Winner of the 2008 National Book Award for • Fiction
Shadow Country is Peter Matthiessen’s reimagining of the legend of E. J. Watson, the Everglades sugarcane planter and notorious outlaw of the wild Florida frontier. Vividly capturing
the American hinterlands at the turn of the twentieth century, it traces the story of Watson through eyewitness perspectives as he drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the
hands of neighbors who mostly admired him.
Shadow Country traverses strange landscapes and frontier hinterlands inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of the archaic racism
that, as Watson’s wife observed, “still casts its shadow over the nation.” Originally written as three separate, acclaimed novels, this is Matthiessen’s bold new distillation of his
monumental work. Tightened and brilliantly rewritten throughout, he has collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters, achieving his original vision of the
“Magnificent and capacious…I’ll just say right here that the book took my sleeve and like the ancient mariner would not let go…Finally now we have these books welded like a bell, and with Watson’s song the last sound, all the elements fuse and resonate…a breathtaking saga.” —Los Angeles Times
“Shadow Country is a magnum opus. Matthiessen is meticulous in creating characters, lyrical in describing landscapes, and resolute in dissecting the values and costs that accompanied the development of this nation.” —Seattle Times
“Peter Mattiessen consolidates his epic masterpiece of Florida—and crafts something even better…[He] deserves credit for decades of meticulous research and obsessive details and soaring prose that converted the Watson legend into critically acclaimed literature…Anyone wanting an explanation for what happened to Florida can now find it in a single novel, a great American novel.” —Miami Herald
“Matthiessen is writing about one man’s life in Shadow Country, but he is also writing about the life of the nation over the course of half a century. Watson’s story is essentially the story of the American frontier, of the conquering of wild lands and people, and of what such empires cost…Even among a body of work as magnificent as Matthiessen’s, this is his great book.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Shadow Country is an ambitious, lasting, and meaningful work of literature that will not soon fade away. It is a testament to Mr. Matthiessen’s integrity as an artist that he felt compelled to return to the Watson material to produce this work and satisfy his original vision…a multifaceted work that can be read variously or simultaneously as a psychological novel, a historical novel, a morality tale, a political allegory, or a mystery.” —East Hampton Star
“Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy is a touchstone of modern American literature…after six or seven years of re-creation…the three books are in one volume for the first time, and the result is remarkable…Where Watson was a magnificent character before, he comes across as nothing short of iconic here; it’s difficult to find another figure in American literature so thoroughly and convincingly portrayed.” —Publishers Weekly (starred book review)
“[A] masterpiece…The story is brought to life by the gifted Heald, who creates a cosmos of compelling characters, each as believable as the last, and imbues the environment with an atmosphere of chilling menace. Despite the book’s sprawling length, readers will be hooked by this magnificent listening experience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)
“The life and times of Florida frontiersman E.J. Watson are meticulously chronicled in Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning masterpiece. Combining three novels in one, the book follows Watson from his early years to his bloody demise, as recounted by his family and friends. The story is brought to life by the gifted Heald, who creates a cosmos of compelling characters, each as believable as the last, and imbues the environment with an atmosphere of chilling menace. Despite the book’s sprawling length, readers will be hooked by this magnificent listening experience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)
“Shadow Country is altogether gripping, shocking, and brilliantly told, not just a tour de force in its stylistic range, but a great American novel, as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature. This magnificent, sad masterpiece about race, history, and defeated dreams can easily stand comparison with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Little wonder, too, that parts of the story of E.J. Watson call up comparisons with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and, inevitably, Faulkner. In every way, Shadow Country is a bravura performance, at once history, fiction, and myth—as well as the capstone to the career of one of the most admired and admirable writers of our time.” —New York Review of Books
“Gorgeously written and unfailingly compelling, Shadow Country is the exhilarating masterwork of [Matthiessen’s] career, every bit as ambitious as Moby Dick.” —National Geographic Adventure magazine
“Oh, how lucky we are to live in an age in which three acclaimed novels can be had in one publication. These literary touchstones…[were] all celebrated as original and important. Now the author has reworked them extensively to combine them and make them even better. Anthony Heald so inhabits this work that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else narrating it. He produces vivid characters with an elastic voice that elicits a multitude of emotions in the listener. Employing superb pacing, he uses the author’s words to create a suspenseful atmosphere that keeps the listener engaged.” —AudioFile
Peter Matthiessen (1927–2014) was the author of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller The Snow Leopard. He was elected to the American Academy of
Arts and Letters in 1974. He was cofounder of the Paris Review and won two National Book Awards, the 2000 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, and the 2010 Spiros Vergos Prize for
Freedom of Expression.
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