Columnist and publisher and author Tony Bender came to the print industry in 1991 “from the dark side,” he says, referencing a career as a professional smart aleck disc jockey spanning 15 years and much of the continent from the Dakotas to Denver to Alaska to Myrtle Beach, SC, where he, newsman Robert Kessler and other staffers at WBPR, refused to evacuate for Hurricane Hugo and kept the station on the air by generator, providing the lone source of information to hundreds of thousands of terrified citizens along the coastline unable to evacuate in time.
Bender grew up in Frederick, SD, a tiny community on the North Dakota/South Dakota border, with a population of 400 that provided Bender with a “Tom Sawyer” existence that surfaces in his writing as he tells the tales of the characters he grew to love. The community and his experiences there serve as a springboard for his novel, The Last Ghost Dancer. (Thomas Dunne/St. Martins 2010)
Bender, who published three best-selling collections of his newspaper columns, Loons in the Kitchen, The Great and Mighty Da-Da and Prairie Beat, sold his first novel, If Every Month Were June, released in 2008 by Fulcrum Publishing.
Bender has also provided editorial direction to national syndicated radio talker Ed Schultz on his books, Killer Politics, Hyperion, Straight Talk From the Heartland, published by Harper Collins, and for Senator Byron Dorgan, D-ND, and his 2007 release, Take This Job and Ship It, by St. Martins Press, which spent five weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction list. He and Dorgan also collaborated on Dorgan’s book, “Reckless.”
Bender says he always planned to write, when he was “too old to be cool on the radio.” Bender began writing a regionally syndicated column in 1991 which since has won two National Newspaper Association first place awards for humor writing. In 1999 Bender won the first ever NDNA First Amendment Award, which he says is the one he treasures the most. The Adams County Record also won two NDNA General Excellence awards during his tenure. He is a former president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association.
He is the president of Redhead Publishing, the parent company of the Ashley Tribune and Wishek Star. Both newspapers are located in McIntosh County, North Dakota. Bender has two children, Dylan and India. They also have two cats, Squirrel, The World's Grumpiest Cat and Orange, The Outside Cat, a dog, Gust The Wonder Pug, millipedes in the spring, crickets in the fall, and a recurring vet bill. They reside near Venturia, ND.