Book Reviews

Book Review: Bad Elephant Far Stream by Samuel Hawley

bad elephant far stream

Samuel Hawley’s Bad Elephant Far Stream is the best book I read in 2014. It is a historical fiction based on the life of Topsy the crooked-tailed circus elephant who was electrocuted in 1903 after causing the deaths of three men. This book is filled with interesting circus tidbits and provides insight into what could have driven a highly intelligent and once beloved circus animal to kill three of her trainers.

Topsy and elephant truck. Fairyland Circus, June 20, 1962


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Told through the eyes of Far Stream (the fictionalized version of Topsy), this book reveals many harsh realities that likely existed for circus elephants. Taken from her jungle home and separated from family members as a calf, forced to learn tricks and beaten into submission if uncooperative, Far Stream goes through life comforting herself with memories from before she was captured. Hawley seamlessly weaves together Far Stream’s memories, struggles, small victories and relationships with her handlers and other elephants. As a result, this book had me crying (at least a dozen times), laughing, celebrating Far Stream’s victories and welling up with anger at times.

I read a lot of good books this year, even a few others that took me on an emotional roller coaster like this one. So what makes Bad Elephant Far Stream my favorite? First off, when I think about it, I still get teary eyed. Second, this book prompted me to find out more about Topsy and Samuel Hawley. Third, I want everyone to read this book. It doesn’t matter what genre you normally read or if you’re passionate about animals. This book will set your heart on fire.


Learn More About Topsy

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Homeowner With a Gun by Samuel Hawley


After reading (and LOVING) Bad Elephant Far Stream, I immediately checked to see if Hawley has written anything similar. Sadly, he hasn’t published any other historical fiction novels, so I picked up Homeowner With a Gun: A Thriller.

When Jeff discovers late-night intruders in his home, he does what he has to do to protect his family. (It’s chilling just how realistic this scenario is.) The safety of Jeff’s family is compromised further when it is revealed that the intruders were members of a dangerous gang known as ‘Ain’t No Game. It turns out that ANG wants revenge, leading to an event that sets Jeff on a mission to do what the police can’t: prevent the gang from harming his family again.

In addition to Jeff’s side of the story, I-Man’s side is told as well. I-Man is a recently paroled, former member of ANG and the only person who knows why his gang friends were in Jeff’s house that night. While revenge is plotted, I-Man is busy trying to keep what he knows hidden from ANG’s leader. He is also trying to figure out a way to retrieve what his murdered friends were looking for.

Hawley seamlessly weaves back and forth between Jeff and I-Man throughout the story, expertly adding suspense along the way. I actually caught myself holding my breath a few times.

While this book was spun together just as well as Bad Elephant Far Stream, it didn’t tug at my heartstrings nearly as much. However, it was a satisfying thriller that kept me turning the pages. Hawley deserves praise for being such a versatile writer. I look forward to more from him, regardless of the genre.