Earlier on in the year I featured The Mallory Saga by Paul Bennett on my 2016 reads. I’ve known Paul through social media for some years and have been lucky enough to witness The Mallory Saga grow from idea to fully fledged book.
When I was offered to read it, I had little idea of the historical context of the book, however, that didn’t hinder my reading whatsoever. Paul’s writing is an easy read with believable and likeable characters that you quickly invest in. In a word, Paul has a real talent for story telling.
Let me introduce you to Paul Bennett
Let me begin this intro-bio by revealing that I love to be up in the wee hours of the morning. Coffee is best at that time of day which also coincides nicely with the inspiring actions of my Muse. My name is Paul Bennett though my golfing alter ego is named Ocho Seis (more on Ocho later). I was born in 1951; way back in the days of the Eisenhower presidency, The Korean War and the Red Menace. Detroit is my hometown, though it is hardly recognizable now thanks to Toyota and Nissan, well The Big Three automakers helped out as well by being stubborn and turning out inferior automobiles.
The street I grew up on like many of the neighborhoods in the city was lined with towering elm trees. In the summer you could lie on your back, look up and see nothing of the sky, just the canopy of green leaves. Then the awful Dutch Elm Disease arrived. When I was really young the city used to spray the trees every year but that resulted in a rapid decline of the bird population. Once the spraying stopped the birds returned but then the trees died, citywide. It was like losing a loved one when the elm in front of my house was cut down.
The street and the alley behind my house were my first playgrounds and was where I began my lifelong love affair with baseball and football (American football that is; soccer in those days was considered a commie plot). The downside to playing baseball in a narrow alley was that it was lined with the yards of grouchy neighbors who frowned upon our intrusions into flower beds to retrieve a wayward baseball. The downside to playing touch football in the street was parked cars; these were the formidable all steel behemoths that caused great pain in the event of collision with a frail human body.
My education was of the public variety which means I had to learn a whole bunch of stuff that seemed irrelevant to my life. This was generally the case throughout my years in school with the notable exception of some elective American history classes I took at Cass Technical High School that bypassed the drivel of textbooks and sought for causes not names and dates. Those classes formed the beginning of my interest in our past.
My interest in things ancient had been kindled earlier by movies such as Ben Hur and Spartacus (flawed and incorrect as it is). My buddy Harry and I would use rolled up newspapers as swords as we fought against the evil Roman legions. A slightly more educated spark came from my reading of Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation of Troy. This curiosity was ratcheted up a few notches when I started classes at Wayne State University. Professor Milton Covensky was instrumental in making me a history nut with his teaching style and through his book Ancient Near East Traditions. Of course being less than proficient in math and the sciences also helped me decide what to major in. Thusly I became a Classical Civilization major and even learned (but long since forgot) ancient Greek. My favorite assignment/memory was from a class on life in ancient Greece and Rome. For the final exam I had to write an essay on the Watergate scandal from three perspectives and style; Herodotus, Thucydides and my own. It was certainly the most fun I ever experienced in a final exam. J However; I did not complete my degree as I was overtaken by the need to live a little. So, I quit school and my job and took a year and a half sabbatical from anything practical. The next 18 months were spent in frivolous activities such as traveling to California a couple times and smoking a lot of weed. Sometimes the two coincided, for example, when driving past Whittier, CA my buddies and I thought it would be cool to find Richard Nixon’s house and smoke a doobie in front of it and it would have been except for the fact that he lived practically next door to the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. We were rather surprised to see a marine guard station on the road ahead of us; fortunately we had time to do a U-turn before meeting up with the Semper Fi guys with guns.
Once I re-entered the practical world I found that historical fiction filled the vacuum left after quitting school. Authors like Mary Renault (The King Must Die; etc.) and Mary Stewart (her Merlin/Arthur trilogy) fanned the flames of curiosity but it wasn’t until after I married and raised a family that this love affair really took off. Nowadays I am inundated with books and authors that feed my need for things ancient. Colleen McCullough’s series on the fall of The Roman Republic for example sent me on a search for more works of this sort and boy have I ever found them. So many authors, so many books, call to me these days that I have had to create a spreadsheet to keep track.
Much of this largesse can be directly attributed to Twitter. I found and read the first three volumes of the most excellent Marius Mules series by SJA Turney. Piqued by his blurb about his website I started a Twitter account so I could thank him for the work done so far. This has led to a burgeoning friendship and the discovery of many fine authors of this genre; so many that I fear I may never be able to retire so as to have the necessary funds to buy all of these great books.
Recently my time for reading has been somewhat curtailed by and replaced with writing my first full length, honest to goodness novel. The working title is Clash of Empires and is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the Colonies during The French-Indian War. It’s the story of a frontier family and their acquaintances and the challenges they face during this turbulent period. My Facebook page, Clash of Empires https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clash-of-Empires/1115407281808508 is a good way to keep informed. My Twitter handle is @hooverbkreview.Now as to other facts about me:
- Married Daryl in 1977
- Twin sons Jacob and Nathanael born in 1980.
- Moved to Salem, Ma in 1984.
- Daughter Bethany born in 1988.
- Grandson Bodhi and granddaughter Kaedyn born 4 days apart in October 2012.
- Granddaughter Eloise born Feb 2016
- Have worked in various multi-platform data centers since 1980.
- Avid fan of The Detroit Tigers even while living in the heart of Red Sox Nation.
- Player of many sports as a young man, most notably softball and basketball.
