BRAND NEW!!!

BRAND NEW!!!
BONUS MAN is an offbeat literary novel, a picaresque—CANDIDE climbs the lighter side of COLD MOUNTAIN, perhaps—that explores the life of Adam “Bonus Man” Bonifacius, former Great War medic and participant in the Bonus Army March of 1932: a gathering of veterans in Washington D.C. protesting bonuses promised but not paid; a march turned back by the U.S. Government with tanks and tear gas. Bonus Man hits the road determined to find a way into medical school—the bonus would've done the trick—and maybe a little revenge along the way. ¶ The thing about revenge is, well, he's just not very good at it. He is good at removing bullets, a skill acquired under fire during the war and put into practice when a moonshining raid leaves a federal agent with a slug in his gut and later when Bonus Man runs smack into a John Dillinger prison break—leading to a gunpoint invitation to stay on as sawbones to the gang. It may not be medical school but it's certainly an education. ¶ And Bonus Man falls in love. Twice. If that doesn't complicate things enough, the FBI has an agent on his trail who is convinced not only of Bonus Man's complicity in the Dillinger escape but also in the Lindbergh kidnapping.

Bonus Man

Bonus Man
Hey, I'm Adam Bonifacius, aka Bonus Man. I guess they stuck Gary Cooper's mug here 'cause he was asked to play the title role when they made a movie of my life. (He passed. Good move. It was crap, from what I hear.) They made the movie after I had taken bullets out of a couple G-Men and delivered a bunch of babies. Oh, and they made a big deal about me living with two women. You'd think Hollywood would have better things to do.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Thoughts on Northwoods, Bread Loaf, John Gardner

On the bus back from the Northwoods Writers' Conference in Bemidji I opened a volume of short stories to one by John Gardner called “Redemption.” At the conference on Friday, Judson Mitcham talked extensively about Gardner, mentioning the accident that killed him in 1982. The accident involved him and his motorcycle going off a cliff. He also mentioned an event in Gardner's childhood in which Gardner accidentally killed his brother with a piece of farm machinery, which of course tormented him for the rest of his life. I'm not sure if I'd heard that story or read “Redemption” before but they both seemed vaguely familiar.
“Redemption,” begins with a boy, Jack Hawthorne, accidentally killing his brother David with a tractor towing a cultipacker. Their father, Dale Hawthorne, is destroyed by this, as one could imagine. He blames himself, as a father would. Then comes this passage:
“Or he would ride away on his huge, darkly thundering Harley-Davidson 80, trying to forget, morbidly dwelling on what he'd meant to put behind him—how David had once laughed, cake in his fists; how he'd once patched a chair with precocious skill—or Dale Hawthorne would think, for the hundredth time, about suicide, hunting in mixed fear and anger for some reason not to miss the next turn, fly off to the right of the next iron bridge onto the moonlit gray rocks and black water below...”
I was at Bread Loaf in 1982 (see Jan. 21, 2011 post), two weeks before Gardner died. As Judson Mitcham talked on Friday about his days with Gardner, I recalled a talk given back in '82 on Moral Fiction. Gardner strode into a packed house at Bread Loaf, the crowd hushed as he reached the podium and said: “If you're not writing politically, you're not writing shit.” With that he left the room. I recounted this story later to Judson, adding that I had a one-on-one with Gardner several days after his “speech” and asked him about it. Gardner asked me what everyone had been talking about all week. He said that he could've spent 45 minutes on the subject but it wouldn't have had nearly the impact as hundreds of people talking non-stop about it for days. Judson said that he was at Bread Loaf two years later and people were still talking about it. And here we were, thirty years after that, talking about it still.
Anyway, if you're at a writers' conference and have a John Gardner story, you're bound to get people's attention (see Feb.2, 2011 post).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On the ocean

The Northwoods Writers' Conference has come to a close. A wonderful experience! When applying earlier this year, it seemed like a good idea to stay through Sunday since the Saturday morning events ran right up to the departure time for my bus. That decision has left me all alone here with 23+ hours to kill before my bus tomorrow. On-line weather says 80% chance of rain all day.

With my time I've written a new query letter, per Sheri Joseph's--the conference fiction guru--suggestions. Took a couple hours and it's much better. The sun peeked out and I took a last walk around Diamond Point Park. I sat at the very point and looked out over Lake Bemidji. A binocular-like contraption on a stand stood right in front of me. I thought to look out through it but decided against it--I liked the vastness of the lake and didn't want to diminish it. A kid--maybe eight--ran by me and right up to the binocular set-up. He looked out, then turned to what I assume was his sister and yelled, "Look! Can see the ocean bigger!" His sister ran up and took the quickest possible look before running after her brother.

