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High Time to Kill

High Time to Kill

3.4 5
by Raymond Benson, Robert Whitfield (Read by)

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James Bond fights for his life on the icy slopes of the Himalayas as he faces a terrifying new criminal society in a race to retrieve missing military secrets.

Bond is back and bigger than ever. Raymond Benson's novels have reached new heights both in sales and critical acclaim. Kirkus Reviews called The Facts of Death "a postmodern treat." Benson


James Bond fights for his life on the icy slopes of the Himalayas as he faces a terrifying new criminal society in a race to retrieve missing military secrets.

Bond is back and bigger than ever. Raymond Benson's novels have reached new heights both in sales and critical acclaim. Kirkus Reviews called The Facts of Death "a postmodern treat." Benson "imbues his Bond with enough honor, sexual prowess and action-hero skills to please the purist and enthrall the novice," says Publishers Weekly.

It's at a dinner party with his old friend the former Governor of the Bahamas that James Bond first encounters the deadly new criminal organization known simply as "The Union." An international group, they specialize in military espionage, theft, intimidation, and murder. When information vital to Britain's national security is stolen, M and 007 suspect that the Union is behind it. Bond's pursuit of the crucial microdot takes him from one of England's most exclusive golf clubs to the frozen heights of one of the world's tallest mountains. His every step is dogged by Union assassins. Their presence alone confirms Bond's worst fear — there is a traitor in Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Moderator: Welcome, Raymond Benson! Thank you for joining us online tonight to chat about your latest novel, High Time to Kill. How are you doing tonight?
Raymond Benson: Hi, everyone! Thanks for having me here, barnesandnoble.com, and thanks to all for coming. I'm doing great.
Neo from Catalina: Hi, Ray. Curious — how long did it take you to write High Time to Kill, and did you do any traveling for setting research? What's coming next in the series? Keep those Bond fires burning.... Thanks.
RB: (Raymond, not Ray.) The entire process is about a year and a half, but the actual writing is about four months. I'm required by contract to produce an outline, which takes about three months to do; then I research the book for four months, including traveling; and then I write the book. After that, there's usually a couple of months of rewriting, editorial work with the publishers, et cetera, then I'm off on the next book while the current one is being printed.
Palmer from Dade County, FL: Hello, Raymond! Would you consider yourself to be somewhat of an Ian Fleming expert?
RB: I suppose so.... I researched his life considerably and have gotten to know members of his family fairly well. If you can find my book The James Bond Bedside Companion (now out of print), there is a complete section that is a biography of Fleming.
Bill Kanas from Wantagh, NY: Hi, Raymond! First, I just want to recommend High Time to Kill for all of you out there. It's a terrific Bond adventure, and I think that it shows a levelofmaturity in Bond writing greater then ever before. Now, my question: Are there any plans for a short story collection, possibly including the expanded version of your first story, "Blast from the Past"?
RB: Thanks, Bill. As far as a short story collection, there is talk about it, but there aren't enough short stories yet! Maybe when there are a few more under my belt. Yes, "Blast from the Past" was published in Playboy in an edited version (the full version has been published in Italy and soon in France).... An English version will be published someday, but I don't know when.
Lawrence S. from Sudbury, MA: Are you doing anything else with Hugh Hefner as a character? What was it like working with him?
RB: Hef is a great guy — very generous, very kind. I'm happy to call him a friend. I doubt I'll be using him as a "character" again; that was a one-shot novelty trick for the January 1999 issue of Playboy. However, I'm participating in the Playboy Expo on July 17th and 18th in Los Angeles and will be signing books there and giving a talk on the Playboy/Bond history.
John from Trenton, NJ: Did you base "the Union" on any former Bond group or current real-life terrorist organization?
RB: The Union is my take on the "international terrorist group," which is a must for this type of genre. SPECTRE is so much of a legal no-man's-land that it's a must to avoid. I wanted to create a more "blue-collar" terrorist group than the more "white-collar" SPECTRE. High Time to Kill is the first in a trilogy featuring the Union.
Mike Di Leo from New York City: Are you currently at work on the novelization of "The World Is Not Enough," and if so, what can you tell us about the screenplay?
RB: Yes, I've just completed the novelization for T.W.I.N.E. It's now in the editing/approval stages (which are immense!)...but I can't give away anything about the script. The book will come out at the same time as the movie, which is in November.
Matthew from Norfolk, Virginia: Dear Mr. Benson: Those of us who have read your previous Bond novels have noticed that, like John Gardner, you have made some changes to the characters, although staying true to the Fleming Bond. Are these changes meant to reflect the Bond we now see in the Pierce Brosnan movies?
RB: I'm not sure what you mean. I've tried to keep Bond the same as Fleming's Bond, with just a little more sensibility with the '90s (even though he's quite politically incorrect). The other characters (M, Boothroyd, Moneypenny) — perhaps they are influenced by the films, especially Boothroyd and M (I really picture Judi Dench when I write her, as well as Desmond Llewelyn for Boothroyd).
