Zero Minus Ten


Towards the end of 1995, Peter Janson-Smith, Ian Fleming’s literary agent at Glidrose Publications, telephoned Raymond Benson and asked him if he’d take a stab at writing a James Bond novel since John Gardner had decided to step down. He accepted having already been established within the world of James Bond. In 1984 the acclaimed The James Bond Bedside Companion was published featuring plot summaries of the then-current James Bond films and novels including continuation novels written by Kingsley Amis and John Gardner. The book was updated and re-released in 1988. Benson also adapted A View to a Kill and Goldfinger in 1985 and 1986 respectfully as computer games. He also wrote the role-playing game You Only Live Twice II: Back of Beyond. Additionally, prior to the release of Zero Minus Ten, which is Benson’s first ever novel, the 007 short story “Blast from the Past” was published in the January 1997 issue of Playboy. The first four chapters of Zero Minus Ten were written between November 1995 and March 1996 on spec before he was given a contract to continue. The remainder of the book was written during the summer of 1996 and completed by November of the same year. Benson began working on his second novel, The Facts of Death in October 1996.

Raymond Benson’s original title for the book was No Tears For Hong Kong, but it was rejected by the publishers and Glidrose. Later the head of Putnam came up with the title Zero Minus Two. The number was later changed to “Ten” to reflect the story better. Benson’s title became the final chapter title of the novel.

According to Raymond Benson, as far as character continuity was concerned, he had been given free lease by Ian Fleming Publications (then Glidrose Publications) to follow or ignore other continuation authors as he saw fit. Benson took a middle or the road approach to this. While Ian Fleming’s novels are strictly canon, Gardner’s novels are not strictly followed, though there are some aspects that are carried over. For instance, in Gardner’s Win, Lose or Die Bond is promoted to Captain. This aspect does not carry over and in Benson’s novels Bond is a Commander once again with no explanation. Some of Gardner’s original recurring characters are also not present including Ann Reilly (Q’ute) who by the end of Gardner’s era had taken over Q Branch from Major Boothroyd. Once again Benson ignores this and features Major Boothroyd with no explanation. Some of Gardner’s changes do remain, however. Benson’s Bond continues to smoke cigarettes from H. Simmons of Burlington Arcade, which was first introduced in Gardner’s For Special Services (1982). Additionally, the Bond girls, Fredericka von Grüsse (Never Send Flowers / SeaFire), Harriet Horner (Scorpius), and Easy St. John (Death is Forever) are all mentioned. Further novels by Benson also retain some aspects of Gardner’s series though there is equally just as much that he ignores.

Some aspects of the films also carry over into Benson’s continuation. M, for instance, is not Sir Miles Messervy, but the female M that was first introduced in the film GoldenEye (1995), although Gardner also introduced this character in his novelization of that film and briefly mentioned the female M at end of his his next novel, COLD. This would imply that the novelization of GoldenEye takes place after COLD since Messervy was still M throughout most of this book. Benson has remarked that he was told to make M a woman in order to sync up the literary series with the films. In Benson’s novels Bond also reverts back to using his trusty Walther PPK, claiming he had switched to other guns (notably the ASP in Gardner’s later novels), but felt that it was time he used it again. The follow up to Zero Minus Ten, the novelization to Tomorrow Never Dies has Bond switching to the Walther P99. This remains Bond’s main weapon throughout Benson’s novels, although Bond still uses the PPK when appropriate due to its compact size.


  • Author: Raymond Benson
  • Released: April 3, 1997
  • Bond girls: Sunni Pei, Stephanie Lane
  • Bond villain: Guy Thackeray
  • Henchmen: Tom, Dick, & Harry
  • Villain’s plot: Detonation of a nuclear bomb in Hong Kong for revenge
  • Locations: Jamaica, London, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Australia
  • Chapter Listing
    1. Shamelady
    2. Three Events
    3. Call to Duty
    4. A British Legacy
    5. The Pearl in the Crown
    6. The Prevailing Win
    7. Jade Dragon
    8. Private Dancer
    9. Interview with a Dragon
    10. Marked for Death
    11. Assassination
    12. One of the Links
    13. Triad Ceremony
    14. Bedtime Story
    15. Day Trip to China
    16. Agony and Anger
    17. Men of Honor
    18. The Golden Mile
    19. Farewell to Hong Kong
    20. Walkabout
    21. Countdown
    22. No Tears for Hong Kong


