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Local author reveals the hidden ‘Jerks in Connecticut History’

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

jerks

CORYN WASSIK/The Daily Campus

Author Dan Bendici speaks about his new book, ‘Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History,’ Tuesday afternoon at the UConn Co-op. ‘Speaking Ill’ is about historical figures in Connecticut famous for less than honorable reasons, including Benedict Arnold and William Stuart.

 

Dan Bendici stopped by the Co-op yesterday to talk about his book, “Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History.”

Bendici, associate editor at Connecticut Magazine and the driving force behind DamnedCT.com, is no stranger to the state his novel is about.

The author lives in Shelton, but has spent time roaming all of Connecticut doing research for “Speaking Ill.”

“It took me about a year to do all the research for the book,” Bendici said. “I tried to go to the sources for a lot of stuff, too. I didn’t want it to be a collection that just regurgitates information from other biographies.”

From that research came “Speaking Ill,” a collection of fifteen different stories of Connecticut historical figures that were less than ideal. 

“We all enjoy bad boys and bad behavior. Think of the show ‘Cops.’ No one watches it for the cops,” Bendici reasoned. “We’re interested in the bad guys – the jerks.”

Bendici admits that he was apprehensive about touring with the book, saying, “I wasn’t sure how this whole thing would be taken. You know, calling people jerks isn’t usually well received.”

However, he’s been relatively successful in his travels so far. “Only one bookstore in Connecticut told me they ‘didn’t think I would be a good fit,’” he laughed.

As for his readership, Bendici joked, “I did get a fan letter… from someone in a correctional facility in North Carolina.”

Regardless, the book is a well-researched look into Connecticut jerk history.

One of the first “jerks” Bendici mentioned was Benedict Arnold, who he referred to as “one of America’s greatest traitors.” Arnold was born in Norwich, CT and lived in New Haven for some time.

Another inclusion was Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum, of whom Bendici said, “Barnum completely embraced his jerkiness. He felt it was okay to tell a lie as long as entertainment was the ultimate result.”

Other historical figures include Reverend Samuel Peters, who wrote the Connecticut Blue Laws, George Mateski, the New York Bomber born in Waterbury and Lydia Sherman, Connecticut’s own “Black Widow.”

Of course, Bendici also included his favorite Connecticut jerk, William Stuart.

“He wrote his own autobiography, “William Stuart: The First and Most Celebrated Counterfeiter of Connecticut, As Given by Himself.” He was very modest,” Bendici joked.

He added, “If he did one tenth of the stuff in this thing, he’s a terrific jerk.”

Bendici enjoyed researching Stuart so much that he hopes to soon write a screenplay out of his autobiography. 

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