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Jerry Davich: Bullies from youth provide fodder for book

Daniel Kamen penned new book 'Stagecoach Road: The Bullies Must Die' regarding Stagecoach Road intersectiMiller Portage.  | Provided Photo~Sun-Times

Daniel Kamen penned a new book, "Stagecoach Road: The Bullies Must Die," regarding Stagecoach Road at the intersection of Miller and Portage. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:07AM



On May 28, 1992, the Post-Tribune’s front-page headline screamed, “MURDER SUSPECT SHOT, FRIEND FOUND IN TRUNK.”

Not in reality, but in a hot-off-the-press suspense novel titled “Stagecoach Road: The Bullies Must Die” (CCB Publishing) penned by Gary native and fellow Wirt High School graduate Daniel Kamen. How new is Kamen’s book? I received the first copy, even before his wife knew about the book project.

For anyone growing up in the Miller section of Gary, or in Portage for that matter, Stagecoach Road has a mythical, if not mystical legacy. Rumors of late-night haunting, teenage mayhem and romantic interludes, among other things.

The long, winding, and desolate road, which connects U.S. 12 and County Line Road, has an even longer history of alcohol-induced tales – some factual, others fictional, like Kamen’s 303-page novel.

Its premise: In 1973, Wirt High School student Benjamin Weinstein is savagely beaten by four bullies on Stagecoach Road after a graduation party. These were the same four bullies who tormented Benny all through school.

In 1992, Benny is a successful chiropractor (just like the book’s author) living in Hammond, and one morning while jogging he accidentally finds out one of his attackers is living the good life not far from Stagecoach Road. This incites Benny into a rage.

He decides to hunt down his other three assailants with the plan of capturing all four of them, one at a time, and bringing each one back to Stagecoach Road so he can torture and kill them. But Benny has to balance a double life — one as a cheerful chiropractor and devoted family man, and the other as a maniacal killer.

It’s adult reading for sure, with a lot of profanity and at least one graphic sexual scene, but Kamen said it’s based on semi-autobiographical scenes from his youth.

“I had milder encounters with bullies myself while going to Wirt, but not to the same extent as the main character, Benny,” said Kamen, who now lives in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

“The incident where Benny was nearly beaten or murdered (by bullies) while walking home from his piano lesson actually did happen to me,” he said. “In real life, back in 1971, I ran up the sand dunes and eluded them by burying myself in a pile of leaves. It was almost dark, which is what saved me.”

In another bullying incident, a 14-year-old Kamen was driven to Stagecoach Road after a chess club meeting and was threatened to cough up money. Bullies also pelted Kamen with rocks while he and a friend paddled a small boat under the Marquette Park Lagoon bridge, near Lake Street.

“My contempt for bullies in general prompted the idea for the book,” he noted. “It boils down to the frustration of not taking action at the time, which anyone who was ever bullied would tell you.”

“You can’t fight back at age 40 for things that happened to you when you were 15. You learn too late that if you stick up for yourself just once, the bullying is over. That’s the best lesson I could teach young people. Fight back early. It will save a lot of grief later.”

Kamen began writing the book five years ago while traveling the country to conduct horse chiropractic seminars. He completed it in his basement late at night, “to set the mood.”

“My wife still has no idea why I was down in the basement all those nights until 3 a.m.,” he told me. “I think she thought I was watching ‘Andy Griffith’ reruns on Netflix.”

He chose Stagecoach Road as the book’s focal point for obvious reasons, including his own personal experiences.

“I heard other people’s horror stories, true or not, that they had on Stagecoach Road. It is a creepy place,” he said.

I returned there on a recent night to discover it’s still creepy. But, after more than 30 years from driving that entire road, it didn’t offer the same sense of fright, intrigue or excitement from my youth. Maybe such feelings are best locked in our mental time capsules.

Regarding the road’s “make-out point” reputation for teenage sex, passion and romance, Kamen wouldn’t know, at least not firsthand.

“The closest I ever had to a romantic interlude on Stagecoach Road was that time in 1972 when I was 16 and I got stranded alone during the night after my car broke down,” he recalled. “I was so scared I almost wet my pants.”

To purchase Kamen’s book or for more info, visit www.stagecoachroad.net or amazon.com, email info@stagecoachroad.net, or call (708) 744-6325.

‘What’s wrong with America?’

Sadly, Stephen Skvara died on Feb. 19 and I want not only to note his death but also his life and his tireless efforts for the “little guy” in Northwest Indiana and beyond.

In 2007, I wrote a column about Skvara after he found himself in the national spotlight with his then-famous “What’s wrong with America?” query at the Democratic presidential debate in Chicago that year.

For many years, the LTV Steel retiree and outspoken union official from, appropriately enough, Union Township, had been a vocal activist and visible street soldier for better health care, especially for local seniors and retirees.

“He’s written letters to the editors of local newspapers. He’s attended countless rallies. And he’s revealed his personal situation to illustrate his points,” I wrote.

“It’s not that I knew Skvara’s familiar face and his all-too-familiar refrain before they flashed across my TV screen and the country’s collective consciousness. It’s that I knew Skvara was the ideal person — the perfect person — to represent this region and its blue-collar, lunch-bucket constituents, so many who have walked in his bootsteps.”

“Skvara was simply the right person to ask the right question at the right time.”

His voice for the voiceless of this region will surely be missed.

Listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show each Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.



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