    As the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the People’s Republic of China nears, Bond is given ten days to investigate a series of terrorist attacks taking place that could disrupt the fragile handover and cause the breakout of a large-scale war. Simultaneously a nuclear bomb is test detonated in the Australian outback. In Hong Kong, Bond suspects and is led to a wealthy British shipping magnate, Guy Thackeray, who he catches cheating at mahjong at a casino in Macau. Later, after cheating the cheater and winning a large sum of Thackeray’s money, Bond attends a press conference where Thackeray announces that he is selling his company, EurAsia Enterprises to the Chinese, secretly due to a long-forgotten legal document that grants the descendants of Li Wei Tam ownership of the company if the British were to ever lose control of Hong Kong. Because the descendants were claimed to have abandoned China, General Wong of the People’s Republic of China claims the document on behalf of the government and forces Thackeray out. Immediately following the announcement Thackeray is killed in a car bomb by an unknown assassin after numerous previous attempts that claimed the lives of the entire board of directors at EurAsia Enterprises as well as several employees.

    Through his Hong Kong contact, T.Y. Woo, Bond also investigates Li Xu Nan, the Triad head of the Dragon Wing society and the rightful descendant of Li Wei Tam. Li’s identity as the Triad head is supposed to be a secret, though after Bond involves a hostess, Sunni Pei, 007 is forced to protect her from numerous Triads for breaking an oath of secrecy. When she is finally captured, Bond makes a deal, off the record, to go to Guangzhou and retrieve the long-forgotten document from General Wong that will give Li Xu Nan ownership of EurAsia Enterprises upon the exchange at midnight on July 1, 1997. Through Li’s contacts, Bond successfully travels and meets General Wong in Guangzhou under the guise of a solicitor from England. Bond’s cover is later blown and T.Y. Woo who followed Bond is executed. Bond avenges his friend’s death by killing General Wong and stealing the document, which he hand delivers to Li Xu Nan and retrieves Sunni Pei.

    With Li Xu Nan in Bond’s debt, Bond uses Li’s contacts to go to Australia to investigate EurAsia Enterprises and find a link between it and the nuclear blast. As it turns out Thackeray is very much alive and has been mining unreported uranium in Australia to make his own nuclear bomb, which he plans to detonate in Hong Kong at the moment the handover takes place in retaliation for the loss of his family’s legacy. Returning to Hong Kong, Bond, Li Xu Nan, and a Captain with the Royal Navy track down Thackeray’s nuclear bomb and defused it. The battle claims the lives of Li Xu Nan as well as Thackeray’s, who is drowned by Bond in the harbor.


    Zero Minus Ten Concordance »

    James Bond – British Secret Service agent Commander James Bond, is sent to investigate numerous terrorist attacks in Hong Kong as the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the People’s Republic of China nears.

    M – The successor to Sir Miles Messervy and the head of the British Secret Service, she sends Bond to investigate a number of terrorist attacks in Hong Kong that could potentially disrupt the fragile handover and cause the breakout of a large-scale war.

    Guy Thackeray – A wealthy British shipping magnate, his company EurAsia Enterprises is being stripped from him when the handover takes place on July 1, 1997. In retaliation Thackeray uses his company to build, test, and attempt to detonate a nuclear bomb in Hong Kong making it uninhabitable.

    Li Xu Nan – The Triad head of the Dragon Wing Society. He is the rightful descendant of Li Wei Tam and by law should inherit EurAsia Enterprises when the handover takes place on July 1, 1997.

    Sunni Pei – A “Blue Lantern” (associated non-member) of the Dragon Wing Society, she seemingly betrays Li Xu Nan by giving up his identity at a club to Bond. Subsequently, Bond feels obliged to protect her once a death warrant is issued for her by Li Xu Nan.

    T.Y. Woo – Working for the British Secret Service station in Hong Kong, he meets James Bond upon his arrival. He later sets up Bond in a mahjong game at a casino in Macau so that Bond can meet and get to know Guy Thackeray.

    General Wong – A general from the the military of the People’s Republic of China. Although he is a member of the Communist Party, he is a corrupt and greedy leader who attempts to claim EurAsia Enterprises not only for China, but for himself.


    Several character in Zero Minus Ten are based on real-life friends of Raymond Benson including James Pickard who was a banker in Hong Kong prior to the Hong Kong handover. He was notably honored by having James Bond take on his name as an alias. David Marsh was a producer at Viacom New Media, Skip Stewart was a friend of Benson’s from Baltimore, and Michael VanBlaricum who was the first president of the Ian Fleming Foundation was featured in the book as a nuclear physicist.