Michael Reed from Gahanna, Ohio: Hi, Raymond. This may sound strange since you are on just your third original novel, but I wonder something: Did you ever have to look back at Zero Minus Tenor The Facts of Death (or Tomorrow Never Dies as well) to make sure of any continuity or factual concerns when working on High Time to Kill? I'm amazed at how Fleming and Gardner both made the small moments in their series flow and (except for Bond's age in Fleming's work) never seemed to forget a detail. Do you also have an encyclopedic memory for everything in your own work?
RB: Hi, Michael. Even Fleming and Gardner made mistakes! At one point Fleming said Bond hated pajamas, and another time he said he loved them. I'm afraid sometimes I do have to look back at my earlier work, mainly to see how I described someone or something. I don't like to contradict myself. :)
S from Chicago: Hello, Mr. Benson. I'm picking up my copy of HTTK at Barnes & Noble this week, but off topic a bit — if you could have lunch with any of the following, who would you choose: Ian Fleming, Sean Connery, or Stanley Kubrick? Good luck!
RB: Hmmm...how did you know I'm a Stanley Kubrick fan? Anyway, I'd have to go with the latter. Maybe when Sean's dead and I'm gone, we can all have lunch together somewhere. :)
Mike from Washington, D.C.: What to you is the most important key in maintaining the character of James Bond?
RB: There is no single important key.... It's a culmination of being true to everything that has gone before and, at the same time, attempting to come up with new and original things for him to do. For me, being faithful to Fleming is my most important goal.
Bill from Wantagh: Have you talked with John Gardner either before or after you started writing the books for any input? Just curious.
RB: I know John and have met him on a number of occasions (I interviewed him for 007 magazine in 1993), but I have not spoken with him since I became the writer of the Bond novels. He has moved back to England, as I understand it.
Lawrence S. from Sudbury, MA: What is the Bond/Playboy history?
RB: Playboy was the first magazine in America to publish Ian Fleming. The March 1960 issue published a short story, and Fleming's works after that were serialized in the magazine until his death. Playboy also began a relationship with the filmmakers by doing pictorials of the various Bond girls. Playboy reestablished the literary link by publishing my stuff.
Christa Reynolds from Plano, TX: I am sure you get asked this question all the time, but who is your favorite Bond? Roger Moore is my favorite....
RB: I would have to say Sean Connery is my favorite. They say that whoever you see first at the movie theater always remains your favorite. I grew up with Sean, and he had (still does) that macho, detached, highly sexed, and menacing quality.... To tell the truth, I thought Timothy Dalton was a great Bond — the closest to Fleming's literary description — but I think Pierce Brosnan is doing an excellent job too.
Mick from La Jolla, Cali: At what rate do you have Bond age? Does he age fictionally?
RB: That's a tricky one. Fleming's Bond would be pushing 80 now. We don't talk about age. Like Superman, Batman, Conan, and all those characters who have been around for decades, they just don't age. You have to suspend your disbelief in that area. We've basically picked him up from the '60s intact and dropped him into the '90s with the knowledge of everything that has gone before.
jwc901@aol.com from NJ: How do you think James Bond has grown as a character since you took over the literary helms as the new Bond author? Has he changed?
RB: Bond hasn't changed. The world around him has. Basically, I'm forbidden to "change" him...but I can play around with him. For example, I can't make him become a concert pianist, but I can delve into his psyche more and explore what makes him tick.
Kurt from Boston, MA: Do you have much say on the latest Bond movies released? Also, what current actor, in your opinion, would make the best James Bond?
RB: The company that makes the films (EON Productions) is a separate entity from the literary copyright holders (the Ian Fleming Estate). The filmmakers do what they want. I have no say in the films. As far as current actors, I can't think of any offhand. They have to be British, rugged, tough, handsome, and sexy and have a lot of charisma.
Dennis from Hanover, NH: Have you read every James Bond book and seen every James Bond movie?
RB: Several times!
Lee from Atlanta: Hi, Raymond. Do you visualize one of the Bond actors while you are writing?
RB: No. In fact, when I first read the books in the '60s, I didn't visualize Sean Connery either. Fleming described a very shadowy person (he said he looked like Hoagy Carmichael!), and I pictured someone nondistinct.
Chuck Gault from Verona, NJ: Do you ever feel restricted by writing James Bond that you have to fill in the blanks with an already created character? Do you ever see yourself writing an entirely new character or series that is distinctly Raymond Benson?
RB: As a matter of fact, I've written a non-Bond novel that is looking for a publisher. (Any takers out there?) Actually, I consider it an honor to take over the Bond character, even if he "belonged" to someone else. It's a heavy mantle. I don't take the job lightly.
Bill from Wantagh: Why is SPECTRE a "legal no-man's-land"? Gardner used them extensively, and you have already made reference to them.
RB: Gardner used them three times but then stopped. Because of the McClory/Sony business involving the original THUNDERBALL story, we're not really sure who "owns" SPECTRE. The literary people can use SPECTRE because Fleming retained the rights to THUNDERBALL. However, using SPECTRE would seem to automatically make the film rights in a new work questionable.
