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review 2016-12-26 00:00
Patriarch Run
Patriarch Run - Benjamin Dancer Patriarch Run - Benjamin Dancer I had trouble getting into Patriarch Run. I've never been a big fan of flashbacks and time-shifts. Having them happen right at a beginning of a novel is definitely off-putting, and I struggled to keep up the interest to push through it. The book probably would have earned a higher rating if it wasn't for the off-putting first quarter.

Patriarch Run is definitely a book to read when you're in the mood for a thriller. It's got a little bit of everything in it. And if the EMP scenario appeals to you, you'll find something here for you too. Billy is a character that I felt for, which surprised me considering I didn't necessarily like him.

It is a book where people have to make hard choices, and there's not always a clear line between right and wrong. Nor is there necessarily a clear line between sanity and insanity.

It's definitely an interesting read, and with some tweaking, I probably would have loved it. As it is, it just fell a little bit short of entertaining me as much as it could have.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author for review consideration.

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text 2015-01-17 01:39
Radio Interview

I just had a wonderful interview at It Matters Radio. You can listen to it at the link below. Ken is a gifted host. I really enjoyed myself on the show.




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text 2014-08-10 19:56
Washington Bombing–Deleted Scene

I always liked this scene–maybe because it was the first scene I wrote for PATRIARCH RUN. Because the scene birthed the rest of the story, it's special to me. But it didn't make the final cut.


Washington, D.C., Last Week


When he came to, he shut his eyes to alleviate the nausea.


The silence was ruptured by a horn blast.


Jack opened his eyes and saw the white, fluted columns of a courthouse. Pedestrians on the sidewalk.


His head was ponderous and difficult to turn.


A man in a black suit–a briefcase in his lap–was sitting beside him. The vehicle they were in was at a stoplight in heavy traffic. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. It felt swollen and chalky, as if he had ingested a narcotic. He sucked his teeth but could not swallow.


The mass of people huddled at the street corner began to cross the intersection. A pale-skinned man in a leather coat stayed behind. They made eye contact. 


The left side of Jack’s head pulsed so violently from the drug the vision in that eye went white.


The SUV accelerated. Jack noticed the driver for the first time, the Ford Oval on the steering wheel. Then he bent forward and vomited between his knees. The man beside him in the backseat didn’t respond.


His attention was drawn through the crowd at the next intersection to a man talking on a black phone.


He tried to press his palm against the side of his head, but couldn’t.


A white van slowed to a stop beside him. The driver of the van had the same black phone against his ear. Beads of sweat dripped from the driver’s nose; his jaw muscles were knotted.


Jack leaned forward to get a better look. But the van’s door was now open, the driver gone.


Compelled by decades of training, he shouted, “Bomb.” The warning resonated with an unemotional authority he did not anticipate or comprehend.


The Ford he was in jumped forward, accelerating at full throttle into the heavy cross traffic. Tires screeched in the intersection. A white Civic swerved. He heard metal smashing metal. The Ford kept accelerating and punched the rear quarter panel of a blue Camry, pushed through the lanes and T-boned a silver Tahoe.


He was coughing and tried to sit up–but couldn’t. He couldn’t move his arms. Hit his head on the steering wheel and lay his cheek on the leather-trimmed door panel, in too much pain to curse.


He kept his eyes shut to stop the skewer of light from plunging into his brain.


Bursts of automatic rifle fire punctuated the wailing and screams of terror.


He allowed his right eye to squint–saw jagged glass in a window frame. He closed the eye. Slowly turned his head. Opened the eye again and saw black asphalt and shattered glass beneath him.


The Ford was on its side. 


He put one knee on the asphalt, pressed his back against the roof and stooped, his feet in the broken-out window.


His hands were bound behind his back.


Eight rapid, semi-automatic pistol shots fired from close by were followed by the clinking of a steel magazine against the pavement. He heard the familiar snap of supersonic projectiles passing close to his head and saw in the roof three newly created pinholes of light.


He dropped, curled up on the broken glass–still coughing. 


He couldn’t recall how it was he came to be in the vehicle. He didn’t know where the two men in suits had gone.


When the automatic rifle fire ceased, he kicked out what remained of the windshield.


He remembered the briefcase and squeezed into the backseat. The pistol shots were slower and more controlled than before. The combination briefcase was lying on the door. He used the sides of his feet to stand it upright between his ankles, dug his elbow into the leather-trimmed seat for balance, squatted–his hands behind his back–and picked it up.


He threw himself into the front seat and stepped out the windshield.


Civilians were calling for help. Others were crouching. A man prone on the asphalt, his hands shielding his head. From every direction came howls of pain. The air was black with smoke. Vehicles on fire.


He found the driver of the Ford Expedition–bullet holes in his face, neck and chest. Gray ashes speckled his cheek and black suit.


The Camry was upside down, on top of another sedan. The windows shattered, paint blackened, three of its tires ablaze like torches over the carnage.


A man thrashed his arms: his hair, back and sleeves on fire. A teenage girl ran out from behind the barricade of an overturned Prius, knocked the burning man down and beat the flames with her cotton trench coat. Another rifle burst drove her to her belly. She lay on him, smothering the flames.


