Start off your new year with a bang and a boomer: meet Dan Hobbs, writing under the pen name Ben Leiter and exploring controversial and explosive themes. The self-identified Baby Boomer has published over 50 pieces on medium.com such as his hilarious “MR. MOOHLER, YOU CAN CALL ME MISS M” plus these four books:
CITY MANAGEMENT SNAPSHOTS: ON THE RUN is an illustrated memoir of Dan’s career chronicling tales of murder, suicide, political betrayals, a communist spy and a monkey on the loose.
In BABY BOOMERS’ LOVE-BETRAYAL, readers find a sardonic, romance-noir exploring the love practices of the Baby Boomer generation and learn if the protagonist, Bill Peters, finds the holy grail of true romance.
GOD’S BETRAYAL: THE CREDO is a political-religious thriller in which a young Father Garza stumbles through blood-soaked Vatican archives, finds files that precipitate The Second Reformation and gets himself placed on The Watch List.
In BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA we see the older disillusioned priest ministering in a Washington, D.C. parish, now moved from The Watch List to The Hit List. Suspects include the Vatican, the Mafia, the CIA, ISIS, a neighborhood gang, and Vladimir Putin.
Q: Is there a theme that ties your work together, even though your books are of different genres?
A: Yes, very much so. Together, these four books examine the collision between the expectations of the baby boomer generation and the primal forces of politics, religion and romance.
The question is: “Who betrayed whom?”
We are the children of the Greatest Generation, who saved the world from the darkness of fascism, and we were supposed to bring everyone to The Promised Land. We didn’t. How we squandered our inheritance links to the theme of betrayal in my books.
Q: Tell me about your protagonist in the Father Garza novels. Why will readers like him?
My hero, Father Gabriel Alphonso Esquivel Garza, is an Hispanic-Schwarzenegger-Rambo-renegade Catholic priest with a Zorro complex. He refuses to let “principles” keep him from doing what is right. He is merciless in the defense of children.
Q: The word ”betrayal” seems to come up a lot in your book titles. What’s going on?
A: Yes. I’m afraid that I’ve become slightly obsessed with betrayal in all of its manifestations. For example, here are just a few of the betrayals “on my watch” —in my lifetime— and in no particular order:
*CIA and Roman Catholic Church assistance to Nazis to escape arrest after World War II.
*The massive priestly child pedophilia in the Catholic Church.
*The false public relations construct of “Camelot” to cover perverse, risky sexual behavior by President Kennedy.
*Federal tax policies which have gifted massive subsidies to corporations who kept profits overseas and sent American jobs offshore by the millions. When I have problems with my CATV company, I end up talking to someone whom I can barely understand, in Costa Rica, the Philippines, or India.
*U.S. Army and CIA providing schools for foreign military and police in torture and terror techniques.
*The true power of the Mafia and organized crime.
*The War on Drugs which was really our U.S. drug companies vs. overseas drug cartels.
*The political refusal to provide basic rights to U.S. citizens: health care; safe communities; schools that work; jobs.
*The contemporary political domination of the NRA with the blasphemous use of the word “freedom” masquerading for “profit.”
*The refusal of Christian denominations to come together, as well as the need for The Reformation, Part II.
These are some of my rants. My challenge—to make them interesting through story telling. Lately, Dostoevsky has moved onto my writing radar screen. Like him, I refuse to accept ANY justification for children’s suffering. While my family and I adore our pet Maltipoo, named Ted. D. Bear, I object to the macro attention and billions spent on pets while near term fetuses are aborted and American children are homeless and hungry. A pet peeve, you might say.
Q: Why the pen name Ben Leiter?
Because City Management Snapshots: On the Run is all true and describes my previous profession in seven cities across the country, I had to change names to protect the guilty. I’ve heard the name Leiter is German for “leader,” so it fit for a city manager. Using a pen name provides me the psychological freedom to explore explosive and controversial themes without embarrassing my family.
Q: Can you describe some books that have had an impact on you?
A: As I noted in one of my medium.com articles, I’d rather have lunch—at the risk of being lunch—with Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs than with the female protagonist in Flynn’s Gone Girl. That wife-protagonist is like real world scary. She’s out there walking around, for sure.
In Exodus, I still remember the murder scene of Karen, Dov’s girlfriend. I was fourteen when I read it. The book made me militantly pro-Israeli. Another Leon Uris book, Trinity, provided insight into what we Irish call The Troubles—the colonization atrocities of the English. I’m part English, too, but the Irish always wins out—so much more colorful.
It was The Grapes of Wrath, which rocked my political world. Over the three days I took to read the book, at age eighteen, I morphed from a card carrying “Goldwaterite” to the opposite end of the political spectrum. Never politically looked back, either. And, decades after reading The Grapes of Wrath, I interviewed for County Administrator of the California jurisdiction the story takes place in. I tried very hard to hide any attitude.
I didn’t get the job.
Twenty-one years after reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which opens up at Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall, I was at the exact same spot on a cold, drizzly day, as a minor American official. A personal encounter there resulted in my helping a woman at The Wall get her three children back from the East German communists—those s.o.b.s. They had kidnapped her kids and put them up for adoption when the parents escaped to the West. It’s all in my memoir.
On the religious front, beside the Bible, the works of the Catholic theologian Hans Kung made the greatest impact. I’ve studied his work for over fifty years. Amazingly, he’s still a card-carrying Catholic, despite past Vatican efforts to eliminate his employment as an academic theologian, and numerous attempts to shut him up or to excommunicate him.
As I’m writing this, I now realize why the renegade priest-protagonist of two of my books, Father Gabriel Alphonso Esquivel Garza, is on THE WATCH LIST of powerful people. He has Kung-DNA. And, some bad player has moved Garza to THE HIT LIST.
Q: Daily writing schedule?
A: As soon as I can get out of bed, to the coffee pot, and to my writing office, I’m good for about two hours “in the zone.” “The zone” provides that psychological, all-consuming mind-set that takes you and your creativity to other places. I believe it’s a healthy dynamic like meditation, or praying, or demanding exercise.
I try to get in an additional two to four hours of a lesser writing intensity, or reading, or research, or marketing, during the rest of the day.
Q: Tell us a little more about yourself.
A: I’ve been a city manager in Maryland, Texas, Michigan and California. My career also took me overseas as an American government official to W. Germany, Poland, and Japan.
Another reason I write: it keeps the mind sharp. My family shows too much history of Alzheimer’s. Maybe writing will delay or forestall some of the mental ravages of old age.
Then there is the possibility that I might have something to say. Having been around for decades, perhaps I can say something memorable about this thing we all share called the human condition. If I can, then what becomes fascinating are all the ways there are to describe this common experience: short stories, poems, essays, novels.
Q: Any final reflection?
A: In my case, the most important contributor to writing was reading at an ear-ly age and continuing non-stop the rest of my life. I was that 10-year-old kid continuing to read under the sheets, after my father told me to turn the light off and go to sleep.
I’ll keep reading and writing until The Big Sleep.
Dan Hobbs’ books are available under his pen name Ben Leiter on Amazon and Kindle. For more about him and his writing, visit him at http://benleiter.com
Please feel free to leave comments here in response to Dan and his writing.
Onward into the new year,
Gorilla Girl Press
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