheimer’s and her son and a story about a father and daughter.
Here’s the cover copy for the third book.
It’s 1960 in the third Black Stiletto book, and the Black Stiletto, in her civilian persona, Judy Cooper, volunteers to work for JFK’s presidential campaign, only to become involved in a devious behind-the-scenes plot that could change the course of history. In the present, Judy’s son, Martin, must deal with increasing mental health issues, his mother’s demise from Alzheimer’s, and a new woman in his life. And then there’s Gina, the Stiletto’s granddaughter, who is exhibiting evidence that she is more like her grandmother than Martin would like.
The heroine Black Stiletto isn’t much like the June Cleaver stereotype we picture from the era is she? What was her genesis? And what are you going for?
I wanted to tackle more of a Batman-like character that didn’t have super powers. Judy Cooper (AKA the Black Stiletto) lives on the fringe, she is not really in normal society, living way down in the East Village, in a room above a gymnasium, like one of the guys. She steps out of a traditional role of women at that time.
Why set her story in the past?
Given the fact that the Black Stiletto series consists of two parallel stories–one in the present and one in the past–it made sense chronologically for Judy’s story to be told in that time period. I also envisioned her as something of a “female version of the Shadow.” Her vigilantism works best in an era before cell phones and computers.
At the same time I had a different story brewing in my head about a grown son taking care of his mother with Alzheimer’s, and he discovers some dramatic secret about her past. So I combined the two ideas and it clicked. And women do seem to like it, and men, too!
Writing a novel with much of it set in 1960, from a woman’s point of view, must require a great deal of research. What have you done to put yourself in the, um … stilettos of a woman in 1960?
For more, follow this link!