Famous All Over Town
Schein's diverse and memorable cast includes southern Jewish lawyer Murray Gold and his foil, displaced New York psychiatrist Bert Levy; emotionally scarred USMC drill sergeant Jack McGowan and his alluring and unconventional wife, Mary Beth; corrupt and adulterous sheriff Hoke Cooley, his deeply conservative wife, Regina, and their violent son, Boonie; African American madam and later city councilwoman Lila Trulove (also Hoke's mistress), her brilliant daughter, Elizabeth, and her conflicted Harvard-bound son, Driver; fallen southern belle turned voice of a generation Arlanne Palmer; remorseful Vietnam veteran and flamboyant transvestite Royal Cunningham; and inspirational schoolteacher Pat Conroy. Famous all over Town also uses its web of interconnected storylines to make its setting, the eponymous town itself, a central character with a personality and an arc as complete as that of any other member of the deftly rendered cast.
Delving beneath the surface of the southern status quo, Schein's tale follows these interconnected lives through the private and public upheavals in small-town life from the turbulent 1960s to the eve of the new millennium, confronting the ramifications of the civil rights era, Vietnam, Watergate, and—closer to home—a deadly version of the infamous Ribbon Creek incident. Somerset's colorful citizens also confront their own repressed memories, conflicted identities, burgeoning ambitions, and romantic entanglements. Even as events unfold to often-uproarious effect, Schein's novel holds true to a deeply realized sense of intimacy and authenticity in the interactions of its myriad characters as revelations expose how these disparate lives are conjoined in surprising ways. Shifting points of view place readers squarely in the mindsets of many of Somerset's key citizens as Schein lovingly and laughingly invites us to reconsider what it means in the modern south to be white, black, Jewish, Christian, military, civilian, sane, insane, old, young, male, female, gay, and straight—and to be of a place rather than merely in it.
Best-selling southern novelist and self-described "Florida cracker" Janis Owens, author of American Ghost, The Cracker Kitchen, and other books, provides a foreword.
"Bernie Schein is the funniest man alive, or so he has dogmatically maintained during the burdensome decades I have known him. Like its author, this ambitious novel is by turns hysterically funny, wildly neurotic, uniquely sensitive, and heartbreakingly honest. Bernie has staked his claim on the literary landscape of the South with his unforgettable small town of equally unforgettable Jews, whites, blacks, marines, politicians, prostitutes, cops, killers, sell-outs, aristocrats, journalists, and rebels. He shies away from neither the best nor worse in us and, with compassion and authority, tells a story that is at once his own and that of everyone you will ever meet, each made famous all over town."—Pat Conroy
"Bernie Schein's Famous all over Town achieves what engaging storytelling is supposed to achieve—expressive characters revealing spirited stories. Covering the 60s into the 90s of conflict and change in the lowcountry of South Carolina, Schein's cast of activists rise up in triumph. . . Splendidly written, it is a reader's delight."—Terry Kay, author of To Dance with the White Dog and The Book of Marie
"Every South Carolina schoolboy in the '60s knew the story of the shaved-head, steely-eyed recruits who were maliciously marched into the pluff mud at Parris Island, a place we all feared, for good reason. Within these pages, Bernie Schein transports us deep into that psychologically loaded place and time where religion and racism serve as barometric bookends to a tragedy that touched the lives of an entire town and resonated with the whole nation."—Ken Burger, author of Swallow Savannah, Sister Santee, and Salkehatchie Soup
"Famous all over Town captures the heart and essence of imperfect, lovable, infuriating, and admirable southern characters in a story full of vivid images and intersecting story lines from the '60s through the '90s. With a soft heart and a calloused hand, Bernie Schein introduces us to a South we might not ever know without him, and it's a place I'd like to settle in for good."—Patti Callahan Henry, author of The Stories We Tell, And Then I Found You, and others
"Since you can't sing Dixie, We Shall Overcome, and My Yiddishe Momme all at once, you must read this splendid novel, a vision of the small-town South, past and present, that will rattle your funny bone and rend your heart."—Peter Golden, author of Comeback Love
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