He heard sirens. Everyone was coughing.


By the time he located the source of the rifle fire through the black plumes of soot and smoke, the rifleman was dead, splayed over the yellow hood of a Dodge Charger.


It was the man he saw on the phone at the intersection.


He searched for the suit who was beside him in the Expedition. An old woman, face covered in blood, sat rocking on the curb, hugging her chest. Gray ash fell from the smoke. Another man crawled toward the sidewalk, coughing, dragging his right arm–a splintered, white bone protruding from his pant leg.


He stepped forward to help the man then remembered the handcuffs on his wrists and looked around.


The keys, he was certain, were in the locked briefcase he was holding behind his back.


A fire truck, sounding its air horn, pressed through the clogged street.


Then he found him–the man from the backseat–laying prone in a pool of blood beside the burning Tahoe, a Colt Commander in his hand. By the position of the slide, he knew there was another round in the chamber. The pistol’s thumb safety was off, the hammer cocked, the man’s right hand was wrapped around the grip, his index finger still on the trigger.


He set the briefcase in the street and sat in a pool of the man’s blood. The blood was hot and soaked through his cotton pants. He eased the Colt out of the man’s hand. Stood, brought the weapon to his left side–where he could see the muzzle–held his breath to suppress the coughing and shot the brass lock on the briefcase.


Then he sat down–his back to the briefcase–opened the latch, twisted his neck to look inside and squeezed his eyes against a pulse of white pain.


The key hung against the interior wall.


The man in the black suit was moaning. He rolled him over, unbuttoned the suit jacket, seized the bloody, silk shirt in both fists and pulled the shirt apart. Buttons sprung from their threads. The man was going to die. He pressed his bare hands against the wounds.


The man coughed.


Blood misted his face. Sirens. Howls filled the street. The inconsolable wail of a mother. He wiped the man’s blood from his eyes, tore strips of silk from the shirt, wadded the fabric and plugged the holes in the man’s chest. 


But the life–no matter how hard he pressed–welled up through his fingers.


The cries for help grew more insistent with the arrival of the first emergency crews.


The man in the suit was dead for minutes before he took his hands off his chest. He felt confused, stood and pushed a sticky palm into his temple.


Barely visible through the sooty smoke, a uniformed officer, his weapon drawn, was making his way toward the Expedition.


It was time to leave.


He pressed the magazine release, counted the two remaining .45 ACP cartridges, a third in the chamber. Four spent stainless-steel magazines lay in the blood. He slammed the nearly empty magazine home, put the Colt in his waistband, searched the dead man for spare magazines, for identification. Found nothing. 


He staggered away from the approaching officer, past the yellow Charger. The OGA had a red hole above his ear. An M4 carbine lay at his feet.


The dizziness nearly overwhelmed him. 


Whoever the man in the black suit was, he had known what he was doing. Laying prone in a pool of his own blood, he shot through the Charger’s rear driver’s-side window. The bullet passed through the cabin, exited through the roof–near the passenger-side windshield pillar–and struck the rifleman in the head: a target not in the shooter’s field of vision.


He staggered past the burning vehicles in which sat corpses–charred arms and grimacing faces–past emergency crews delivering aid to the shocked and bleeding, past ambulances and fire trucks, past approaching patrol cars and turned down the first street he came to.


Check out what people are saying about PATRIARCH RUN!

Source: www.benjamindancer.com/Blog/2014/08/09/washington-bombing
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text 2014-08-05 01:47
150 Yard Shot With A Handgun?

Colt_Python_Double_Action_RevolverA 150 yard shot with a handgun would be a remarkable accomplishment. So much so that one would be justified to be skeptical about such claims.


There's a scene in Patriarch Run in which the sheriff unloads a few cylinders from his Colt Python service revolver into a paper plate at 150 yards.


I thought it'd be worthwhile to describe how it is I came to write such a scene. Many, many moons ago I was reading "Hitting At 200 Yards With A Handgun", an article written by a couple handloaders, Dan Keisey and Bill McConnell, and posted in the Tech Notes at Beartoothbullets.com.


The quick summary of their achievement is that Dan shoots a 5.25" five-shot group at 200 yards, a 3.62" five-shot group at 150 yards and a 1.97" three-shot group at 100 yards. Dan's revolver was topped with a 2.5X8 Leopold scope. That type of shooting is extraordinary. However, Bill took a more difficult path. He used iron sights to shoot an 8" group at 200 yards and a 3.5" group at 100 yards.  Details about the loads and guns they used are available in their article.


I should point out a couple key differences between the article and my story. First, both shooters in the article used the .44 Magnum cartridge; whereas, the sheriff in my story uses the .357 Magnum cartridge. In terms of accuracy, the difference in cartridges is not very significant. Both cartridges are very accurate, especially when handloaded. Furthermore, the shooters in the article used longer barrels than the sheriff, which aids in accuracy. That being said, Bill states that the long-range groups from his 5.5" barrel were just as good as the groups from his 7.5" barrel, "With practice though the group fell into roughly the same size as with the longer barrel."