  • As the novel begins, Bond is in Jamaica at his newly purchased estate that he dubs “Shamelady.” The estate was previously owned by a “well-known British journalist and author.” The author is in fact Ian Fleming and the estate, Goldeneye, where Fleming wrote every James Bond novel till his death in 1964. Shamelady was suggested to Fleming in 1952 for Goldeneye by his wife, Ann Rothermere. A shamelady is a wild plant that grows in Jamaica.
  • The sequence of Bond wandering the Australian outback was adapted from Benson’s previous Bond work You Only Live Twice II–Back of Beyond, a role-playing adventure game.


    • April 3, 1997: First Hardcover Edition. Hodder & Stoughton.
      ISBN 0-340-68448-8
    • March 1998: First Paperback Edition. Coronet.
      ISBN 0-340-68449-6

    • May 5, 1997: First Hardcover Edition. Putnum.
      ISBN 0-515-12336-6
    • August 1998: First Paperback Edition. Jove.
      ISBN 0-515-12336-6


      The Chicago Tribune

    • “It’s not easy keeping James Bond up to date while retaining the mystique of the original Ian Fleming books, but Raymond Benson does a good job in this latest outing.”
      The Times, UK

    • “Addicts of the genre will love it”
      Manchester Evening News, UK

    • “I may upset a few Fleming devotees by suggesting that Benson, while obviously lacking Fleming’s sheer innovative vision, is by far a finer descriptive writer. The smells and sound of Hong Kong seem to seep out of these pages and the effect is both intoxicating and, to some degree, educational. Benson isn’t afraid, on occasion, to shower the reader in the heady results of his research. Bond’s tackle with Triad forces, over a seemingly in-depth Chinese game called Mahjong, is vividly detailed. So much, in fact, that Bond’s grasp of the game seems unlikely, to say the least. This detailing returns later in the book as Bond observes a Triad ritual, and one can’t help feeling that the author, too, must have sneaked into the inner sanctums of this mysterious, ancient and all-powerful oriental force… Benson shows a good deal of skill in reconstructing this character… ZERO MINUS TEN does succeed, and against enormous odds. Not enough perhaps, to appease the anger of the Fleming trainspotters, for they didn’t even accept [Kingsley] Amis. Personally, however, I’d feel no sense of irony in proudly filing this next to my prized first edition of FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE. Yes, it really is that good. Bond is back, in hugely entertaining style…”
      Edinburgh Evening News, UK

    • “Bond novels have been written by several authors since Fleming’s death, including Kingsley Amis, but Raymond Benson is, for my money, one of the best. His fast-paced action and stylish recreation of 007 make his work a must for all Bond fans.”
      Kirkus Reviews

    • “The author of The James Bond Bedside Companion (not reviewed) pits Agent 007 against worthy Pacific Basin opponents in a more than serviceable first thriller that could give Ian Fleming’s ultracool hero yet another new lease on life. Dispatched to Hong Kong to halt a series of violent incidents that threaten the Crown Colony’s mid-1997 return to the People’s Republic of China, Bond first checks on Guy Thackeray, the fifth- generation head of a family shipping firm called EurAsia Enterprises. Although the SIS troubleshooter gets the goods on the shady businessman, the latter perishes (or appears to) in a car bombing. In next trying to tap underworld intelligence sources, 007 makes a nearly fatal mistake and is obliged to undertake a personal mission for triad chieftain Li Xu Nan. Against the odds, the master spy penetrates the PRC and returns alive, bearing papers that put Li in his debt. With help from the grateful crime boss, Bond heads down under to investigate a mysterious outback blast London has told him is not his affair. In due course, he finds a back-from- the-dead Thackeray at a remote uranium mine; to his horror, he learns that the embittered taipan (who’s used EurAsia to make a great fortune in the drug trade) plans to put paid to the celebration of Hong Kong’s handover by detonating a crude nuclear device on or near the island at midnight on June 30, 1997. Before 007 can beat the clock and save the showcase outpost of empire with an eleventh-hour dash through a crowded harbor, however, he must escape the clutches of a villainous captor and make it out of western Australia’s famously inhospitable bush country. Benson’s 007 is a chip off the old block and, if not a gilt- edged Bond, at least a double-A.”