“Shorn: Toys to Men”
by Dennis Milam Bensie
published 2010
by Coffeetown Press
265 pgs.

Here in Robinson, Illinois we are hometown to two fairly well known authors, James Jones (“From Here to Eternity” et. al.) and Jennifer Rardin (th Jaz Parks series of urban fantasy books) and now Dennis Milam Bensie.  This time however Dennis does not paint a dreamy small town atmosphere.  With his experiences Robinson, which is probably not unlike many other small towns, seems like a place where the different are not welcome and your babysitter may hurt you.

In his memoirs, “Shorn…” Dennis is brutally honest as he exposes his deepest darkest secrets to reveal his true self.  There are times in the book that you can’t decide whether he is going to turn out to be a serial killer or just a very confused individual.  “Shorn” takes you through Dennis’ life as he reveals disturbing influences on his life that leads to developing a mental disorder that causes him to be aroused by cutting men’s hair.  This arousal leads him through many dangerous turns in life from luring a man into his home and whacking him with a frying pan to cruising the streets finding street hustlers that will allow him to pay them to shave their heads.

I believe that it is Murphy’s Law that states, “If something can go wrong, it will.”  That seems to carry through to Dennis’ life as he’s growing up in small town, USA.  As he  grows up he writes that he never felt like he belonged and it seemed he was right.  His father was a typical blue collar, former military man that did not want his son growing up “to be a sissy.”  Dennis liked to play with dolls and wanted to grow his hair long.  His dad would have none of that, if Dennis would act up the threat of a haircut would be issued.  When Dennis wanted to play with dolls, he was not allowed to do so in front of his dad.  Dennis’ grandmother was the first to give him a freedom of sorts and would allow him paper dolls.  He later discover’s Barbie and the possibilities become unlimited.  But he also discovers that he can exert power over the Barbie by cutting her hair, but cutting the doll’s hair soon renders the doll hairless.  Dennis turns to a life of crime by shoplifting Barbie’s from the town’s various stores.  There is even one humorous story where he returns to a store dressed as a girl (remember this is when he is just a child) to fool the sales clerk.  Humorous but sad.

During his youth he is molested by some teen boys who were supposed to be his babysitters and is constantly teased for being different by being called a fag and many other derogatory terms of the time.  He grows up thinking he is supposed to be manly but doesn’t fit in that skin.  In college he marries a girl but knows he is gay, but does what he is “supposed” to do.
College also leads to his divorce and discovering that others are gay.  But his discovery of the gay lifestyle leads him to anonymous sex in the various “cruising” areas, which will later lead to cruising for men with long hair that will feed his fetish/paraphilia.

During the reading of this book there were times when I wasn’t so sure about the outcome, if I had not been in contact with the author, I would have thought I was reading a book that was leading to what was the development of a serial killer.  Luckily Dennis finds help and through therapy and medication Dennis is able to get a firmer grasp on his life.  The adventure he leads the reader through does leave one wondering.

Dennis’ life cleary illustrates how many things combine to create a human life and what path one takes will determine how that life will be.  Dennis is now a successful and talented costumer and wigmaker in Seattle, not cured but in more control.

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