Remember Ben Clayton
Winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best American Historical Fiction
From the author of the acclaimed best seller The Gates of the Alamo, a new novel that confirms and enlarges Stephen Harrigan’s reputation as a major voice in American fiction.
Francis “Gil” Gilheaney is a sculptor of boundless ambition. But bad fortune and his own prideful spirit have driven him from New York into artistic exile in Texas just after World War I. His adult daughter, Maureen, serves as his assistant, although she has artistic ambitions of her own and is beginning to understand how her own career—perhaps even her life—has become hostage to her driven father’s “wild pursuit of glory.” When Lamar Clayton, an aging, heartbroken rancher, offers Gil a commission to create a memorial statue of his son Ben, who was killed in the war, Gil seizes the opportunity to create what he believes will be his greatest achievement.
As work proceeds on the statue, Gil and Maureen come to realize that their new client is a far more complicated man than he appeared to be on first acquaintance, and that Lamar is guarding a secret that haunts his relationship with his son even in death. But Gil is haunted as well: by the fear that his work will be forgotten and by an unconscionable lie whose discovery could cost him his daughter’s love. The creation of the statue leads to a chain of dramatic encounters, through which Maureen will test the boundaries of her independence and Gil and Lamar, each in his own painful way, will confront their worth as fathers.
Remember Ben Clayton vividly depicts a rich swath of American history, from the days when the Comanches ruled the Southern plains to the final brutal months of World War I. It ranges from outlaw settlements on the Texas frontier to the cafés of Paris, from Indian encampments to artists’ ateliers to the forgotten battlefield in France where Ben Clayton died. It shows us the all-consuming labor that a monumental work of sculpture demands and the price it exacts from both artist and patron. And with unforgettable power and compassion it presents a deeply moving story about the bonds between fathers and children, and about the power and purpose of art.
“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 (starred)
“By devising a novel about the art of memorialization, [Harrigan] has crafted a poignantly human monument to our history.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Stephen Harrigan ranks among the finest atmospheric novelists. His descriptive writing makes readers feel like participants rather than detached observers. . . Simply put, storytelling does not get any better than this.”—The Dallas Morning News
“It’s not too early to anoint “Remember Ben Clayton” as one of the best novels of 2011. Author Stephen Harrigan has written a moving, profound book about art, the wages of war and family. . . Skillfully composed, emotional engaging, the story (set just after World War I ends) of a Texas rancher trying to reclaim his son by the commission of a statue is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting.”—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“Majestic. . . 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
“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.”—Austin American Statesman
“The prose is sparse and reminds me of Hemingway, but it fit the characters perfectly.”—Rabbit Reader
“If it were possible to give Stephen Harrigan’s novel six stars, I would. I have not been able to stop thinking about “Remember Ben Clayton” since putting it down a final time. It is so moving, with a kind of West Texas majesty that reminds us of what the west was like not that long ago.” —Goodreads
“A thoroughly engaging novel. . . Harrigan pulls off the narratives in an intimate and compelling manner. . . the characters and their memories stay with the reader long after they finish reading.”—Southern Literary Review
“The narrative’s crushing sense of despair would be impossible to endure in the hands of a lesser writer.”—Publishers Weekly
“A heartening novel about art, war, and the tug of family relationships.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Harrigan has thought much about the importance of art and particularly of sculpture, and his novel aspires to a monumental permanence that would outlast time, barbarism, and war.”—Austin Chronicle
“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
“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
“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. . . Mr. Harrigan is a gifted storyteller who images at times are as rich as those in the best poetry.”—The Washington Times
“Texas novelist Stephen Harrigan only gets better.” —Speed of Light
“Remember Ben Clayton is a thoroughly engaging novel that breaks several rules of modern writing, but breaks them beautifully.” —Southern Lit Review