Matthew from Norfolk, Virginia: Dear Mr. Benson: In reference to my previous question, I was thinking specifically of Moneypenny and M mirroring their onscreen counterparts. As for the next two books in the Union trilogy, where will they take 007?
RB: I don't know about Moneypenny...I don't particularly see the literary Moneypenny as being anything like any of the actresses who have played her. M...yes, definitely I picture Judi Dench. As for the next book, Bond will be in Morocco, Spain, and Gibraltar. Not sure about the third yet!
Moderator: How do you plan on spending New Year's Eve 1999?
RB: Not on an airplane, I can assure you that. :)
Paffy from Clearwater, FL: Which movie do you think is the best translation of a Fleming book?
RB: Probably On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of the most underrated of all the Bond films. (The hard-core fans consider it one of the best.) However, From Russia with Love is my favorite and was also very faithfully adapted.
Bill from Wantagh: Are there any more plans for return appearances from characters from previous stories, such as the Governor from Quantum of Solace in HTTK?
RB: I like to include previous characters from Fleming's works; it's fun. So, sure, I plan to use them when I feel it's appropriate.
Freddie from Irvine, CA: I am really impressed with your Bond novels. I must admit I started reading them rather reluctantly but was very impressed once I started reading. No question, just a comment....
RB: Thanks, Freddie!
Mike from NYC: Can you compare for us what it is like to create your own original Bond story versus adapting a Bond screenplay into a novelization?
RB: Doing a novelization is fun because I can add my two cents to something that's already there. The time limit on writing one is very short — they have to be done very quickly, so not a lot of time and effort can be afforded them. For Tomorrow Never Dies, I added a lot of background to the villain and the Wai Lin character. Doing an original novel is much more gratifying, time-consuming, more difficult, etc....and ultimately what I like doing more.
Jayson Lindseth from Regina Saskatchewan: I was wondering where you got the idea for a High Time to Kill from, and what are the missing military secrets?
RB: You'll need to read the book to find out what the missing military secrets are! I get my info from various sources around the world (thank god for the Internet!) who I rely on. Fleming did the same thing. He had a whole network of "experts" who helped him devise things.
Eric from Dallas, TX: Hello, Raymond, any future Bond taking place here in Texas?
RB: Half of my last Bond novel, The Facts of Death, took place in Texas. It comes out in paperback next month. The locales are in Austin and its surroundings. Bond even has a meal at Chuy's!
Lenea734 from Lenea734@aol.com: Are there any plans to make any of your books into Bond movies?
RB: The film people have so far shown no indication that they will film my books, or John Gardner's, or the Kingsley Amis book. But who knows? They have automatic options on them. Maybe someday.... (fingers crossed)
Chris Rauth from Fredericksburg, VA: What is your favorite James Bond movie?
RB: From Russia with Love. All the early ones are great, in my opinion.
S from Chicago: If I could be permitted another question: What has been the highlight of your career as the James Bond author? Thanks.
RB: I would have to say the traveling and research end of it. I've also been able to meet a lot of people I otherwise wouldn't have been able to.
William from Charleston, South Carolina: Do you think Q will always be a part of the Bond story lines?
RB: Oh, yes, he's an established part of the formula. Although in the books we call him Major Boothroyd.
Chris from Virginia: Bond was married briefly at one time. Do you think if you continue writing Bond books you will have him get involved in a serious relationship?
RB: I'm not sure. I think getting married once was enough for Bond.... As far as "serious" relationships, maybe. That one I'll play by ear.
Panos Sambrakos from Greece: Hi, Raymond. Just wanted to ask if your version of T.W.I.N.E. will be part of the Bond literary cannon.
RB: I don't consider my film novelizations part of "my" canon. Neither did John Gardner. I try not to contradict anything in my own series in the novelizations, so they can "fit in" with them...but no, they're not part of the "Benson Bonds."
Cloet Nathalie from Roeselare, Belgium: Why did you start writing Bond books? Are you a Bond fan too?
RB: I've been a fan since the '60s, when I was a kid, and I started writing the books because I was asked! It was a dream come true.
Mike from Bryn Mawr, PA: What type of research did you do for this book? Do you read old Fleming novels to help in the research?
RB: I do extensive research, especially in the locales.... I travel to the places, eat the meals, stay in the hotels, visit the sites (I didn't go mountain climbing though — for that I got to know the first American to summit Kangchenjunga, and he was my reference for the mountain climbing stuff). Yes, I constantly reread the Flemings.
Mike from NYC: Your novels contain many reference to past Bond novels. Does the fact that Bond would be in his 70s now bother you? Did you ever consider making your Bond a man in his 40s? Kind of like the film series does now?
RB: That's what I do; he's in his 40s, not in his 70s. As I answered earlier, Bond doesn't age. That's just something we have to live with.
Mike Di Leo from Manhattan: Have you talked to Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli about turning any of your Bond novels into films or about writing an original screenplay for them?
RB: I know Michael and Barbara, and we're friends. However, nothing has ever been said about doing a screenplay.
