John Camp Reporting Again — From Iraq

John Camp, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning St. Paul journalist and crime novelist, is in Iraq for It’s a fascinating thing for Camp to do, and a smart way for MinnPost to raise its profile. His first story from Iraq appears today.

In a Q&A on the site, Camp says he’s going for journalistic reasons, not gathering material for his crime fiction (the hugely successful “Prey” series, written under the name John Sandford). But here’s a guy who’s been writing hard-boiled crime-and-shooting stuff for years going into a war zone. It shows the journalist’s attraction, almost lust, for going where things are happening. I had it when I was a reporter, flying into a Miami when a major hurricane was about to hit, when the rest of the population was flying out. What the hell was I doing?

Camp wants to grab the experience of Minnesota National Guard members — the mundane and the terrifying. In the Q&A, he said, “After reading Iraq war stories for several years, I really, in my mind’s eye, don’t know what it looks like, or smells like, or sounds like; or really, what an infantryman does now.” He has an idea to take a single soldier and describe everything he carries or wears, from the skin out. That’s a novelist going for detail — it’s something a TV journalist might do, but Camp will try it with his laptop.

The trip will likely energize Camp, who served in the military in Korea in the 1960s, and I expect to read good stuff. And kudos to for putting this together. It’s creative, and a straight shot of what MinnPost is trying to offer — smart insightful writing that turns experienced journalists loose to give us personal views of what they’re finding out in the world.

— Bruce Benidt tax relief kind

7 thoughts on “John Camp Reporting Again — From Iraq

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    Yes, fabulous idea! So much of what we read of the Iraq experience seems to me an anonymous abstraction. My impression, having had the opportunity to spend some time in conversation, and privy to the journal of a social worker at Walter Reed since 2003 (next week she accepts a five-week assignment at Fort Drum–the highest incidence of PTS of any base or hospital) is that it is very lonely, and very personal. Hoping Mr. Camp will take us inside.

  2. Its about time someone had enough guff to tell us what the higher-ups dont want us to know. Keep it up. Nice going . I’ll be back to this site for sure.

  3. I remember talking to John Camp many years back when he came to sign maybe his third book at a Waldenbooks managers’ meeting in Minneapolis. His books were immediate best sellers and he was flush with his new success.

    Camp, a former reporter as I remember, told me then, “You know, your brother Bruce is a great writer. I’ve told him he should quit the journalism business and write novels. All he has to do is throw in a lot of blood, sex and gore and he’d be on the bestseller list.”

    I’m glad you started this blog instead, Bruce. Plenty of blood, sex and gore right here in the comments section. And, kudos to John for going back to his reporter’s job.

  4. Dennis Lang says:

    Right, I think it was Camp’s series on the plight of the farmers in the late 80’s that won the Pulitzer. At the same time the domestic clothing manufacturing industry of which my family’s business had been a part for 65 years was also failing. His stories and the powerful portrayal of the emotional dislocation of those lives therefore especially memorable personally. By the way Bruce, where is that next novel? And dispatching Camp is a great maketting idea for MinnPost. Is something similar in the works for “TSRC”? The inside story of…?

  5. Pawlenty, Molnau Exonerated says:

    How do you guys like your crow prepared … medium, well done?

    I’m talking about the post you will never write about Pawlenty & Molnau’s COMPLETE EXONERATION on the I-35 bridge collapse. The NTSB report concluded it was a DESIGN FLAW that happened long before Pawlenty took office, and not insufficient maintenance due to an “under resourced” MnDOT, as you clowns have asserted from the very moment the bridge collapsed.

    You knee-jerk gas taxers look like big idiots. You did then, and you most certainly do now.

    I’d invite you all and Nick Coleman out to a crow dinner if I could find a restaurant that welcomes whiney DFL hacks.

  6. Great post on the crow. I’ve had several dinners of crow, and have come to acquire a taste for it.

    I’m glad we have a reader who’s keeping track and cares enough to beat on us when he thinks we’re out of line.

    More to come on the bridge issue — it’s a good one.

    You’ll not be surprised, anonymous reader, to hear my basic position has not changed — we still aren’t taxing ourselves fairly and we’re still avoiding paying the real costs of so many things — nuclear power, the war in Iraq, infrastructure maintenance — so cynical politicians can say they don’t raise taxes.

    But yes, if the bridge fell because of a design flaw, then it was old-fashioned incompetence or just plain mistakes that are to blame, not the “no new taxes” philosophy. That doesn’t make me feel any better about driving over any bridges, though.

  7. Dennis Lang says:

    Pardon the non sequitur in light of the preceding discussion, but someone in the audience may have had a personal experience with this subject. In the January 7 issue of the “New Yorker” magazine you will read an article by Carl Eliot, a professor of bioethics at the U.of M. The article, “Guinea Pigs”, is a seering indictment of the drug companies and the independent testing labs (an industry of explosive economic growth) that are contracted to shepard a drug from recruitment of test subjects through FDA approval. In many instances the increasing lack of academic oversight has contributed to draconian consequences.
    The article has a local connection. Prism Research, a St. Paul based testing lab with, as we learn an insidious past, advertises frequently in the local media for test subjects. Dr. Eliot refers to one of Prism’s founders, Faruk Abuzzahab and his indictment and license revocation by the Minnesota Licensing Board. The posting of the actual document on the website of, a watchdog group, states: “…a reckless if not willful disregard of patient’s welfare” involving injuries or deaths of 46 patients–one of whom committed suicide. Nonetheless, Abuzzahad continued to supervise, consult and receive compensation from “at least a dozen drug companies.” In a paradoxical twist to the story he was awarded a “Distinguished Fellowship” by the American Psychiatry Association in 2003! Anyone out there in cyberspace have a personal experience with Prism?

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