Please help me welcome Robert Bennett to It’s Not All Gravy.
In 1988 I was working as a social worker in a group home for mentally challenged men in the Bronx, NY. It was my first job out of grad school and I really enjoyed it. I was making decent money. My boss liked me and thought I was doing a good job. My guys and I had a great relationship. Most importantly, I felt like I was making a real difference in their lives. I was helping them learn daily living skills. I was helping them to get an education. For someone who’d always wanted to improve the lives of the disenfranchised masses of our society this was the perfect job. But, in July, it all came crashing down.
Despite what you may have heard, car accidents are no fun. In fact mine was the least fun thirty seconds I’d ever spent in my life. Yup, that’s all it took to change my life completely…one half of a minute.
I was coming home from a girlfriend’s home in Pennsylvania, driving on a highway I’d driven on a couple of dozen times, when I heard tires screeching behind me. I remember looking in the rearview mirror and seeing a car stopped on the road to the left of me. A few seconds later a vehicle crashed into me from behind. My metal chariot spun around and boom, I was hit again. This second attack pushed me against the guard rail facing oncoming traffic. Fortunately the guy who hit me, not the one who caused the accident (he was long gone and probably oblivious to what he’d caused), was an off-duty EMT driver. He orchestrated everything post-accident. The hospital released me after a cursory exam, and I went home to bed.
Skip ahead a few months, during which time I’d left my job, lost my girlfriend, and had several surgeries on my spine. I had no idea what the rest of my life would be like. One night my mother brought home a notice for classes at a place called The New York Studio for Writers. I made a phone call.
Since then I’ve written magazine articles about what I call “issues of disability,” everything from sports to politics. I write about people who challenge societal views of what we commonly, and mistakenly, call ‘disabilities’ and ‘handicaps.’ I write about technology that helps people with disabilities lead better, easier, more productive lives. I write about social and physical barriers, and how to circumnavigate them.
One of my articles for a magazine called Virtual Reality Special Report, was about a device that combined GPS and virtual reality technologies to allow blind people to navigate through their world. That sparked my creative interests like no other topic previously had. What, I wondered, would happen if that device malfunctioned so that the user would not “see” the world immediately around him but, instead, would throw him off by a few blocks? What would happen if what he “saw” was a murder taking place? How would he deal with this information? How would the police react if he decided to inform them? You’re blind, they’d say. How can you see anything? You were a few blocks away from this alleged incident, they’d continue. How could you know anything about it?
Welcome to the travails of Douglas Abledan and his adventures in my Blind Traveler mystery series. This was the setup for my first novel, Blind Traveler Down a Dark River (pub’d 2004). Book two, Blind Traveler’s Blues, was just accepted as an ebook to be published by Echelon Press.
And that is how a social worker can become a writer of mystery fiction. Sometimes accidents happen for a reason!