Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff by Lane Heymont

The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff
by Lane Heymont


A KKK Grand Dragon, a pit bull, and Hitler walk into a bar… Sounds like the beginning of the world’s most bizarre joke, right? Yet you may be surprised and fascinated to know this book contains all those elements and more. Well, minus the bar.

The plot: It’s 1871, six years after the end of the American Civil War and five or so years before Jim Crow Laws spread like rot throughout the U.S. Freedman Jeb breaks out of jail his brother-in-law, Crispus, who has stolen a map to a buried Egyptian treasure that will give its possessor the power to unite or annihilate the masses. The breakout ignites the KKK’s anger, and they destroy Jeb and Crispus’ small Louisiana hometown in retaliation. Jeb and Crispus, who are soon joined by a Jewish defector from the local KKK mob, seek assistance from voodoo priests, the sheriff, and others as they flee for their lives and eventually seize the Pharaoh’s Staff. The rabid, local KKK den, led by a truly spooky and supernatural Grand Dragon named Verdiss, pursues them from Louisiana to New York, wreaking death and mayhem along the way. Chillingly, Verdiss is in league with none other than Hitler (from the 1940s; hence, the time travel), since both seek the staff in order to harness its power to eliminate their particular hated races. Of course, the alliance breaks down and Hitler sends an assassin to murder Verdiss and claim the staff. Oh, and did I mention Verdiss is an evil practitioner of Louisiana voodoo? You wouldn’t think a freedman, his dandied brother-in-law, and a teenaged Jew would have a chance against the KKK, evil majik, and the Nazis; however, aided by some voodoo charms, their strength and tenacity, and their desire to redeem themselves and save their races, they hold their own surprisingly well.

I offered to read and review this book because it contains some of my favorite topics: magic, time travel, social justice, and subaltern histories (AKA: history through the lenses of the disempowered). Score. For example, the most radical and interesting thing this author does is compare the plight of African American ex-slaves in the 1870s to Jews during the Holocaust. The central theme in the book involves the personal and cultural madness of genocide. The Grand Dragon Verdiss, who does actually look somewhat like a dragon, stands in for the racist elements of the Reconstruction Era as well as the Anti-Semitism and White supremacy of Hitler. The two are actually quite alike: Verdiss is a member of the race he despises (he is part Black as Hitler is (likely erroneously) rumored to be part Jewish); both are vegetarians; both are smart and eloquent; both dream of eliminating an entire race of people; and they both lead a group of racists on their mission to establish a new world order. African Americans and American Jews share a history of activism and camaraderie that has unfortunately become strained in the last few decades. This novel reminded me of that shared past, when both groups experienced overt, legalized persecution and worked together toward greater civil liberties.

This is why, of course, Jeb, Crispus, and their Jewish friend, Fallon, struggle to prevent the racists from possessing and using the Pharaoh’s Staff. Okay, Fallon’s presence is a bit of a stretch, since Jews weren’t really considered White until well into the 20th century and Fallon defects from the KKK, that bastion of White supremacy; however, this tiny stretch is understandable, since the story concerns two ethnic groups* and the author needs us to identify with both.

Oh, and kudos to the author for writing a book about Reconstruction Era racists that never once uses the n-word. Realistic? Maybe not, but I, for one, appreciate not having my eyes and brain assaulted by such a hateful term.

Politics aside, what usually makes a story is compelling characters. This novel has them. As the three main characters flee from place to place, trying to keep the staff from Verdiss and Hitler, they work through their troubled pasts, seeking redemption and, not coincidentally, integration of their fragmented senses of self. In a novel containing time travel, it’s appropriate that the main characters wrestle as much with their troubled pasts as they do with the dire circumstances in the present (and future!).

But let’s be honest here. Sure, the human characters make for some good reading. It must be said, though, that the real best character is Darkness, a pit bull. Any book featuring a pit bull wins my instant attention and affection. Okay, maybe his owner uses him for nefarious purposes, but that’s certainly not the sweet doggy’s fault. 

Oh, and in case any of you are worried, Darkness never dies in the book. I shall remain mum as to the fates of any other characters.

* Considered ethnic groups in the U.S., anyway, although Americans Jews are really an ethnoreligious group.


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Okay, so here’s the nitty gritty. After perusing this review and Lane Heymont’s wares below, please feel free to comment. Lane Heymont will be awarding a coffee mug with a quote from the book (US/Canada only) to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop, plus a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card will be awarded to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. If there’s anything better than books, it’s winning loot for learning more about them, amiright?

If you really want to increase your chances of scoring some Amazon love, feel free to follow this virtual book tour. You can find the schedule here. The more you comment, the greater your chances of winning. Good luck, all! 


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The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff
by Lane Heymont

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BLURB:

Jeb, a former slave, rescues his brother-in-law Crispus from the Ku Klux Klan, only to be drawn into a world of Creole Voodoo, racism, time travel, and redemption.

Verdiss, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan has gained possession of the Pharaoh's Staff, a magical artifact from ancient Egypt and concocted a diabolical plan far more insidious than himself.

In the end, Jeb and Crispus must stop an entire people from eradication and each find redemption for their own past sins.

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EXCERPT:

Verdiss ran his fingers over the cauldron’s lips, still amazed at what he’d discovered there. He’d been studying the Oera Linda Book, a Frisian manuscript discussing the mythologies, histories, and religions of long lost civilizations. The most prominent was Thule, a land ruled by a blond, blue-eyed race far superior to mankind. Scholars placed it near Norway. The Geist Führer’s voice had called Verdiss to the grove of grim, leaning trees. He spoke of leading the world back to the glorious age when Thule dominated the world. The Geist Führer promised Verdiss those of tainted blood would be eradicated. There’d be peace among the worthy.

“Geist Führer.” Verdiss waved his bulbous hands over the boiling water, pulling the magic from his very will. He hated performing these accursed rites, but they were a necessity. “I seek your counsel.” The wind picked up, his robes rustling. An unnatural wind. Power tingled in the air. The charge grew hotter as Verdiss came closer to contact.

“Dear Verdiss…” came the unholy voice, seething from within the cauldron.


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AUTHOR BIO AND LINKS:

Lane earned a BA in Liberal Arts with a focus on literature and history. He also holds a double minor in psychology and business. He is a literary assistant with The Seymour Agency, and also has several short stories. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Historical Novel Society, and International Thriller Writers.

Links:

Website (www.laneheymont.com)

Twitter: @LaneHeymont ( https://twitter.com/LaneHeymont )

Facebook: www.Facebook/Lheymont

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Freedman-Pharaohs-Staff-ebook/dp/B00BH4RDX0

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-freedman-and-the-pharaohs-staff-lane-heymont/1114586485?ean=9781620061626

Sunbury Press, Inc.: http://www.sunburypressstore.com/The-Freedman-and-the-Pharaohs-Staff-9781620061626.htm


8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the thanks. I'm happy to provide a review!

      Delete
  2. Sounds very intriguing.

    Kit3247(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  3. An excellent review! I couldn't have said it better myself! :)

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the kind words, Andra Lyn. :)

      Delete
  4. Thanks for another great review. The more I read about this book, the more I believe I'll have to read it.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  5. This looks great! Thank you so much for sharing. =)

    cloud.weaver.girl at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sounds like a great read!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete