David Benjamin has been a fixture in the Wisconsin writing scene for several decades. His Random House release The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked is a nostalgic reflection on simpler days that form part of the collective human memory of childhood.
Benjamin’s work is known for its fast paced dialogue and its unwillingness to pull any punches. He set his sights on the fanaticism of the Packer fan base in A Sunday Kind of Love, a novel set against the backdrop of the 2009 Packer season.
His next book will be the sequel to 2020’s Jailbait, a novel that features his tormented police chief protagonist Jim Otis.
I started Jailbait as a hardboiled “noir” novel in hopes of impressing a publisher who specializes in the genre. I knew I needed a flawed detective with a dark past and a short temper. Add to that a beautiful seductress, and a cast of idiosyncratic stock characters. So I invented my protagonist, a defrocked Chicago cop named Jim Otis, and introduced Josie Dobbs, the high-school femme fatale of Hercules, Wisconsin—David Benjamin
Jailbait is a different kind of book, one that places a concern over the exploitation of teens at its forefront. To engage such a topic responsibly will likely result in passages that will make some people uncomfortable. Indeed, discomfort is an appropriate response. That being said, it’s also irresponsible to deny that complex mechanisms of abuse have been allowed to flourish within our society.
Benjamin’s book shines a spotlight on every parent’s fear, and in doing so allows adults to better protect their own children. Benjamin notes the effect the pandemic had on the novel’s release.
Jailbait’s “reception” was curtailed by the onset of the pandemic just when it was released. Probably more significant is this: For an independent publisher, the hiatus forced by the coronavirus made sales and marketing extremely difficult but it allowed me to focus on production. I’ve been adding titles to my list so that when I can get back out and sell, I’ll have more “product” for my potential readers. Not only do I now have Jailbait to offer but I can promote it in tandem with its sequel. Everybody loves a lively series—David Benjamin
Perhaps, only in modern day America could a story like Jailbait be conceived. This is a country that often oversexualizes its young women. Social media platforms mean it has never been easier to monetize physical appearance.
However, the trend of exploiting young people predates the technological age. For example, even conservative school districts often allow cheerleader uniforms that violate the dress code governing the rest of the student body. There is a certain absurdity in the panoply of American culture and, where possible, Benjamin mines this for comic effect.
I added the necessary supernumeraries and threw Otis into a hornet’s nest. What I did not need was a sense of humor. Because it was too funny, the manuscript went unloved by my hard boiled publisher. However, everyone else liked it, partly because of the vein of irony that enriches my lead character. My wife liked Jailbait so much that she wanted more Jim Otis. So, I’ve written three more novels in the series—David Benjamin
With life expected to return to normal this summer, Benjamin plans to resume his circuit of public appearances. He’s often seen at local book stories, book festivals, and libraries. You can follow David Benjamin and find about about his most recent releases on his web page LastKidBooks.com.