Bell Hammers by Lancelot Schaubert
Expected publication Date : October 12th 2020
Genre : Humor, Historical Fiction, Political, Climate Fiction, Literary, Contemporary
Pages : 334
*** Note: I received e-ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***
🏆 finalist for Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open.
PRANKS. OIL. PROTEST. JOKES BETWEEN NEWLYWEDS.
AND ONE HILARIOUS SIEGE OF A MAJOR CORPORATION.
Remmy grows up with Beth in Bellhammer, Illinois as oil and coal companies rob the land of everything that made it paradise. Under his Grandad, he learns how to properly prank his neighbors, friends, and foes. Beth tries to fix Remmy by taking him to church. Under his Daddy, Remmy starts the Bell Hammer Construction Company, which depends on contracts from Texarco Oil. And Beth argues with him about how to build a better business. Together, Remmy and Beth start to build a great neighborhood of “merry men” carpenters: a paradise of s’mores, porch furniture, newborn babies, and summer trips to Branson where their boys pop the tops off of the neighborhood’s two hundred soda bottles. Their witty banter builds a kind of castle among a growing nostalgia.
Then one of Jim Johnstone’s faulty Texarco oil derricks falls down on their house and poisons their neighborhood’s well.
Poisoned wells escalate to torched dog houses. Torched dog houses escalate to stolen carpentry tools and cancelled contracts. Cancelled contracts escalate to eminent domain. Sick of the attacks from Texaco Oil on his neighborhood, Remmy assembles his merry men:
“We need the world’s greatest prank. One grand glorious jest that’ll bloody the nose of that tyrant. Besides, pranks and jokes don’t got no consequences, right?”
Bell Hammers was heartfelt and humorous historical fiction that revolved around author’s grandfather, Wison Remnus Brogner aka Remmy. It was about family, friendship, community, corruption, corporate exploitation, consequences of pranks, faith, guilt and redemption.
Writing was interesting. Story was set in southern Illinois, known as Little Egypt, told in third person narrative from author’s POV telling his granddad, Remmy’s life story from Remmy’s childhood in 1940 to his death in 2015.
All characters were flawed, realistic, and interesting. Family was important in the book. Remmy was fun, lively, and gentlemen but his practical jokes sometimes had dangerous consequences. I admired his love for his little Egypt. He was exactly like his grandfather and yet he was better person than him. Elizabeth was great but I still didn’t like her criticism and blaming Remmy for being spiteful towards oil people even though she knew what company did to him and people. She was both right and wrong.
I liked how author showed various stages in Remmy’s life– his childhood stories, how he grew up in a working class family in Little Egypt, how stories of Robin Hood and his grandad’s pranks inspired him, how marriage and fatherhood made Remmy better man, and how a tragedy with child, saltwater incident and exploitation by oil company formed idea of biggest prank, and how he executed it and faced its consequences.
Theme of corporate exploitation was well written. It was sad and horrible to see how company was only interested in money and power gain, how it exploited people, economy, and environment, divided town in two groups, made people dependent of the company and their homes inhabitable. I could understand, in fact, supported Remmy’s dream of making paradise for his family and friends like Robin Hood and could see why there was no other way than designing biggest prank to make tyrant company pay for what it did to his home and people.
In entire book I enjoyed Remmy’s conversations with the Good Lord. Climax was tense. I didn’t expect what happened after big prank of Remmy and chapters following it till the end were poignant, and insightful. Remmy’s development was great in this part. I liked how he realised his mistakes, felt guilty for what his biggest prank did to people he loved and faced the trial. What happened to Elizabeth was horrible. I don’t know how she could have heart to forgive. End was great and I loved how Remmy could live his dream, not exactly how he thought but in better way.
Why 3 stars:
As much as I enjoyed the pranks and theme of the book, I didn’t like the plot development. The beginning was interesting but around 15% story it started to drag, I almost lost interest. It was hard to follow conversations sometimes and I couldn’t understand some parts, couldn’t get what was going on or what was the point it. It got little better after Remmy’s marriage but it was same throughout the book, some chapters I enjoyed, were fun to read, while some were okay and wished the plot moved faster.
Overall, Bell Hammers was simple, fun, heart-warming, and poignant story with interesting theme and realistic characters but not something I usually read or enjoy.
Two excerpts of Lancelot Schaubert’s debut novel BELL HAMMERS have sold to The New Haven Review (Yale’s Institute Library) and The Misty Review, while a third excerpt was selected as a finalist for the last Glimmer Train Fiction Open in history. He has also sold poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to TOR (MacMillan), The Anglican Theological Review, McSweeney’s, Poker Pro’s World Series Edition, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar markets.
Spark + Echo just chose him for their 2019 artist in residency, commissioning him to write four short stories.
He has published work in anthologies like Author in Progress, Harry Potter for Nerds, and Of Gods and Globes — the last of which he edited and featured stories by Juliet Marillier (whose story was nominated for an Aurealis award), Anne Greenwood Brown, Dr. Anthony Cirilla, LJ Cohen, FC Shultz, and Emily Munro. His work Cold Brewed reinvented the photonovel for the digital age and caught the attention of the Missouri Tourism Board who commissioned him to write and direct a second photonovel, The Joplin Undercurrent, in partnership with photographer, Mark.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what you think about this book and my review, if you have read this already or any books by the same author. Have you read a book with theme of corporate exploitation?
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