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Published:November 29th, 2009 14:56 EST
Storming Heaven Book Review

Storming Heaven Book Review

By Clayton S. Jeppsen

"I`m The Mayor of This Here Town."


Heaven being stormed is a state where all the people one cares about are united in action to protect or advance their collective ambitions. CJ Marcum, one of Denise Giardina`s four main characters in her novel Storming Heaven, heads the insurrection against the coal companies and the U.S. government. Bad times comin," said Dillion, CJ`s father.


CJ was raised with this mocking bird on his shoulder. As a young man, he listened to his papaw`s waning vestige of hope for their home town of Annadel. It was like a doctor telling a young boy that he wouldn`t live to see his 10th birthday, but now he is 20 and stronger than ever. With this strength, CJ wrestles the invading coal mongrels. With this strength, CJ is naturally promoted as commander and chief of the resistance. Our people always lived hard. That there is what makes us ".

CJ is an ethical man. If ones view on racial equality can manifest this, consider the following CJ`s manifestation. CJ joined a baseball team with five black men on it because he believed in equality. Other teams refused to play them, in fear of getting beat by "coloreds`. Another example of CJ`s moral fiber lies in his speech, I can`t bear to see it, all mud and ugly, men sellin their souls for the all mighty dollar".

CJ`s actions are wise. Declaration of Independence says we got a right to overthrow the government when it gits worthless. I`d like to hear about that there sometime". Those words might cause you to question ones wisdom, but when you dig deeper you realize that CJ is exactly right. He has a savvy knowledge of the rights and privileges established by the Forefathers, and when your hometown is under attack by the US government, you will want a savvy, gun totin, red-blooded American like CJ to defend it. CJ started his own press firm called "The Free Press`.


This way he could disseminate the truth about government eminent domain and the coal industries violations of labor laws. Doing this makes him a target for reprisal, but puts him one step ahead of the game by winning the national eye. CJ replaces his African American friend, Doc Booker as mayor of Annadel, where he assumes regional authority to set back the production of coal. These actions are a reflection of CJ`s decisions and showcase his wisdom in regards to the plight of Annadel.

CJ`s life and character has affected both the lives of Rondal Lloyd and Carrie Bishop immensely. CJ basically raised Rondal from the time he was "borned`. He taught him what it meant to be a man; instilled in him honest, hard working values that trickled down from his papaw. He was Rondal`s professor in the "University of Hard Knocks`. A good man, I repeated, and thought of the road CJ had urged me down so many times, the road which led to the place where we stood that day, a terrible place which would bring all the world down upon our heads".


I am trying to make a point, Goddamn it! You are so damn pure CJ. You got so many standards and ideas. Well, maybe I picked up some of them. Maybe I picked em up because I love and admire you ". Carrie Bishop was a nurse who`d tended to Rondal`s battle injuries. She later fell in love with Rondal and credited his tenacity to CJ after getting to know him through Rondal. Carrie once made this statement about CJ, Sometimes a good man can make a difference in a little place like this here town ".

It is my hunch, and it is only a hunch, that if Denise Giardina had to die for a cause, she would wisp herself back to the 1920`s and die in the coal fields of Justice County West Virgina, the land of her heritage, the fight of her ancestors and her ancestors neighbors. I believe she is living this dark, but fulfilling fantasy through her character CJ Marcum. I have read many novels wherein the author permits the death of a character for a righteous or relevant cause. I have noticed that the author will usually apply a unique tenderness to this character throughout the story, as does Giardina to CJ Marcum. For example; CJ plays a mentor role when he takes care of Rondal from the time he was little until the time when CJ passes away.


CJ is everyone`s friend, everyone`s role model and everyone`s hero. Sometimes in today`s world and especially in the United States of America, the opportunity rarely presents itself for heroics or for one to die for a cause.  However, unlike most people, an author can sneak this liberty by living a life through the characters they create. Denise Giardina hides this passion in a male character, but if you`ve read this book you will realize that there are no women roles in the chapters of CJ and Rondal. And I felt that Giardina let some feminine behaviors bleed through CJ "maybe her own ambitions, due to her West Virginia history and background. She was already there, just a little late.  

CJ dies like a man in a face-off with government brutes. He comes with intent to arrest them, knowing full well that they are armed and ready to fight. CJ is surrounded by his closest friends. He tells Rondal, You got to git back. I don`t want you messed up in this ". Then he shoved Rondal out of the way. You gentlemen have been evicting people from their homes in Jenkinjones". We`ve been removing trespassers from the property of the American Coal Company ". I`m chief of police and you`re under arrest". And who are you? said the armed brute. I`m the major of this here town," announced CJ, standing his ground against a remorseless machine.


The weight of his gun dragged his hand down as he fired; and CJ Marcum fell to the ground clutching his belly ". I believe it is clear why I chose CJ Marcum for a character analysis, for the grounds stated above, his acclaimed virtues, his nurturing abilities and his epic movements. I also chose CJ for selfish reasons. One, we share the same initials and two, the way he speaks of his daughter, Gladys. You see, my wife and I finally got our daughter, Bella, after three boys. The following is CJ speaking about his daughter`s courting prospect, Hell, I like Isom, but not for Gladys. Nobody is good enough for his daughter. Well I know how CJ feels hell, nobody is good enough for my daughter either.



Rondal I dreamed of two men that night. Of CJ, alive and walking with me among the miners` tents. Of Dillion dead, a burnished skeleton lying on its back, the fingers of one hand curved and twined through the rib cage".