As far back as Don Benjamin can remember, he enjoyed writing. Now, he is getting ready to release his first novel.
“It’s kind of an accomplishment,” Benjamin said. “I’ve written all my life ever since I can remember, but most of it has been non-fiction for other people. … So it’s kind of fun to do something imaginative for a change.”
Benjamin was born and grew up in Greeley, Colorado. His writing journey started at his high school newspaper. After leaving high school, Benjamin spent three years in the army as a military journalist, working for magazines and newspapers. After his time in the service, he attended the University of Northern Colorado where he earned his teaching degree, and later went on to earn his master’s in college administration.
While he was teaching, the majority of Benjamin’s writing was designing instructional materials, he explained. Soon he was doing a variety of non-fiction writing for universities and colleges. This took him to Arizona where he was a policy analyst for a board governing the universities and colleges. While in Arizona, he started working on his first novel — a historical fiction.
Looking to come back to Colorado, Benjamin didn’t want to live on the Front Range. He thought back to his house sitting days, when he would travel up to the Cedaredge area. In 2014, he “retired” and moved to Cedaredge. In 2017, he started reporting for the Delta County Independent and recently retired as a staff writer.
Once in Cedaredge, Benjamin decided to join a writers group. He decided to put down his historical fiction and write shorter novels. The first was a fantasy which he said was easy because you can create a different reality. With an interest in mystery writing, Benjamin decided to take that route and started his current series.
His mystery novel, “The Road to Lavender,” follows archaeology student Anne Scriptor (the first name of Benjamin’s sister who passed away as an infant) on a deadly treasure hunt. According to his website, Scriptor is somewhat of a troubled young woman who attends the University of Arizona.
Her professor, Dr. Arnold Clark, possesses a rare prehistoric arrowhead which was set to be sold to Russian mobsters. When his plan to sell to them sours, he must find a way to smuggle the arrowhead out of Tucson. He hides it in a toolbox, without Scriptor’s knowledge, and sends her, the toolbox and 11 more, on a university geocaching assignment in Western Colorado. The assignment is to place them in remote locations only known to the two of them. Clark plans to follow Scriptor, retrieve the treasure and slip away before the mob gets him.
Unaware of Clark's scheme, she hides her caches as told. Alone in the mountains, she is overwhelmed by persistent memories of her abusive father. She then reaches the town of Lavender where things go awry.
Some local characters take an interest in her including a sinister German named Diak Hodell. Looking for allies, she accepts help from Trinidad Sands, the owner of Lavender Hill Farm which is the source of the town’s name. The two share a romance until she grows suspicious of him.
Haunted by her childhood memories, suspicious of Sands’ motives and driven by her loyalty to her professor, she takes off to retrieve the cached boxes only to be pursued by Hodell and local and federal law officers.
“I set it in Western Colorado, mostly on the route that I drove so often between here and Arizona,” Benjamin said, noting that Lavender is a fictional town that has characteristics of Delta, Palisade and Cedaredge. “... There’s a lot of spectacular scenery so I tried to put a lot of that in the book.”
Doing this drive made Benjamin think about what would bring someone up here from Arizona. What problems people his characters might encounter and how they would overcome them. He brought along a recorder and started taking note of names, scenarios and eventually compiled them together.
Benjamin has always had an interest in science, but called upon author and archeologist Trudy Berghauser for help on the technical details in his book. He even did some geocaching exercises to get the details just right. Geocaching is a popular outdoor activity that involves hiding and finding ‘caches’ using a Global Positioning System (GPS) or map.
Benjamin also called on the community to read drafts of his book. Some readers did proofing and editing and others concentrated on the story. There has been positive feedback which included praise for his complex villains. Last year he entered sample chapters from the book in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest, and placed third in a statewide competition.
Writing isn’t a chore, Benjamin said. He enjoys writing and even revising. It is an accomplishment to be putting his work out there.
“I go to old bookstores ... and I am always kind of drawn to the old books — meaning ones published in the 1800s,” Benjamin said. “It’s kind of thrilling to be able to pick up a vintage book and look at the author’s name and think, ‘This writer has been dead for a hundred years, but here I am reading something that he or she wrote.’ So in that sense, the author continues to exist. His or her thoughts are still percolating in the system. That’s a legacy I’d love to share.
“I think I’d like to be able to leave something behind and have the feeling that sometime in the future, someone will pick my novel up and say, ‘Hey, this guy’s been dead for a hundred years and yet I’m still reading his words.’”
There are three books in Benjamin’s mystery series: “The Road to Lavender,” “A Lavender Wedding,” and “The War Nickel.” The first book is being self published by Benjamin. Due to COVID-19, the book launch for “The Road to Lavender” has been pushed back to July 24. This event will include other local authors and a treasure hunt.
For more information about Benjamin and his writing visit benjaminauthor.com/.