Bill from Wantagh: How much did you add to your T.W.I.N.E. novelization, and can you tell us which gun Bond will use?
RB: As with Tomorrow Never Dies, I added more background to the characters. Bond is still using the Walther, of course.
Moderator: Have you been saving any books to read this summer?
RB: I'm looking forward to reading Hannibal...and all the new books on Stanley Kubrick that are coming out at the end of the summer!
Panos Sambrakos from Greece: Do you have the option to take your time with writing new books, or do you have to produce one each year>
RB: So far it's one a year! (pant, pant)
Moderator: Thank you, Raymond Benson! Best of luck with your new book, High Time to Kill! Before you leave, do you have any parting thoughts for the online audience?
RB: Thanks for having me! Check out the web site of the Ian Fleming Foundation — "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" at www.ianfleming.org — for all the latest up-to-date info on all things Bond. Thanks to all for coming! Bye!
Publishers Weekly
James Bond has always been a figure of fantasy and Benson, in his routine fourth Bond novel (after The Facts of Death) wisely keeps him fantastic. An international mercenary terrorist gang called the Union pilfers the British secret formula for Skin 17, the only aircraft material that can withstand a speed of Mach 7. Besides its technological importance, Skin 17 is a triumph for the lagging British military, so spymaster M needs Bond to get it back, and to find the turncoat who helped the Union steal it. The terrorists hide the formula for Skin 17 on a microdot implanted inside the pacemaker of a Chinese national, who dies a few days later when the airplane he's flying in is hijacked and crashes on Kangchenjunga, third-highest mountain of the Himalayas: hence this novel's title. Bond, of course, is dispatched to retrieve the microdot. En route to a blood-filled, ice-encased climax, Agent 007 indulges his old tastes for dangerous women and beautiful cars. Thanks to Q, the violence features some deliciously nasty weapons, including a gadget-laden Jaguar XK8. Benson's prose, including the dialogue, is wooden, but the action he provides is fast and furious and Bond fans will note the narrative scores "a first for Bond... sex at 7,900 meters" — a high point in a novel that otherwise is middling all the way.
Library Journal
Bond has a new enemy: a crime organization called the Union, which thrives on military espionage.

Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
James Bond Series
Edition description:

Read an Excerpt


Holidays Are Hell

The barracuda surprised them by opening its jaws to an angle of ninety degrees, revealing the sharp rows of teeth that were capable of tearing out chunks of flesh in an instant. It closed its snarling mouth just as quickly, leaving a half-inch gap.
Had it yawned?
It was easily a twenty-pound fish. One of the most dangerous predators in the sea, the barracuda is an eating machine that rivals the ferocity of a shark. This one swam lazily along beside them, watching. It was curious about the two strange larger fish that had invaded its habitat.
James Bond had never cared for barracudas. He'd rather be in a pit full of snakes than in proximity to one of them. It wasn't that he was afraid of them but merely that he found them mean, vicious, and unpredictable creatures. There was no such thing as a barracuda in a good mood. He had to be on his guard without showing fear, for the fish could sense apprehension and often acted on it.
Bond looked over at his companion. She was handling it well, watching the long, slender fish with fascination rather than trepidation.
He motioned for her to swim on, and she nodded. They decided to ignore the barracuda, which proved to be the best tactic. It lost interest after a few minutes and swam away into the misty blue.
Bond had always likened the undersea world to an alien landscape. It was silent and surreal, yet it was full of life. Some sea flowers shot down holes in the seabed as the two humans moved over them. A small octopus, or "pus-feller" (as Ramsey, his Jamaican housekeeper, called it), was propelling itself along the orange-and-brown-colored reef. Patches of sea grass hid the domains of the night-crawling lobsters and crabs.
They swam toward the beach, eventually reaching a spot where they could stand. Bond pulled off the face mask and snorkel. Helena Marksbury emerged from the water and stood beside him. She removed her own mask and snorkel and laughed.
"I do believe that fish wanted to take part of us home as a souvenir," she said.
"It wasn't interested in me," Bond said. "It was staring at you. Do you usually have that kind of effect on barracuda?"
"I attract all the meat eaters, James," she said with an inviting smile.
March in the Bahamas was quite pleasant at eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The hot summer was just around the corner, and Bond had decided to take a week's leave before then. It was the perfect time of year to be in the Caribbean. He had originally planned to spend the holiday at Shamelady, his private home on the north shore of Jamaica, but changed his mind when Helena Marksbury said that she had never been to Nassau. Bond offered to show her the islands.
"Where did everyone go?" she asked, looking around at the empty beach. Earlier, there had been a few other snorkelers and sunbathers in the area. Now it was deserted.
It was just after noon. Helena looked around for some shade and sat in the sand next to a large rock that provided some shelter from the fiercely bright sun. She knew she had to be careful not to get too much of it, as she had a light complexion and burned easily. Nevertheless, she had worn the skimpiest bikini she could find. She was most likely the only person who might notice a flaw-that her left breast drooped slightly lower than her right-but Helena knew that she had a good body, and didn't mind showing it off. It just proved that nobody was perfect.
