“The Geezer Squad” author and communications coach Bruce Benidt is such an elegant guy it may be difficult to imagine him as my writing coach.
That was back when he was a Star Tribune reporter. Once my writing coach, always my teacher. Sometimes when I can’t get words to do what I want, he’ll hear from me. “I don’t think you need a coach anymore,” he said.
But everybody can use help with their writing, right? “Yeah, myself included,” he said. His latest book was edited by “a guy I used to teach with, John Gaterud, who taught me a lot. I call him in this acknowledgment ‘a maniacal editor.’ ”
We got together at Jörg Pierach’s Fast Horse marketing agency, where Benidt does some work. We discussed his third book, a mystery set partly in Minnesota and partly in Florida where he now lives with his wife, Lisa.
The book — available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iuniverse.com and Once Upon a Crime bookstore — is about some ’60s types trying to find out who’s behind bad developers on a mission to hustle a little old lady out of her Lake Mille Lacs property when they’re not misbehaving in Florida.
“The geezers get on the side of the little folk and teach them guerrilla theater tactics, ways to raise hell, kick ass and level the scales,” Benidt said.
Q: Bad developers tangling with ’60s types?
A: Friend of mine’s younger girlfriend, who is probably 10 years younger than I am, at dinner one night said, “You of the ’60s generation started something. Now you’d better finish it!” (He leans back as if blown away by her remarks.) [She was talking about] that rambunctious demonstration against the war, civil rights movement, women’s rights; we really thought we could change the world. We followed [Eugene] McCarthy just like people follow Bernie [Sanders] now. Then I don’t know what happened: marriages and car loans and divorces. The book is about guys from the ’60s who thought they could change the world then, and now they’re saying, “Whatever happened to that stuff?”
Q: The book is self-published. Does that mean you failed to get a publisher?
A: You could say that. My first novel, I worked really hard, I got a good local agent. We got a lot of really great rejection slips. Then I went to self-publishing for that one. There is so little support for a no-name author that I decided I’m going to put the energy, money and time into marketing my own book that I would have put in trying to get a traditional publisher. It’s a little like rock ‘n’ roll bands now saying, “We’re not going for a record company, we’re going online.” Online has opened up publishing, the music business, art.
Q: Do you have boxes of books in the trunk of your car?
A: No. I have about two dozen here at the office. It’s called publish on demand. If nobody orders, they don’t print.
Q: Are there any words you hate hearing?
A: The jargon: Maximize, leverage. I work with businesses and so they’ll always say things in a crisis situation, such as, “We care. We take this situation very seriously.” Well, what’s the opposite? “We don’t really give a rat’s behind”?
Q: Suddenly it’s OK to misuse the language on social media. Is that because we grew up when grammar was important? The misuse of “impacted” and “there’s” and ending sentences with prepositions.
A: Now you’re sounding like an old geezer. I think you need to learn the rules of grammar and then break them with gusto, for a good reason.
Q: So there aren’t any sentences that end in prepositions in this book?
A: There probably are if they are somebody speaking.
Q: If I give you a “you-were-young-pass” on your first marriage, my question is: What did you learn from your second marriage that made your third better?
A: Truly, I think Sharon, my dear second wife, would probably say “nothing.” But ... I deeply love every woman I’ve ever married! Doesn’t that sound terrible? But this time I’m not going to give up, screw up. There’s a sense of that in “The Geezer Squad.” This book is full of the values of the ’60s. Those values really were good.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.”