5.0 1
by Larry Watson

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In Montana, the Hayden name is law. It carries an aura of privilege and power that doesn't stop at the Montana border. When the Hayden boys, Wesley and Frank, take an ill-fated hunting trip, they learn the implications of the Hayden name, even outside the jurisdiction and on the wrong side of the law. In a series of episodes dating from 1899, Watson invites us to get…  See more details below


In Montana, the Hayden name is law. It carries an aura of privilege and power that doesn't stop at the Montana border. When the Hayden boys, Wesley and Frank, take an ill-fated hunting trip, they learn the implications of the Hayden name, even outside the jurisdiction and on the wrong side of the law. In a series of episodes dating from 1899, Watson invites us to get to know the Hayden family intimately. From the story of patriarch Julian Hayden as he carves a new life out of the Montana wilderness, to the struggles of Gail Hayden, Sheriff Wesley Hayden's spirited wife and moral compass, we learn the stories behind the story of Montana 1948.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Montana 1948, Watson's previous novel, was a sleeper that booksellers boosted to major sales. In this finely crafted prequel to that book, Watson fleshes out the lives of county sheriff Julian Hayden and his Montana clan. As the episodic narrative opens, in 1924, Hayden's spoiled, headstrong, horny teenage sons, Wesley and Frank, get involved in a foolish escapade in North Dakota. Thrown into a freezing jail cell, they discover that even their politically connected father's influence has its limits. The story then doubles back to 1899 and Julian's frontier life as a struggling homesteader and rancher, newly resettled from Iowa with his widowed mother. As the action gradually moves into the 1930s, Wesley, now a sensitive and softhearted but troubled man, succeeds his father as county sheriff. Hoping to break her husband loose from the influence of his arrogant, domineering father, Wesley's levelheaded wife, Gail, tries to get him to open up, to show affection toward their infant son. Surprises and scenes of dramatic power punctuate the narrative, as when newlywed Julian pulls a gun on his hostile father-in-law, or when Len McAuley, Julian's hawk-faced, drunken deputy, burns with unrequited love for Gail. Throughout, Watson writes with ruthless honesty about his characters' stunted dreams, unpredictable emotions and outbursts of senseless violence, showing once again that he understands not only the West but the untamed hearts that have roamed it. (Feb.)
Library Journal
While Watson's last novel (Montana 1948, LJ 9/15/93) was driven by plot, he now emphasizes character with equally fascinating results. From 1899 to 1937, the Hayden family dominates the residents of small-town Bentrock, Montana. Patriarch Julian runs both family and town with an iron fist, a velvet glove, and an eye for personal public relations. His elder son, Frank, is charismatic and self-important, while his younger son, Wesley (hero of Montana 1948), is more thoughtful and introspective. Hayden's wives Enid Garling and Gail Berdahl, along with Deputy Sheriff Len McAuley, round out the main characters. Watson focuses on significant events in the lives of each, which for the men seem to center on an image of the female body. This novel can stand on its own, but reading it in conjunction with the earlier book (which takes place ten years after this one closes) results in an absorbing family saga-the beginnings, one hopes, of a northwestern version of Rolando Hinojosa's "South Texas Klail City Death Trip" series. Highly recommended.-Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib., New York
School Library Journal
YA-Stories about men's relationships with their fathers always appeal to YAs, and this Western will be no exception. It opens in 1924 with Sheriff Julian Hayden's two teenage sons going on a hunting trip to North Dakota with their friends. Their father's word is law at home and in their hometown of Bentrock, Montana, and when they get in trouble, they learn that his influence extends into neighboring states as well. Next, readers are taken back to 1899 for the story of Julian Hayden as he moves west, makes a new life homesteading on the frontier, and begins a family. The book ends in the 1930s with a section told through the eyes of Len McAuley, Julian's deputy. Major and minor characters are well developed through dramatic scenes; believable dialogue; and layers of telling detail about their dreams, emotions, and violent outbursts. The sense of both place and time-the beauty and power of the climate and wide-open spaces-is very strong. Teens will like the episodic structure-the stories are very closely connected and they all examine different aspects of the family's relationships. This prequel to Montana 1948 (Milkweed, 1993) is a readable, well-written novel for leisure reading and historical fiction assignments.-Patricia Q. Noonan, Prince William Public Library, Manassas, VA
Kathleen Hughes
Watson's latest novel is a prequel to the earlier "Montana 1948" (1993). This one takes a closer look at the characters populating both books. Although the Hayden family members are the chief players in both novels, this story reveals much about some of the other citizens of Bentrock, Montana. "Justice" begins when the Hayden sons, Frank and Wesley, take a disastrous camping trip that ultimately reveals the power their surname can yield. This sets the stage for an exploration of the family history, which is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks dating from 1899. These are seen through the eyes of various family members and inhabitants of Bentrock and illuminate much about the larger story in "Montana, 1948" and about the Hayden family. From the early, isolated homesteaders to 1930s Bentrock, the individual tales are woven together to create an engrossing story of love, familial relationships, and secrets. Demonstrating excellent detail and superbly developed characters, Watson's powerful prose easily re-creates the vivid beauty of Big Sky country, gently evoking a sense of generations long past.
Ellen Akins
Though not sentimental, and certainly not simple, [Justice is] bound to touch a nostalgic spot in readers like small towns and wide-open, wild spaces like these with a simpler time....That Mr. Watson is about to capitalize on this myth -- and the yearning that attends it -- even as he begins to lie to it is further evidence of his subtelty and skill. -- The New York Times Book Review
Tim McLaurin
A worthy collection, filled with rapid prose sometimes as biting as a Northern plains wind....Justice explains much of the history of Montana 1948...[and] demonstrates...that defining one's manhood, and achieving a fragile balance between race and gender that challenged all Americans...Watson writes of people universal in their faults and virtues, a community that cannot be defined or limited to one age or genre. -- Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.99(d)

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