They were on the southwest side of New Providence Island, the most populous of all the Bahamas. Luckily, Bond had found a villa at Coral Harbour, somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Nassau, which is the center of commerce, government, and transportation, on the northern side of the island. Here they were surrounded by beautiful beaches and reefs, country clubs and exclusive restaurants.
"What am I supposed to wear tonight?" she asked him as he sat down beside her in the sand.
"Helena, I shouldn't have to tell you how to dress," he said. "You look marvelous in anything."
They had a dinner invitation at the home of the former Governor of the Bahamas, a man Bond had known for many years. They had become friends after a dinner party at which the Governor had presented Bond with a theory concerning love, betrayal, and cruelty between marriage partners. Calling it the "quantum of solace," the Governor believed that the amount of comfort on which love and friendship is based could be measured. Unless there is a certain degree of humanity existing between two people, he maintained, there can be no love. It was an adage Bond had accepted as a universal truth.
The Governor had long since retired but had remained in Nassau with his wife. Bond had made it a point to stop in and see him every time he went through the Bahamas, which wasn't very often. When Bond went to the Caribbean, it was usually to his beloved Shamelady in Jamaica.
Helena reclined and looked at Bond with her bewitching, almond-shaped green eyes. She was beautiful-wet or dry-and could easily have been a fashion model. Unfortunately, she was Bond's personal assistant at SIS, where they both worked. So far they had kept their affair a secret. They both knew that if they carried on much longer, someone at the office would find out. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but office romances in this day and age were frowned upon. Bond justified it to himself because there had been a precedent. Several years ago he had been romantically involved with another personal assistant, Mary Goodnight. How could he forget their time together in Jamaica during the Scaramanga case?
Helena was different from Mary Goodnight. A thoroughly modern woman of thirty-three, Helena Marksbury had none of Ms. Goodnight's charming yet scatterbrained personality. She was a serious girl, with weighty ideas about politics and current events. She loved poetry, Shakespeare, and fine food and drink. She appreciated and understood the work Bond did and considered her own job just as important in the scheme of things at SIS. She also possessed a stubborn moral conscience that had taken Bond several months to penetrate before she agreed to see him socially.
It had begun in the courtyard in the back of Sir Miles Messervy's house, Quarterdeck, near Great Windsor Park. The occasion was a dinner party held there a year earlier, and the mutual physical attraction between Bond and Helena had become too much for them to ignore. They had gone for a walk outside and ended up kissing behind the house in the rain. Now, after three months of false starts and two months of cautious experimentation, Bond and Helena were dating. While they both acknowledged that their jobs came first, they enjoyed each other's company enough to keep it going casually. Bond felt comfortable with Helena's level of commitment, and the sex was outstanding. He saw no reason to rock the boat.
There was no mistaking the invitation in her eyes, so Bond settled next to her wet body and kissed her. She wrapped one slinky leg around his thighs and pulled him closer.
"Do you think we're all alone?" she whispered.
"I hope so," he replied, "but I don't really care at this point, do you?" He slipped the straps off her shoulders as she tugged at his bathing trunks.
"Not at all, darling," she said breathlessly. She helped him remove her bikini, and then his strong, knowing hands were all over her. She arched her back and responded with soft moans of pleasure.
"Take me now, James," she said softly in his ear. "Here."
She didn't have to ask him twice.
The Governor greeted Bond with an enthusiastic warm, dry handshake.
"It's great to see you again, James," he said.
"Thank you, sir, you're looking well."
The Governor shook his head. "Lord, I'm an old man, and I look like one. But you haven't changed a bit. What do you do, take frequent trips to the Fountain of Youth? And who might this lovely lady be?"
"This is my assistant, Helena Marksbury," Bond said. She was dressed in a fashionable lightweight red cotton dress with a wrap covering her bare shoulders and ample cleavage. Bond was wearing a light blue cotton short-sleeve polo shirt and navy blue cotton twill trousers. His light, gray silk basketweave jacket covered the Walther PPK that he still kept in a chamois shoulder holster.
"Do you remember my wife, Marion?" the Governor asked, gesturing to a handsome woman with white hair and sparkling blue eyes.
"Of course, how are you?"
"Fine, James," the woman said. "Come on in, both of you, please."
The dinner party was in a century-old colonial-style mansion off Thompson Boulevard, near the College of the Bahamas. The former Governor was obviously wealthy, as there seemed to be no end to the line of servants waiting to attend to Bond and his date. More than two dozen guests were already in the drawing room, which was next to a large living room with an open bay window overlooking expansive gardens. There were people outside as well, standing in clusters with drinks in hand. Ceiling fans leisurely provided a breeze.
For the first time since he had been visiting the Governor, Bond also noticed an undeniable presence of security. Large men dressed in white sport coats were positioned at various entrances, suspiciously eyeing everyone who walked past. He wondered if there was perhaps some VIP present who would require such protection.
As they were uncomfortable socializing with people they didn't know, Bond and Helena kept to themselves and went outside to the gardens. It was still bright, and night wouldn't fall for another two hours.