What's remarkable is that with a 5.5" barrel and iron sights, Bill was able to shoot 8" groups at 200 yards and 3.5" groups at 100 yards.


452997bBill's accomplishment inspired the scene in my story in which the sheriff uses a 4" Colt Python (a revolver renowned for its accuracy) to shoot a paper plate, which would be about 9" in diameter, at 150 yards.  An easier task, in my estimation, than what Bill was able to accomplish.


The scene serves, among other things, to establish the sheriff as an authority with his firearm.


Here's the Scene:


Billy, at ten years old, wanted to shoot that Winchester 1894 more than he wanted anything else in the world. He set five cans on five fence posts a full hour before the sheriff was due back. Paced off fifty yards, marked the spot with a line drawn by his boot heel and waited on the porch for the rest of the afternoon, until the sheriff’s car finally came up the drive.


“I take it you want to show me some shootin’.” 


Billy loaded five cartridges into the magazine of the .22. “You reckon that’s fifty yards?”

The sheriff thought it was closer to sixty. “Looks like it to me.”


Billy shouldered the rifle and shot the first can off the fence. He levered in another round and did it four more times.


The sheriff put his hand on Billy’s shoulder. “I’d say that settles it.”


The next day he brought him a thousand .30-30 handloads. “This is a starter load. Shoot four cans out of five at seventy-five yards and I’ll heat it up a little.”


A month later, Billy shot another five cans off the fence.


“You think you’re ready for squirrels?”


“If you think so.”


The sheriff gave him a box of another thousand handloads. “This is a good load for squirrels. Just keep it away from the house. And it’s probably best not to talk about it with your mother.”




“And you leave an Abert’s squirrel alone. He has a right to do as he pleases. Shoot the fox squirrels.”


They walked together behind the house.


“You’ll find, as you get older, people aren’t all that different than squirrels. There are those who sustain their habitat and those whose sole purpose is to destroy it.”


Billy had no idea what the sheriff meant by that, but he remembered the words.

By the time the boy harvested his first mule deer, he was shooting paper plates at a hundred and fifty yards with iron sights. The sheriff would watch his trigger pull, his jaw muscles, his eye lids.


“That’s it. Nice and smooth.”


Billy’d hit the plate with every round in the magazine. And the sheriff would pat him on the shoulder and say it again, “That’s the evidence of a disciplined mind.” Then he’d draw his service revolver, take Billy’s place on the bench and empty a few cylinders into the same paper plate.

Source: www.benjamindancer.com/Blog/2014/08/01/150-yard-shot-handgun
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text 2014-07-17 02:34
Too Many People

Inferno-coverA friend just informed me that Dan Brown borrowed my idea for a story then published his a year before me. I guess I'll forgive him and however many million books he's sold.


For the record, though, I finished the first draft of PATRIARCH RUN in 2010.


Truth be told, the two stories have very little in common. Where they do intersect is at the premise that we are approaching an avoidable apocalypse.


There are simply too many people.


That fact must be the most underrated crisis of our time. I can't think of an environmental dilemma that is not a symptom of that simple truth.


Let's take a quick look at the math. It is estimated that the human population is growing at a relatively low rate: 1.14% per year. But as long as the population is growing, it doesn't matter how low the rate is. The math tells us that a growing population will eventually double.


At the current growth rate, that will take about 61 years.


That's not a liberal statement. It's not a conservative statement. It's a statement of fact.

Is there anyone who believes that 14 billion is a good number of people to have? What would it take to feed that many people?


Some might argue that through technology it will eventually become possible to feed 14 billion people, but I've yet to hear someone lead the cheer for that size of population.

Today there are about 1 million new people added to the ecosystem every five days. What would be the consequence of 14 billion people to the non-human members of that ecosystem?


It’s true that the growth rate of the human population is declining in some parts of Europe. Some people cite that fact as a dismissal of the overall problem. But it’s the overall problem that we have to face. In other words, it’s the planet-wide growth rate that matters–not a localized subset.


Right now, the planet-wide growth rate of the human population is pretty low: 1.14%. And that, by any scientific measure, is a crisis for just about every species on the planet, including our own.


There are plenty of good scientific studies that discuss the consequences of the growing human population on the ecosystem and how that unfolding catastrophe will eventually wind its way back to us. So I won't dive into those details.


350px-Population_curve.svgI'd like to get into this mind bender instead. The human population in 1900 was about 1.6 billion. In 2000 it was about 6 billion. And at the rate we're growing right now, it'll be 14 billion in 2075.


I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that. What get's me is that the growth rates were low during the last century. The growth rate peaked in the 1960s at 2.2%.


Although the recent rates of growth seem low, they took us from 1.6 to 7 billion people quite quickly.


The takeaway for me is that a growing population always doubles. And that doubling happens a lot faster than people think.


One of my characters takes this math to heart, and his actions are extreme enough to warrant a story.


Source: www.benjamindancer.com/Blog/2014/07/17/many-people
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