Finding Inspiration -
The inspiration for the Benjamin’s Field Trilogy grew from my background as a pilot and my long association with Shriners Hospitals for Children. Over the course of my flying career, I’ve owned several small aircraft. I kept two these - first a 1948 Taylorcraft BC12D and later a 1973 Beechcraft Sport - at Lakehill Airport, in Mars, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh.
Airfields don’t get much more basic than Lakehill; it’s simply a rough grass strip about 3000’ long and 75’ wide with two old Quonset hut-style hangars. There’s no fuel, no lights, and no instrument approaches. If you’re not home when the sun sets, you have to land somewhere else.
I based Benjamin’s field in the trilogy on Lakehill Airport.
Especially in the case of the fabric-covered Taylorcraft, which had no electrical system, hence no starter - I had to ‘hand prop’ the airplane to start it - it was very easy to imagine myself flying a century earlier when all airplanes were like the Taylorcraft, This is why the trilogy opens on the day President Wilson declared war on Germany.
During this time I was very active helping to publicize the services of Shriners Hospitals for Children. As time passed and my association with Lakehill Airport/Benjamin’s field and Shriners Hospitals deepened, an idea was born. That idea became the premise for Benjamin’s Field: What if a child born with a physical disability used his love of aviation to persevere and ultimately save himself from being marginalized by prejudice and intolerance? The years following WWI, were, after all, the “Golden Age of Aviation.” The setting was perfect. I lived with the idea for a book for 15 years during my working career. I knew the beginning and the end. I had to sit down and write the trilogy to find out what happened in between!
As Benjamin Franklin once said,
‘If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.’
In my case, that means writing something that has socially redeeming value. Something that can help the reader adapt, overcome, improve, or understand.
Authors write for different reasons, of course. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, once said that he doesn’t feel the need to write constantly, but only when an idea insists on getting out of his head and onto paper.
That’s the way I felt about Benjamin’s Field. The story was in my head begging to get out.
I didn’t write it merely for the sake of putting words on a computer screen. I certainly didn’t write it for the money! I wrote the story because I truly believed it has socially redeeming value. I wrote it because I think the themes and lessons presented in the story can be helpful to young people, especially those who may feel marginalized for whatever reason.
~ J.J. Knights
Book One: Rescue
Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.
Benjamin’s Field: Rescue’ has been awarded a five-star review by the literary site ‘Reader’s Favorite’ (readersfavorite.com).
Benjamin’s Field follows a rural farm family over the course of sixty years from the viewpoint of the youngest member, Jeremy Kyner. Beginning with America’s entry into World War I, Jeremy and his family are followed through war, peace, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, and final happiness as the reader examines the role of family loyalty versus individual need, personal liberty and how it relates to society’s demands, religious prejudice, racism, intolerance, the role of charity, and the overwhelming need for humans to forgive one another.
While still in manuscript form, Benjamin’s Field, Book One, Rescue, was advanced to the “Best Sellers Chart” of the peer review website YouWriteOn.com. In Book One, “Rescue,” a widowed farmer suffers an unspeakable loss during World War I. Burdened with grief, he learns from his nemesis, a dogmatic Catholic priest, that his son’s fiance has given birth to their crippled child. Unable to cope with the child’s deformity and confounded by his illegitimate birth, the farmer is battered by those closest to him with accusations of cruelty and intolerance until he finally reveals his true feelings and the reasons underlying his apparent bigotry. Set in a historical context, Benjamin’s Field is a compelling story about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving tale will take the reader on an emotional and sometimes humorous journey.”
Book Two: Ascent
In Book Two, “Ascent,” Jeremy Kyner, now a teenaged boy, becomes the focus of his teacher’s animosity because of his infirmity. With the help of two dedicated school friends and an unconventional Jewish blacksmith, he takes to the sky, defeating his teacher’s plans to institutionalize him and forcing her to divulge her own, dark, secret.
Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving story will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.
Book Three: Emancipation
Book Three, “Emancipation,” opens as America is on the cusp of World War II. Jeremy Kyner, now a man, is barred from military service at a time when America is almost defenseless against marauding German submarines. Finally joining a group of volunteer civilian pilots that represents the country’s best hope to counter the Germans, Jeremy confronts a deadly enemy from an unexpected quarter and is offered a chance of achieving final emancipation. Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving novel will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.
J.J. Knights is a retired FBI Special Agent. His assignments included violent crimes and fugitives, property crimes, civil rights investigations, and foreign counterintelligence. He was a surveillance pilot, SWAT sniper, media representative, and worked in the FBI's technical investigations program. Knights also volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol pilot, squadron commander and public information officer. He is an emeritus member of the Imperial Public Relations Committee of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children. A native of New England, Knights resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with his wife and honeybees. He has authored several published articles on law enforcement recruiting. Benjamin's Field is his first novel.
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