Benn, James R.
Benn, James R.
PERSONAL: Married Deborah Mandel (a psychotherapist); children: two sons. Education: Graduated from University of Connecticut; Southern Connecticut State University, M.L.S.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, and librarian. Works in educational technology field.
MEMBER: American Library Association, Mystery Writers of America, Authors Guild.
(Editor) Genealogical and Local History Resources in New London County Libraries, compiled by Susan Fraile, Southeastern Connecticut Library Association (Groton, CT), 1982.
Desperate Ground (novel), Quiet Storm Publishers (Martinsburg, WV), 2004.
The First Wave: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: James R. Benn is a librarian and novelist whose career has revolved around books since his first job as a library page at age fifteen, he commented in an interview in Library Journal. Becoming a novelist is another step in Benn’s lifetime journey devoted to words and books. “Writing has brought my career full circle, back to books as the basis of what I love doing,” Benn commented in the Library Journal interview.
Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery tells the story of the eponymous title character, a police officer in Boston during World War II. A good cop from a long line of peace officers, Billy is taken by the patriotic fervor of the time and decides to enlist in the army. From the beginning of his stint, Billy’s luck is favorable. His mother makes use of a propitious family connection with General Eisenhower (a distant relative Billy calls “Uncle Ike”) to ensure her son receives a safe, favorable, noncombat assignment. Billy is soon tasked by “Uncle Ike” to bring his detective skills to bear and ferret out a spy operating within Allied circles in London and Norway. The spy jeopardizes Allied plans to force the Nazis out of Norway through the invasion code-named Operation Jupiter. Billy joins a special team of military personnel assigned the task of keeping the King of Norway and other dignitaries apprised of the status of Operation Jupiter. The death of one of the men suspected of being the spy, diplomat Knut Birkeland, attracts Billy’s attention. At first, Birkeland’s death appears to be suicide by leap from a high window—the man even leaves behind a suicide note. However, as Billy investigates, the death begins to look more like murder. Booklist reviewer Bill Ott noted that the story’s “action builds to a suspenseful climax, and there is even a hint of moral ambiguity in the wrap-up.” A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that Benn “crafts a crackling good adventure, with much flavorsome period color, and an acceptable whodunit.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Bill Ott, review of Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery, p. 46.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of Billy Boyle, p. 546.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, “Three Questions for a Librarian Who Writes,” p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2006, review of Billy Boyle, p. 34.
James R. Benn’s Home Page, http://www.jamesrbenn.com (January 22, 2007).