Andrew F. Smith
The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett

John Hajicek writes:

Andy became interested in Bennett through his book The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery from the University of South Carolina Press. (Bennett is credited with popularizing the tomato). He sold 5,000 copies of that book since it came out 2 years ago. Mormon history books usually come out in runs of 2,000. His book Pure Ketchup was released this month and immediately sold 5,000 copies (it mentions Bennett). That book has been reviewed by the NY Times and Washington Post, and he's already flown to a dozen cities to promote it.

The Bennett book is fascinating. Bennett's life has episodes with (1) tomatoes, (2) chicken breeding, (3) Mormonism, (4) James J. Strang, (5) mid-wifery, (6) mail-order diplomas, (7) military, (8) masonry, etc. I reviewed the manuscript. The Saintly Scoundrel is the most interesting Mormon biography this decade, and written by an outsider who liked Bennett but is not a Mormon--no predetermined conclusions either way (thus its title).

I disagreed with many of his interpretations (for example, "spiritual wifery" and Mormon sincerity), but I thought the biographical research methodology to be as good as any in the Mormon historical community.


An avid reader comments:

I like works like the new John Bennet bio. It is exciting on every page. I like Andrew Smith's writing style. Very pleasant. I can't express how refreshing it is.


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