They approached the outdoor bar. "Vodka martini, please," Bond said, "shaken, not stirred, with a twist of lemon."
"I'll have the same," Helena said. She had actually grown to like the way Bond ordered his martini.
"This is lovely," Helena said.
"It's lovely as long as we're alone," Bond replied. "I don't relish making small talk with the Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Millers of the world," he said, indicating the other people milling around.
"Who are Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Miller?"
"Just a couple I met at a previous dinner party here."
"Ah, there you are," the Governor declared. "I see you've got yourselves something to drink, good, good....How's Sir Miles doing, by the way?" He was referring to Bond's old chief, the former M, Sir Miles Messervy.
"He's fine," Bond was happy to report. "His health improved rapidly after he retired. Getting out of the job was the best thing for him really. He seems ten years younger."
"That's good to hear. Tell him hello for me the next time you see him, would you?"
"How do you get on with the new M?" the Governor asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"We have a sterling relationship," Bond said.
"No problems accepting orders from a woman? I'm surprised, James! You're the one who once told me that you could marry only an air hostess or a Japanese woman."
Bond grinned wryly at the memory. "She runs a tight ship and runs it well."
"Well, that's great! I'm glad to hear it," the Governor said with a little too much enthusiasm. Bond thought he might be a bit drunk. "Listen, I'm so glad you came, really, James, because I want to-"
The Governor's attention was distracted by the head servant, a black man with gray hair and glasses, whispering to one of the security guards some fifteen feet away. The guard, a Caucasian who might have been a professional wrestler, nodded and left the scene.
"Everything all right, Albert?" the Governor called.
"Yessuh," Albert said. "I sent Frank to take a look at someone's motor scooter parked outside the fence."
"Ahhh," the Governor said. For a moment Bond thought he appeared nervous and perhaps a little frightened.
Bond asked, "You were saying?"
"Right. I was saying there was something I'd like you to take a look at. Privately. In my office. Would you mind?"
Bond looked at Helena. She shrugged. "I'm fine," she said, eyeing a large tray of peeled shrimp. "Go ahead. I'll be somewhere around here."
Bond squeezed her arm and then followed the Governor back into the house. They went up an elegant winding staircase to the second floor and into the Governor's study. Once they were inside, the Governor closed the door.
"You're being very mysterious," Bond said. "I'm intrigued."
The Governor moved around his desk and unlocked a drawer. "I think I'm in a bit of trouble, James," he said. "And I'd like your advice."
The man was genuinely concerned. The levity in Bond's voice immediately vanished. "Of course," he said.
"Ever heard of these people?" his friend asked, handing over a letter in a transparent plastic sleeve.
Bond looked at the piece of paper. It was an 81/2-by-11-inch piece of typing paper with the words "Time Is Up" centered in the middle of the page. At the bottom it was signed "The Union."
Bond nodded. "The Union. Interesting. Yes, we know about the Union."
"Can you tell me about them?" the Governor asked. "I haven't gone to the local police here, but I've already sent a query to London. I haven't heard anything yet."
"Is this message, 'time is up,' meant for you?" Bond asked.
The Governor nodded. "I'm heavily in debt to a man in Spain. It was a real estate transaction that wasn't particularly...honest, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, I received one letter from this Union, or whatever they are, two months ago. In that one it said that I had two months to pay up. I don't want to do that because the man in Spain is a crook. I got this letter four days ago. Who are they, James? Are they some kind of Mafia?"
"They're not unlike the Mafia, but they are much more international. SIS only recently became aware of their activities. What we do know is that they are a group of serious mercenaries out for hire by any individual or government that will employ them."
"How long have they been around?"
"Not long. Three years, maybe."
"I've never heard of them. Are they really dangerous?"
Bond handed the letter back to the Governor. "As a work-for-hire outfit, they have to be experts at anything from petty street crime to sophisticated and elaborate espionage schemes. They are reportedly responsible for the theft of military maps from the Pentagon in the United States. The maps disappeared from right under the noses of highly trained security personnel. A well-protected Mafia don was murdered about a year ago in Sicily. The Union supposedly supplied the hit man for that job. They recently blackmailed a French politician for fifty million francs. The Deuxième got wind of it and passed the information on to us. One of the most recent reports that went through my office stated that the Union were beginning to specialize in military espionage and selling the fruits of their findings to other nations. Apparently they have no loyalty to any one nation. Their primary motive is greed, and they can be quite ruthless. If that letter was meant for you, then, yes, I would have to say that they are indeed quite dangerous."
The Governor sat. He looked worried. "But who's behind them? Where are they based?"
"We don't know," Bond said. "Despite all the intelligence we've gathered on them thus far, SIS have no clues as to who they are or where they make their home."
The Governor swallowed. "What should I do?"
"I can see you already have extra protection around the house. That's good for a start."
The Governor nodded. "There are so many guards around here, I can't keep track of them all."
"I'll alert Interpol and see if the letters can be traced. It's a difficult thing, though. Tomorrow I'll make a report to London and see what we can do about surveillance. It's highly likely that you're being watched. Your phones may even be tapped."
