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, September 29, 2014

The Amsterdam

I'll be reading at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall, downtown Saint Paul, on Saturday, November 22 @ 1pm, as part of the Saint Paul Almanac Literary Festival. (Or so they told me; I haven't seen anything official yet.) I scouted the place out by attending the Lady Parts Justice event hosted by old friend Lizz Winstead the other night. Lizz was wonderful, as always. This is the least blurry picture I took all night. (I think I need an iTripod for my phone.) I have really blurry shots of the Prairie Fire Choir and Rude Girl, an all-girl Clash cover band. It was an amazing event, even if I didn't win any prizes.
The Amsterdam is huge; I'll be curious to see how they set it up for a reading. The rest of the series seems to be held at coffee houses all over town. Info here. Stop by come November if you can. (I'll do more serious pleading later...)

Friday, September 12, 2014

On the 21A

Last night I rode the 21A for an hour and 15 minutes to attend the book launch for the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. Despite being a stranger in a strange town, I found the Black Dog Cafe and ventured inside, eventually finding my free copy, a $50 check and getting a rose pinned to my lapel—all for having a story in their wonderful book. They had speakers and readers, all singing the praises of their home city of Saint Paul. There were childhood memories, reflections on buildings and attractions long since gone; a five-year-old even danced to the spirits of indigenous peoples who inhabited the area thousands of years ago. I felt guilty for crashing their party.
I stole out of town the same way I came in, on the 21. Now I had the Almanac to read. I read about old chocolate factories, Red Owl groceries, kids playing hide-and-seek amid coffins. I read true stories of generations growing up and growing old in Saint Paul. Why was I in this book? I've spent most of my adult life in Minneapolis. I'd written a fictional tale of a fictional doctor taking a bullet out of John Dillinger's shoulder. I'd taken their money and space in their book on false pretenses. I opened the Almanac to my bio: sure enough, I hadn't even bothered to fess up to being from Minneapolis. Fraud!
Was I any better than Dillinger himself? He took advantage of the hospitality Saint Paul had to offer, then blew town with his ill-gotten gains. As the 21 pulled into the Uptown Station, I checked my coat pocket for that check—my own filthy lucre—and vowed...nothing. Who was I kidding? I'd never change. I slunk back to my Minneapolis apartment. I'm not proud of the path my life has taken. Once a writer always a writer. Guilty as charged.

(Look, I even lifted that picture of the dancing kid from the Almanac FB page! Have I no shame?)

Friday, August 29, 2014

On the calendar...

So they're having a gala for the release of the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac. I'm in the book but not involved in the festivities. 

September 11 at 7pm. Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street, St. Paul.

There's more information but it took me a damn hour just to get this one image to appear. Nothing else works. Try

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.