Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  James W. Bennett  

Pen Name: James Bennett

Genre: Fiction

Born: 1942 in Piatt County, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Bennett lived in Canton, Monticello and Bloomington, Illinois as a child. He graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois with his BA and Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois with a MA. He once taught at Black Hawk Jr. College in Moline, Illinois and he currently resides in Normal, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

James W. Bennett is the author of a number of uncompromising, challenging novels for teens. The books have earned him recognition as one of the nation's leading nevelists for young adults. Bennett's fiction, often revolving around sports themes, has been used successfully as a curriculum choice in schools. Bennett has worked as a teacher of creative writing at a community college until 1976 and as an aide to high school-aged mentally handicapped students in Bloomington, Illinois, 1983-95. He was a writer-in-residence for Illinois secondary schools. His book ''The Squared Circle'' is considered by many to be the finest basketball novel ever written.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

A quiet desperation

T. Nelson. 1983

I Can Hear the Mourning Dove (Point Signature)
ISBN: 0785702423

Econo-Clad Books. 1997

Dakota dream

Associated Services for the Blind. 1997

The Squared Circle
ISBN: 0590486721

Scholastic Paperbacks. 2002

Sonny, a university freshman and star basketball player, finds that the pressures of college life, NCAA competition, and an unsettling relationship with his feminist cousin bring up painful memories that he must face before he can decide what is important in his life. Reprint.

The Flex of the Thumb
ISBN: 0965103080

Pin Oak Pr. 1996

Novel for young adults by award winning author

Blue Star Rapture
ISBN: 0689841507

Simon Pulse. 2001

T.J. Nucci may not be the best player at basketball camp, but he knows how to work the system. He even knows how to handle his buddy Tyron, who's got talent but not brains. If T.J. can help the college recruiters who want a piece of Tyron, the recruiters will help T.J. -- it's only fair, right? But not all the people T.J. encounters that summer are what they seem to be. Street agents, scouts, coaches, and players: everyone's selling something different. Then T.J. meets LuAnn, a troubled girl from the bible camp across the river. She says she's been saved, but her smiles mask a desperation that leads to tragedy. Suddenly T.J.'s not so sure of his own choices anymore. What's it all about? Can T.J. learn to play the power game and come out on top...or is he just another pawn?

Plunking Reggie Jackson
ISBN: 0689831374

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 2001

While pursuing his dream of becoming a professional baseball player like his late brother, Coley suddenly suffers an injury that greatly affects his game, thus when his grades begins to drop and he discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant, Coley makes the decision to leave town in an attempt to figure out his now uncertain future.

Old Hoss: A Fictional Baseball Biography of Charles Radbourn
ISBN: 0786413212

McFarland Publishing. 2002

Charles Radbourn won 59 games in 1884, enjoying a season that was, like his life off the field, the stuff of legend. Though he would never again approach that number, still in 11 years he racked up over 300 wins and 4500 innings, mind-blowing numbers that lend his career the air of legend. And yet the facts of his playing seem more credible than the stories of his lifestyle, which included alcohol abuse, womanizing, wild brawling, and, late, the ravages of syphilis. Even his plaque at Cooperstown presents us with an image at least part caricature—cap set forward, mouth open, mustache pricked up at the ends, thick as his nose is long, nearly. Not Charles, but Ol’ Hoss.

This is the account of one writer’s attempt to discover Old Hoss Radbourn, as we must, after the fact. It is May 1941, and John Trapp is bound for Bloomington, Illinois, to cover for the Chicago Tribune ceremonies honoring the living Clark Griffith and the late Radbourn. On the train, Trapp meets Griffith, who piques his interest in the great pitcher. Trapp pieces together the outrageous story of the 1884 campaign, and eventually crafts the first biography to anchor the details of the Hall of Famer’s life in fact.

Faith Wish
ISBN: 0823417786

Holiday House. 2003

Upset with the course her life has taken, pretty and popular senior Anne-Marie is drawn to the leader of a cult-like Christian group, becomes pregnant, and runs away to figure out what the Lord wants her to do with her life.

Harvey Porter Does Dallas
ISBN: 1413716539

PublishAmerica. 2004

Harvey Porter is a Dallas street thug headed nowhere until he gets enrolled in the Special Alternative School, housed in the renovated Texas School Book Depository building. Harvey has never known who his parents were, and in fact isn’t even sure what his name is. In the alternative school he makes two close friends who help him along the maze of his quest to learn the identity of his parents and grandparents. The chain of adventures moves him into the legacy of Lee Harvey Oswald, several Cherokee, eBay online auctions and even the Barrow gang. This is a satire/parody which delivers plenty of humor and laughter.

How the Bible was Built
ISBN: 0802829430

Eerdmans. 2005

The Bible continues to be the world’s runaway best-seller. But very few people could say just how its seemingly disparate jumble of writings — stories, letters, poems, collections of laws, religious visions — got there. Filling this knowledge gap, How the Bible Was Built clearly tells the story of how the Bible came to be. Penned by Charles Merrill Smith in response to his teenage granddaughter’s questions, the manuscript was discovered after Smith’s death and has been reworked by his friend James Bennett for a wider audience. Free of theological or sectarian slant, this little volume provides a concise, factual overview of the Bible’s construction throughout history, outlining how its various books were written and collected and later canonized and translated. Written in an easy conversational style and enhanced by two helpful appendixes (of biblical terms and dates), How the Bible Was Built will give a more informed understanding of the Bible to people of virtually any reading level and any religious persuasion.

Did you know?
  • The word “Bible” comes from biblion, a Greek word meaning “papyrus scroll.”
  • It took several thousand years to construct the Bible.
  • The book we call Deuteronomy was discovered hidden away in a dark corner during the reconstruction of the temple under King Josiah.
  • The Apocrypha contains some of the earliest “detective” stories on record.
  • Church councils had many disagreements about which books ought to be authoritative (a book called the Shepherd of Hermas almost made the cut the book of Revelation almost didn’t).
  • A heretic helped form the canon.
  • Debate over the canon didn’t really end until the Protestant Reformation and the use of the printing press.


  • "1995's Finest YA Novel" citation, Voice of Youth Advocates, 1996, for
  • The Squared Circle

  • James was honored at the 2004 Illinois Authors Book Fair sponsored by the Illinois Center for the Book and the Illinois State Library in Springfield, Illinois.

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability: Yes, contact publisher:

    c/o Author Mail

    Holiday House

    425 Madison Avenue

    New York, NY, 10017