- Due to aging joints am now a golfer – with my regular golf buddies have formed a group we call The Hoovers as in the vacuum cleaner and thus our motto is ‘We Can’t Suck Enough’
- The name Ocho Seis or just Ocho is the result of the best round of golf I have played. Shot an 86 a few years back and adopted that as my golfing alter ego. Note-I am aware that 86 in Spanish is Ochenta y seis but Ocho Seis has a better ring to it. Thus you will find Ocho in many of the stories I write.
- Drinker of only good coffee – fresh roasted/freshly ground from my friends at Thanksgiving Coffee, though I can take Dunkin Donuts coffee if I get it with a shot of espresso to give it some oomph.
- Drinker of only fine ales, stouts and porters. American industrial beers like Budweiser, Coors and Miller are an anathema to my sensitive palette.
- A cynic of the American political system. In the words of singer-songwriter Shawn Phillips ‘The country isn’t run by the statesman now, but by the gentry.’
- Here’s the link to my musings and stories http://mystoriesandsuch.wordpress.com/
The Mallory Saga is set during the first Indian Wars can you put that in context in American History?
In the mid-18th century the American colonies began expanding away from the Atlantic Coast vying with each other for prime real estate. Problem was this prime real estate was already inhabited. So began the westward retreat of many of the Native American tribes. This push west also brought the English colonists in competition with the French who were also already there. The prize there was access to the headwaters of the Ohio River in what is now Pittsburgh, PA – then, under the French it was Fort Duquesne a pivotal spot in Clash of Empires. Both the British and the French had Native allies. For the British their most staunch ally was The Iroquois Confederation; a very highly organized confederacy comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes. At this point those tribes weren’t affected by colonial expansion, however, the tribes that were allied with the French; some of those included the Delaware, Huron, Shawnee and many more including some from as far away as Lake Michigan. The French weren’t too keen on British colonial trappers and hunters encroaching on their lucrative trading business in furs and began a program of removing them but the abundance of game animals and fur bearing critters meant profit. In 1754 a young George Washington, a Lt. Colonel in the Virginia Militia, was sent to investigate French activity around Fort Duquesne. Washington learned of a French patrol in the area and went to meet with them to talk. Instead an ambush ensued when someone from the British side fired a shot into the French camp. From that incident started what could be called the First World War as The French and Indian War as it was called here and The Seven Years War in Europe were fought world-wide. When it ended in 1763 the British had control of just about everything east of the Mississippi. While successful in that regard there were dire consequences that would be played out in 1776.
What was it about that part of history that inspired you?
I’ve always had a love of history especially early American. Growing up in Detroit, MI I learned the history behind my hometown. Founded in 1701 by the French, the fort there flew the French Flag until 1763, then it was the British until 1783 when it donned the American Flag and then briefly again the British Union Jack during the War of 1812. After the French and Indian War ended the conflict known as Pontiac’s Rebellion took place and Detroit was a focal point during the fighting. Now that I live in Salem, MA I am surrounded by colonial and Revolution history and that has certainly contributed to my desire to write about the period. The name Mallory comes from my great grandfather on my father’s side. He was the oldest person I knew personally from that part of the family and he was from Altoona, PA which is not too far from where a lot of Clash takes place.
Is there any other history that interests you?
My major at Wayne State University was Classical Civilization-the study of ancient history especially Greek and Roman. I’ve read a lot on those cultures over the years as well as Egyptian and others and continue to do so. I’ve become more and more interested in the migrations of cultures and how, for example, the Celtic peoples made their way all over Europe. Another recent fascination is with British history, so much to learn – the post Roman era, the battle for control between so many groups, the monarchies, so much stuff.
What is your writing process when it comes to character development?
Hah! When I saw this question I immediately realized I was going to be exposed as a fraud. As Clash of Empires is my first novel I consider myself a work in process when it comes to character development. For Clash it basically just happened; for example there is a character named Glyn Mulhern. He’s an Irishman and is a sergeant in the British Army serving with a Scottish colonel. As scenes developed where Mulhern was involved I found myself wanting him to be more, so I had him form friendships with some of the colonial militia. That meant fleshing him out more and giving him more lines.
Who inspires you to write?
I have a cadre of authors I have “met” over the last 3 or 4 years via the internet who I’ve come to rely on to not so much for inspiration but for encouragement, although when I read what they write it does tend to make me want to be as good as them. I also joke about my Muse and how she guides my hands on the keyboard. Her name is Wanda by the way. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention my editor, Marguerite Walker II. I told her once that she enjoyed eviscerating some poor author’s hard written words and belittling said author’s grammatical ineptness. She laughed. Anyway I am indebted to her for coaxing a better Clash out of me.
What do you do when not writing?
I read a lot, mostly historical fiction nowadays. There are just so many excellent authors out there now, pick a period; doesn’t matter, there will be some great read out there. I also write reviews of the books I read. I also spend time with my four grand kids – still can’t believe I’m that old. J When the weather cooperates I hike around my local golf course and adjacent nature trail. Oh, and I also golf or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
What’s next from Paul Bennett?
Clash of Empires is the first book in The Mallory Saga. I am working on the second volume now called Sundering of Empire – Dissension. This book follows the Mallory family members through the early years of the American Revolution, 1767-1776. Book 3, Sundering of Empire – Revolution will cover from the Declaration through the writing of the Constitution. I hope to continue the saga on through the end of the Plains Indian Wars, the late 1880’s or so. There’s a lot of material in that 150 year period so I should be busy for a while. J