"Good Lord."
"The local police know nothing about this?"
"I wouldn't involve them just yet. The Union have an uncanny ability to infiltrate law enforcement organizations. Tomorrow let's go to Government House and file an official report. I'm glad you told me about this. We have orders to gather as much information about the Union as we can."
"Thank you, James. I knew I could count on you." He stood up, but the blood had drained from his face. He was clearly frightened. "I think we should rejoin the party."
"Try not to worry," Bond said.
They left the study and went back outside. Helena was sitting on a stone bench alone, gazing across the gardens at the house. She gave Bond a warm smile.
"Working, James? I thought we were on holiday," she said when he joined her.
"We are. Just giving a little professional advice," he said.
"Really, James, a Japanese woman or a flight hostess?"
Bond laughed. "Don't believe everything you hear."
Dinner was a magnificent feast consisting of traditional conch chowder, peas 'n' rice, Bahamian lobster, Dover sole fillets simmered in white wine, cream, and mustard sauce and topped with shrimp, and pineapple spring rolls with rum crème anglaise for dessert. Helena was in heaven and Bond enjoyed watching her eat. She savored each bite, squeezing out the juices with her cheeks and tongue before chewing and swallowing. She had one of the most sensual mouths Bond had ever kissed.
Afterward they retired to the gardens to enjoy the star-filled night sky along with several other couples. Some of the men were smoking the cigars that one of the servants had passed around. To get away from the crowd, Bond and Helena walked along a dimly lit path that circled the garden and ran around the perimeter of the grounds.
Helena sighed heavily and said, "I don't want to go back to London."
"All good things come to an end," Bond replied.
"Does that mean us, James?"
"Of course not," he said, "unless you would prefer that. I don't want to lose the best assistant I've ever had."
"Do you mean that?"
"Look, Helena, you're a wonderful girl, but you should know me by now. Entanglements can get messy, and I don't like them. I think while we're in London we need to tone it down. Being the sensible girl you are, I know that you'll agree."
They found themselves at the far end of the expansive lawn, some fifty yards from the house. A ten-foot-high stone fence separated the grounds from the street. They stood beside a toolshed and held each other.
"You're right, James," she said. "It's just that sometimes I dream of a different sort of life. One that borders on the edge of fantasy. My sister in America seems to live a fairy tale existence. She has a husband who adores her and two lovely children, and they live in an area of southern California where the weather is always perfect. She's always so incredibly happy when I speak to her that I get a little jealous." She smiled and took his arm. "But you're right, James. Let's not get morose. I want to enjoy every last minute of our time here."
He pulled her chin toward him so that he could kiss her, but her eyes widened and she gasped. "James!"
Bond whipped around to see what had startled her. A body was lying just off the path. The shadows would have completely hidden it had it not been for the moonlight reflecting off pale skin. Bond moved quickly to the corpse and saw that it was Frank, the security guard. He had been stripped of his shirt and white jacket; his throat had been cut, ear to ear. He was lying in a pool of fresh blood.
"Wait here!" he commanded. He turned and sprinted across the lawn toward the house. He heard her call behind him, "James! I'm coming with you!" as he took a shortcut over a set of stone benches surrounding a stone fountain. He ran through the gardens toward the back of the house, searching frantically for the Governor. He found the man's wife standing beside some guests.
"Where's your husband?" Bond asked.
Startled, the woman replied, "Why...I believe I saw him go upstairs to the office with one of those security men."
Bond left abruptly, entered the house, bolted up the stairs three at a time, and ran to the open doorway. The former Governor was lying on the floor in a ghastly pool of red. Like the guard, his throat had been slit so fiercely that his head lopped at a grotesque angle. There was no one else in the room, but two distinct footprints in blood led from the body toward the door to another bloody patch on the carpet. The killer had wiped his shoes clean before leaving the office.
Others had made their way up the stairs by this time. Bond was unable to stop the Governor's wife from glimpsing the horrid sight. She screamed loudly just as Bond pulled her away and slammed the door shut. He told one of the men to call the police and look after her, then he rushed down to the first floor. The bewildered head servant was at the foot of the stairs.
"Did you see a guard come down the stairs?" he barked.
"Yessuh!" Albert said. "He went through the kitchen."
"Would that lead to the motor scooter you saw earlier?"
Albert nodded furiously. He ushered Bond into the kitchen, where several servants were cleaning up after the huge meal. He then led him into a corridor and pointed to a door at the end.
"That's the servants' entrance," he said. "Go out of the gate and turn left. It was just down the street a bit."
"Tell the girl I came with to wait for me," Bond said as he went outside.
He found himself in a small parking area reserved for the servants. He ran to the open gate and peered carefully around to look at the street. Sure enough, a black man dressed in a guard's white jacket was on an old Vespa motor scooter. He was just beginning to pull away.
"Stop!" Bond shouted. The man looked back at Bond before accelerating down the street. Bond drew his Walther PPK and fired at him but missed. His last chance was to give chase on foot.
