In a cultural environment that often prefers fantasy to reality and tends to judge a book by its author’s skin color, gender or sexual orientation, a realistic novel about flawed characters (as opposed to “strong” role models) in a working class setting would not seem to stand much of a chance. One such work to emerge from the literary hinterland, however, was John M. Hamilton’s self-published A Hell Called Ohio (Greenside Books, 2013).
A Hell Called Ohio sold decently, reaching Amazon’s bestseller ranking of 8,527 in the literary fiction category. This relative success, especially for a self-published book, must be seen as an indication that a readership exists for unvarnished fiction about working class life. Hamilton’s novel is engaging and depicts factory work in detail not often seen in published fiction today. But the novel, now ten years old, presents ideas about work and workers that, especially in 2023, should not go unchallenged.