“Peter Matthiessen is an amazing author. He’s a prolific author, having written dozens of fiction and nonfiction books, a number of which have been either the recipient of, or a nominee for, various prestigious awards. To call his nonfiction efforts “travel literature” would be doing this enormous talent a disservice, since he goes places other people cannot reach and insinuates himself into cultural milieux from which most of his fellow writers are barred. His novels plumb the heights and depths of the human spirit with subtlety, realism, and unblinking objectivity. His characters are not stereotypes, but rather complex, tortured souls trying to sail straight in a world without any reliable moral compass to serve as guide or rudder.
In 1990 published Killing Mr. Watson. This book, which became the first part of a trilogy, is the tangled tale of E. J. Watson, a much-admired and simultaneously feared man of enormous talent and personal magnetism. The stage on which this possible murderer acts his part is the swamplands and keys of southwestern Florida around 1900. This is a harsh place to eke out a living, and many of the area’s inhabitants are loners, fugitives of the law, and people who cannot stand to live according to civilized society’s rigid and hypocritical strictures. But Mr. Watson is the orneriest of all of them—or is he? The book uses the highly subjective voices of numerous fascinating and memorable characters to carry the story along and demonstrate time and again just how subjective our notion of reality really is. The more witnesses we hear from, the farther we seem to be from the truth.
Killing Mr. Watson is brilliantly written, with vibrant characters, an amazingly rich sense of time and place, and a convincing argument for the subjectivity and prejudice that propel human society into its darkest corners.
Matthiesson followed Killing Mr. Watson with two additional installments, each from the viewpoint of a different character, and now the author has combined and rewritten his three related novels into a more compact, even more powerful blockbuster of a book, Shadow Country.”