Thursday, February 1, 2001
Bezaleel Benjamin has an all-inclusive part-time writing career. He writes and edits and binds and markets his own manuscripts, going the extra mile to publish his own literary vision.
"I do printing and binding. I even have a home delivery boy. You're speaking to him," Benjamin says with a laugh.
A native of India, Benjamin has long held a position as a professor of architectural engineering at Kansas University. He stays busy teaching, researching and lecturing, but buys out the time for his love affair with writing. Since the 1950s he's written several novels, short stories and children's stories, with many of them focusing on spies and suspense.
Just call it his own unique way to unwind.
"There is time available to write and to think of plots and language," he says. "Sometimes when I'm lying in bed in the early morning I think of things to write. I don't believe in writer's block."
Benjamin wrote his first story back in the 1950s, a children's fairy tale called "Susan Altercroft" that he published in his own name.
Though the artist in him was eager for a full-time writing career, the practical side of Benjamin led him to an architectural engineering career.
"I've been writing since I was 14 or 15 years old. In India you couldn't live as an artist with your craft, so I became an engineer," he says.
But once in the United States, Benjamin embarked on his side career as a novelist.
"It's not frowned upon here to publish your writing," he says.
Benjamin has written several engineering books and publishes them through a company run by his wife. His second publishing company, A.B. Literary House, puts out his novels.
He publishes under the name B.B. Dandekar, and his books lean toward suspense and espionage tales. His works include "Rampaging Lovers," an espionage novel set in England, France and South Africa; "A Nazi Among Jews," a mystery about the Holocaust set in a small Midwestern town, and "David Rahabi," a historical novel that deals with the settlement of Jews into India during the 12th Century, and their discovery by an Egyptian trader.
Benjamin, who grew up in India but was raised Jewish, pens stories that often revolve around a Jewish interest theme.
One of his latest works, "The Jewish Amendment," concerns the public's right to information and the press' right to report it.
"My daughter and I have had a lot of discussion about the public's right to know. 'If it bleeds it leads' ï¿½ she thinks that right exceeds other considerations ... I think there should be more of an exercise of discretion in publishing a story," he says.
Benjamin got into publishing his manuscripts because it was more practical for him to do so. He encountered difficulties in capturing the attention of publishers. ("I have very good rejection slips from some of the finest publishers back East," he says with a laugh.) So he started his two self-publishing companies. Since he only wants to be a part-time writer, publishing his own manuscripts is a pragmatic choice for the professor to make.
"I'm a very happy and contented man," he says. "I have no desire to make a large amount of money or sell movie rights, so this satisfies me."