With the wind blowing in, the waves actually crashed against the shore. I got up to come back here and write about the boy. Walking along the lake I watched a bunch of older kids swimming out past signs that read: DANGER! DROP-OFF. NO SWIMMING! They were plenty old enough to read, so they obviously took this as an invitation. Gimme a kid who doesn't know a lake from an ocean any day...

It's pouring rain right now and they're probably still swimming.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meet Bob from Bemidgi

May have found a character in this fellow, Bob Bergh (B-E-R-G-H, he said, as in iceberg). Bob came up to me at Diamond Point Park on Lake Bemidji. Told me how they used to have a diving board here when he was a kid. Some kind of wheel too--which I didn't understand. He spat tobacco into the grass and asked me if I'd ever been to Venice Beach in California. I said I had. He told me about all the things he'd seen down there when he took an Amtrack. "Was on Price is Right," he said. Before I could congratulate him, he added: "Didn't get on stage though." As I shrugged, he said: "Saw that Door #1, Door #2, Door #3..."

"Let's Make a Deal," I said.

He spat again. "Yea, Monty Hall, 'cept now they got a colored guy doin' it."

"Did you get to play?" I asked.

"Nope." And he spat again. "Used to be a ventriloquist," he said. "Got a dummy and I can make his eyes wink." He showed his technique with an arthritic looking hand. "Used to write poetry," he said and launched into a reading--by memory--of one of his poems. I thought it sounded like it should be on a sampler and said so. "Yea, maybe I oughta get it published," he said and ripped off another one.

Feeling we had a connection here, I told him I was in town for a writers' conference. "Really?" he said. "What kind of riding? Cars? Motorcycles?"

"Writing," I stressed. "Northwoods Writers' Conference."

"Is that right?" he said and started in on his bad back. We traded hospital stories for awhile till he rattled off having fallen off a roof, getting hit by a pick-up and--just to put me in my place--his heart attack. With that he said he had to go. We shook hands. "Enjoy your thing here," he said and moved on (above).

Thanks Bob!

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Traveling Greyhound

As I prepare to take a Greyhound up to Bemidji tomorrow, I reflect back on my one and only previous bus excursion—San Francisco to L.A.—which was made unbearable by a woman with a black eye and a handful of pictures showing her and a guy named Al in various stages of undress. Al had confronted me at the bus station and asked if I'd look after his friend Peaches. When I said, 'No way,' this solidified Peaches and I as fast friends—in her mind at least.
Thing is: Peaches has appeared in my first two novels and is now taking over a third work-in-progress. Hopefully I'll find another undeniable character on this trip. If one's gonna be miserable for six hours, one should be rewarded.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

On to Bemidji

My trip to Bemidji is still on for later this month. I've been worried about how much of an accomplishment it was to get into this fiction workshop—after all they accepted me the same day I sent in my application and writing sample. When I saw a notice extending the deadline for application because “some of the workshops” had yet to fill up, I began to wonder if they were taking anyone who would cough up the required money.
The other day I received in the mail a bound copy of all the attendees writing samples—required pre-workshop reading—and indeed there are thirteen fiction writers attending. This makes me feel that they may have at least turned some people away.
Bought a cell phone for the trip. (I know, welcome to the 20th century.) If I figure the thing out I should have plenty of pictures to share here or on facebook. Thought about starting an Instagram (is that it?) page. Another thing to figure out...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Lake Bemidji

Aerial121 Looks like I'm heading to the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference up on shores of beautiful Lake Bemidji in late June. They take 13 people for their fiction workshop and I'm one of 'em. (Hoping they had more than 13 applicants.) Sheri Joseph (Georgia State Univiversity and fiction editor at Five Points) conducts the workshop--I must read her books and get acquainted. A guy from Milkweed Editions will also be there. It'll be nice to get out and go somewhere, even if it does involve a round-trip bus ride and nine days in a dorm room.


Monday, March 17, 2014

On being in Saint Paul Almanac

EDIT (7/1/14): Got confirmation that my story will indeed be in the 2015 Almanac. They sent me the proof and they've inserted a couple cool old photographs. Looks very nice.
 
Found out yesterday that an excerpt from Bonus Man will be included in 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. Very happy about that (I think they even pay!). This ends a streak of seven straight stories published by magazines/editors outside the U.S.—two in Australia, three in UK/France, one in Canada and one selected by an Irish guest editor at a Wisconsin mag. Nice to know my particular form of Americana finally works in America.