While thumbing through a Sports Illustrated calendar in a Barnes & Noble bookstore several years ago, former Juneau resident Tony Bender was inspired by one of the models to write a book.
"I just kind of was going through the calendar and as I recall, Ms. June was particularly fetching and I just thought to myself 'she is heads above everyone else in this calendar,' and that was the seed of the idea," he said.
That seed has blossomed into "If Every Month Were June," a fast-paced novel about small-town protagonist Hooter Pridley's infatuation with knockout calendar girl Trixie Foxalot and his "comedic quest for true love." Fulcrum Publishing released the book in May.
Pridley's adventure takes him from working at Wangdoodle Auto & Truck Parts in small-town Sterling, Colo., to weaseling his way into a vacancy at a top Los Angeles psychology practice in his pursuit of a woman he first saw in an auto parts calendar. Along his adventure he encounters ganja smoking Rastafarians, a conniving wart-faced prostitute, a down-on-his-luck rock legend and many other colorful characters.
Bender, who worked as a disc jockey in Juneau in the late 1980s, said the small community where he lives in Ashley, N.D., has been speculating on the similarities between Pridley and himself.
"I think the local sport right now is trying to look at the book and analyze it and figure out how many of those things I really did," he said. "Although you always draw from real life, it's a farce. It's a fantasy."
In the book, Pridley often relies on his grandfather's sage advice that he parlays into his successful, short-lived career as a psychologist. Bender said that advice - like "folks who own a lot of things eventually find that the things start owning them" - does not come from any particular person.
"Some of that is just poking fun at psychology in general," he said. "It seems to me that a lot of life is common sense and it's pretty simple if we break it down. Sometimes we make it too complicated."
Bender also takes comedic punches at other aspects of contemporary American culture throughout the book.
"I killed a lot of sacred cows in this book, I would say. A whole herd of them - dead, lying on their backs, feet extended, bloated," he said.
And while the book points out many absurdities of life, the core of the story is about what it means to love someone, Bender said.
"Even in comedies you can find some meaning and some heart, and I think that is what has made this story so attractive to so many people," he said.
The story attracted the interest of Hollywood and may be turned into a major motion picture. Bender sold the entertainment rights to Two Horns Entertainment Group and is working on adapting the book into a screenplay.
"As I'm rewriting it and turning it into a visual art form, you have some opportunities to have some fun," he said. "But I'm trying to stay very true to the book, true to the story."
Bender equated the experience to redoing a shot in a golf game.
"The really fun thing about writing this screenplay is it's almost like a mulligan," he said. "You don't like the way that first shot laid, man, now I have a chance to change and add a few things."
In addition to writing "If Every Month Were June," Bender has written two unpublished novels and released three collections of his popular weekly syndicated columns that appear in newspapers in the Dakotas. In 2002 and 2003, he earned first-place awards for humor writing from the National Newspaper Association. He also won the first-ever North Dakota Newspaper Association First Amendment Award in 2000.
Bender said the quest he has been on with "If Every Month Were June" has been a magical experience, like a baseball team that goes from worst to first to winning the pennant.
"There's been a sense of destiny and a sense of magic that has really been around this book since I started writing it," he said. "There was just always an energy around it. That has continued."
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.