Formerly an art teacher with a Master’s Degree from Illinois State University, Randal Benjamin now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Benjamin grew up on the Benjamin family farm near Bloomington, Illinois. The farm there had been settled by his great, great grandfather, Alva Benjamin, in 1846. In 1857 Alva built a 16-room home there. The house no longer exists, having burned to the ground in the early 1900s.
A second Benjamin home was built not far from the first and this is where Mr. Benjamin grew up. Behind the first home was a barn that was spared in the tragic fire. This barn plays a big part in a tale of family lore that has been handed down through the generations.
Randal’s great, great grandfather, Alva Benjamin, at one time worked on a Mississippi river boat during his off seasons from farming. One winter he met an amicable stranger on the boat to whom he took an immediate liking. On discovering that the man often traveled throughout the Midwest, Alva invited the stranger to drop in at his home if he was ever in the Bloomington area. The gentleman was flattered by the invitation, but cautioned Alva that were he to know his true identity the invitation might not be so readily offered. Of course this prompted Alva to ask the obvious question, the answer was a shock. The stranger was, in fact, the infamous outlaw, Jessie James. The lore states that Alva stared at the man a moment while in some thought and then declared, “Sir, the offer stands.”
One summer soon after, Alva was mildly surprised to see his new friend come riding up to the house. Jessie was not alone, but exactly who accompanied him has been lost to posterity. Alva’s wife was not as welcoming of the outlaw as her husband, so Alva was forced to offer his guests accommodations in the barn behind the house, the barn that still stands today.
It was folklore like this that sparked Mr. Benjamin’s interest in writing and story telling. As a youth he made hay, built fences, raised cattle, sheep, and hogs. His life and work on the farm gave him an insight into the practices and customs of times gone by. This helped him a great deal in the writing of THE OLD GUN, FINDING SUNDANCE.
Mr. Benjamin’s novel, The Old Gun, Finding Sundance, is the winner of a first place literary award in the Hollywood Book Festival and a first place in the Beverly Hills Book Awards. It has also won literary awards in the Los Angeles Book Festival, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (NGIB) in New York City, and an award in the London Book Festival.