The man was a quarter-mile ahead of him. He had turned onto Thompson Boulevard and was headed north through busy traffic. Bond ran into the street in front of a bus traveling in the same direction. The bus driver slammed on his brakes, throwing several passengers to the floor. The bus still hit Bond hard enough to knock him to the pavement, stunning him slightly. He got up quickly, shook his body, and continued the pursuit.
The Vespa crossed Meadow Street and zipped into the entrance of St. Bernard's Park, circling around St. Joseph's Baptist Church. Bond jumped on the hood of a BMW and scrambled over it just in time to see the assassin slam into a street vendor's kiosk that had been set up at the corner of the park. T-shirts and souvenirs went flying, and the angry proprietor shouted and shook his fist at the driver. The scooter then disappeared into the park.
It was darker off the main road. Bond kept running, panting heavily. Should he risk firing a shot? He could just see the taillight of the scooter some thirty feet ahead. He didn't want to kill the man. If he had ties to the Union, it was imperative that he be taken alive. The Vespa rounded a turn and was traveling on relatively straight pavement. It could easily speed away if he didn't stop it now. Carefully aiming the handgun at the scooter's taillight, he fired once.
The bullet hit the back tire, sending the scooter skidding across the pavement on its side. The killer landed hard, but immediately got up and started to run with a limp. Bond pursued him across the lawn. The assassin was holding his leg as he ran-he wouldn't go far.
He did, however, make it to the western edge of the park and ran across the road and into a residential street. Bond followed him, almost collided with a taxi, spun around, and fell. Not wasting a second, he leaped to his feet and continued the chase. He could see the killer hobbling along about thirty feet ahead.
"Stop!" Bond shouted again.
The man turned. Bond could see him holding something in his hand. A flash of light and the unmistakable sound of a shot forced Bond to roll to the ground. His hope of taking the armed man alive had diminished greatly.
When he got to his feet, Bond saw that his prey had disappeared. There were a couple of alleys, either of which he could have run into. Bond sprinted to the corner and peered down one of them. Sure enough, he heard the sound of running feet. Bond hugged the wall and crept quickly toward the noise. He could see the man at the end of the alley, trapped in a dead end. Bond took cover behind some rubbish barrels.
"Give up!" Bond shouted. "You're caught. Throw down your gun."
The man turned and looked toward the voice. His eyes were wide. He fired blindly, unable to see his target. The bullet ricocheted off the alley wall.
It was now clear to Bond what had happened. The assassin had jumped the fence, killed the guard Frank, and taken his shirt and jacket. Impersonating a security man, he then persuaded the Governor to follow him inside the house. The Governor certainly wouldn't have known all the security guards by sight.
"I'm counting to three," Bond shouted. "Throw down your gun and raise your hands. I have a clear shot at your head. I assure you that I'll blow a hole in it."
The man pointed his gun in the direction of the voice. From Bond's distance it appeared to be a revolver of some kind. Another shot went off, this time piercing the garbage can next to him.
The man hesitated, not sure what to do. He knew he couldn't escape.
Then the killer did a curious thing-he smiled. There was only one thing to do that made sense to him.
"You won't take me alive, man," the man said in a heavy West Indian accent. Then he pointed the gun at his temple.
"No!" Bond shouted. "Don't-"
The man pulled the trigger. The noise reverberated like a thunderclap in the close confines of the alley.

This excerpt reprinted from High Time To Kill by Raymond Benson by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Ian Fleming (Glidrose) Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Meet the Author

Raymond Benson is the author of The Facts of Death, Zero Minus Ten, High Time to Kill and the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. He is a director of The Ian Fleming Foundation. Benson lives and works in the Chicago area.

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High Time to Kill 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a memorable Bond adventure, with new enemies and new never before seen gadgets as well as a new twist. An accent up the world third tallest peak in order to retrieve a micro-dot...just read it your self, but i isn't the best i've read either but it was good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really think HIGH TIME TO KILL is a terrific Bond adventure, highly original and exactly the kind of thing the films should be doing. It's also the first chapter of Benson's three book 'Union Trilogy' (the next two are DOUBLESHOT and NEVER DREAM OF DYING) so if you've never read a Benson Bond book this is a terrific place to start.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Raymond Benson's only good Bond novel!! The book has a okay storyline. Raymond Benson trys to be like Ian Fleming and fails!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the one that Fleming fans have been waiting for for years. Raymond Benson has elegantly recreated a series that has been long-thought extinct. Bond is back, in his original splendor, just as charming and dashing as ever before. If you thought that this was some cheap remake, you were wrong. If you enjoyed titles like 'Goldfinger' and 'Live And Let Die', you will surely be delighted with this fabulous new Bond.
Guest More than 1 year ago
High time to kill has a fairly good story it seems to take you back to the original bond books in which 007 is fighting spectre. Benson seems to be creating a new terrorist organization for bond to fight called 'the Union'. there will definately be more books about this organization and im sure the terrorists will hit closer to home and the battle with them will become more personal. this is apperently just a setup for a much larger story. This book just didn't have the explosive bond ending it should have.