Drawn from fragments of historical fact, Matthiessen’s masterpiece brilliantly depicts the fortunes and misfortunes of Edgar J. Watson, a real-life entrepreneur and outlaw who appeared in the lawless Florida Everglades around the turn of the century.
Kate Lochte says:
“Matthiessen tells a story of a man thought to be a killer who is eventually killed by a mob. Matthiessen’s narrative flows through fictional voices of early twentieth century residents of the Ten Thousand Islands on the west coast of Florida adjacent to the Everglades. There are some gruesome and unaccountable murders in it as well as a devastating hurricane. Dark, moldy, itchy. The swamplands are miserable, yet fecund. ‘In the hurricane’s wake, the labyrinthine coast where the Everglades deltas meet the Gulf of Mexico lies broken, stunned, flattened to mud by the wild tread of God. Day after day, a gray and brooding wind nags at the mangroves, hurrying the unruly tides that hunt through the broken islands and twist far back into the creeks, leaving behind brown spume and matted salt grass, driftwood.’ This is an example of Matthiesen’s fine and true crafting of setting for this haunting, slowly told examination of character that took me a couple of years to finish. Mathiessen sets the hook and lets you play out the line until you’re reeled back in and landed at the finish.”
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