Guest Reviewer: William Broyles William Broyles is the founding editor of
Texas Monthly magazine, the screenwriter of
Cast Away and eight other films, and the author of the Viet Nam memoir,
Brothers in Arms.
A sculptor determined to find truth in art, a young man seeking redemption from the terrible wounds of war, a young woman searching for freedom and love, and a father struggling for forgiveness--these memorably-drawn characters leap off the page in Stephen Harrigan’s masterful novel Remember Ben Clayton
Lamar Clayton is determined to build a memorial to his son, killed in a reckless charge in World War I. At first the commission seems straightforward, a way for ambitious sculptor Gil Gilheaney to leapfrog his New York peers and secure his artistic reputation. His daughter Maureen is his dutiful assistant, willing to sacrifice love and her own art to her father’s single-minded search for greatness. Lamar Clayton is a broken-hearted old man who wants only to honor his son Ben, a golden boy and gifted horseman.
But in Harrigan’s skillful hands nothing is so simple. Ben’s death turns out to be a compelling mystery that transforms the lives of each character, and brings to the surface lies told and lies lived. The truth hides behind the disfigured face of Ben’s wounded comrade, behind the tangled loyalties and brutal conflicts of the blood-soaked Texas frontier, behind the secrets Lamar and Gil both hide from their children.
I loved this book. I was mesmerized to discover whether the sins of the fathers would indeed be visited onto their children. Harrigan understands artists, cowboys, warriors and women; he brings them to life with unflinching but compassionate honesty. He writes about art and war with equal power and authority, but his portrayals of the small quiet decisions that form a life are just as powerful, and sometimes just as shocking, as the wrenching scenes of combat.
The riddle of Ben Clayton is a hypnotic mystery story, drawing the characters out of the their hiding places, forcing them to confront who they really are and what they really want. In Remember Ben Clayton
, Harrigan unforgettably captures it all: loyalty and betrayal, the corrosive power of secrets held too tight, the mystery of art, the confusion of the battlefield, and above all the deeply human need to be valued and remembered.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Stephen Harrigan ranks among the finest atmospheric novelists…. Simply put, storytelling does not get any better than this.” —The Dallas Morning News
“One of the best novels of [the year]. . . . Like Ian McEwan’s Atonement
. . . Harrigan magically re-creates a point in history while engaging readers with a mesmerizing story.” —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“A poignantly human monument to our history.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Remember Ben Clayton
is a superior piece of storytelling, a historical novel, a Texas saga, an allegory of art and all the important issues it can raise, an onion of a book with many leathery layers to be unpeeled, eventually revealing our vast capacity to love, and to hurt the ones we love, and to forgive.” —San Antonio Express-News
“Magnificently compelling. . . . Stephen Harrigan handles these scenes with immaculate detail, an acute ear for fear and cruelty, and an eye for the unpredictability of human behavior in moments of passion. . . .We are knocked flat with admiration.” —The Washington Post
“Like the unforgiving bullets that pierce Clayton’s flesh, the story goes unflinchingly deeper into the very human failings of fathers, the need for children to forgive and what it means to create art. . . . A tautly written novel. . . . With Remember Ben Clayton
, Harrigan has created art.” —Austin American-Statesman
“A stunning work of art. . . . The story builds with determined momentum, providing a grimly vivid sense of place and deep insight into the creative process and family relationships. Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo
has become a modern classic, and his latest historical deserves similar acclaim.” —Booklist
“The characterizations in this story are superb, enhancing this engrossing novel that never plays out as you expect it to.” —The Oklahoman
“A solemn, affecting exploration of the effects of devoting one’s life to art at the expense of family, friends and love.” —The Texas Observer
“As in The Gates of the Alamo
, Harrigan works on a broad canvas. . . . Lying behind the Texas narrative are the bloody remnants of the Indian Wars, fresh enough to reach directly into the lives of the next generation and to provide a mirror to the carnage just concluded in Europe.” —The Austin Chronicle
“A heartening novel about art, war, and the tug of family relationships.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Thoroughly engaging. . . . Intimate and compelling. . . . Harrigan transports his readers to each scene, as well as inside the tormented minds of his characters.” —Southern Literary Review
“Rich in detail about the Texas landscape and the men and women who live there. It is a telling measure of [Harrigan’s] skill as a writer that he seamlessly weaves. . . major themes through this new work without allowing his characters to bear the weight of being symbols rather than real people. . . Harrigan is a gifted storyteller whose images at times are as rich as those in the best poetry.” —The Washington Times