Ask a Book Question: #70 (A Florida Mystery)

December 13, 2008 | 4 books mentioned 1 2 min read

Daryll writes in with this question:

I was recently browsing Amazon and happened upon a book that I would really like to read but I forgot to bookmark it or place it in my cart. I do not know the book’s title or author, but I have some of the plot. Can you help me find the book again? Here’s what I remember:

The story is set in Florida, possibly in the Everglades, in the first half of the twentieth century. It is based on a man with a criminal past whose neighbors hate him. He eventually dies and later on his son comes to visit and uncovers some dark secret(s).

I believe the book is a condensed version of three, four, or five original novels and the author boiled it all down into one.

I know that’s not much to go on, but it’s all I have.

coverThe book you are looking for just got quite a bit of attention as the winner of the National Book Award. 81-year-old Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (excerpt), as Bloomberg notes, came about after he “rewrote and compressed portions of his novels about the murderous Florida sugar-cane farmer Edgar J. Watson — Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man’s River and Bone by Bone — into a single 892-page volume published by the Modern Library.”

A bit more from Publishers Weekly: “Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy is a touchstone of modern American literature, and yet, as the author writes in a foreword of this reworking, with the publication of Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man’s River and Bone by Bone, he felt, after twenty years of toil… frustrated and dissatisfied. So after six or seven years of re-creation – rewriting many passages, compressing the timeline, shortening the work by some 400 pages and fleshing out supporting cast members (notably black farmhand Henry Short) – the three books are in one volume for the first time, and the result is remarkable.”

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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