Best-selling author James R. Benn visits Enfield library

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Thu., Oct. 31, 2013
Author James R. Benn spoke to the Friends of Enfield Library. Photo by Lisa Stone.
Author James R. Benn spoke to the Friends of Enfield Library. Photo by Lisa Stone.

The Friends of the Enfield Library invited author James Benn to speak at their monthly meeting on Oct. 29. Benn has been writing since 2005, and publishes one book each year. He is the author of books including Billy Boyle WWII Mysteries and “Traumatized: The Story of a State Trooper.” “Traumatized” was a joint effort between Benn, his wife Deborah Mandel, and Connecticut State Trooper John G. Patterson.

Benn began by giving some background information of how he came to the decision to write books for a living. “On the eve of my 50th birthday, my wife asked me a very important question,” said Benn. “She asked, ‘What do you want to do with the next 50 years of your life?’ That question really got me thinking. That didn’t surprise me considering she is a psychotherapist. I replied that I would like to write a book. She looked at me and said, ‘Do you want to reword that?’ I quickly restated my words to say, ‘I am going to write a book.’ It was then that I decided to pursue my passion.”

When Benn finished his first book, the challenge was to find a publisher that would take on his project. After the typical rejections, one publisher finally made an offer to Benn. “If that publisher didn’t give me the opportunity to prove myself, who knows what would have happened,” Benn said. “That publisher went out of business before long, but it got me started on my writing career. For that, I am grateful. I can still hear him telling me that I was spot on with an English accent. My first book took place in England and he had a soft spot in his heart for my story because he could relate to it. You never know where your break will come from.”

The book’s character, Billy Boyle, is an Irish police officer from Boston in the early 1900s. Benn went on to tell how the Boston police were grossly underpaid and they did not get a pay raise from 1860 to 1919. This caused a great deal of corruption in the department. Gov. Calvin Coolidge called out the National Guard for temporary support. He fired all the officers and hired Irish World War II veterans. Thus, the proliferation of Irish Boston cops. This was the introduction to Benn’s mystery series and the character Billy Boyle.

Benn got the inspiration of writing about WWII mysteries during a walk in Germany with his wife. “We were walking down Harts Mountain when we came across a very narrow foot path,” said Benn. “It was clear that this was not a frequently used path. At the end of the hike, we came across German military graves that were dated April 1945. At the far corner of the area were 20 grave stones marked, ‘Unknown Russian Soldiers.’ It was then that I got the inspiration to write about WWII mysteries.”

The hospitality chairman for the Friends organization, Sheila Reardon, was eager to hear all that Benn had to say. “Events like this should be covered in all of our newspapers,” said Reardon. “He is a great author and people should read about him being here tonight. There is so much negative and sad news in the press - we need to read something that makes us feel good.”

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