Land of the Blind: A Novel

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While working the weekend night shift, Caroline Mabry, a weary Spokane police detective, encounters a seemingly unstable but charming derelict who tells her, "I'd like to confess." But he insists on writing out his statement in longhand. In the forty-eight hours that follow, the stranger confesses to not just a crime but an entire life—spinning a wry and haunting tale of youth and adulthood, of obsession and revenge, and of two men's intertwined lives.

Fiendishly clever and ...

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Land of the Blind

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While working the weekend night shift, Caroline Mabry, a weary Spokane police detective, encounters a seemingly unstable but charming derelict who tells her, "I'd like to confess." But he insists on writing out his statement in longhand. In the forty-eight hours that follow, the stranger confesses to not just a crime but an entire life—spinning a wry and haunting tale of youth and adulthood, of obsession and revenge, and of two men's intertwined lives.

Fiendishly clever and darkly funny, Land of the Blind speaks to the bonds and compromises we make as children—and to the fatal errors we can make at any time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spokane detective Caroline Mabry, the heroine of Walter's acclaimed debut, Over Tumbled Graves, returns in a supporting role in this new thriller. Burned out on the job and stuck in the night shift, Caroline is in the station house when Clark Mason stumbles in after midnight, needing to confess to a murder. With his fitted shirt, long tousled hair and eye patch (all three black), Clark intrigues Caroline, even as she chastises herself for the vague attraction. Before long, he's frenziedly writing his story on a series of legal pads, and she's following up on the leads that spill from his lips as he writes. His flashbacks stretch as far back as childhood, when Clark alternately befriends and betrays the intense misfit Eli Boyle. The first betrayal occurs when Clark is caught between scapegoat Eli and scary preteen bully Pete Kramer. Adolescence, with its romantic predicaments, only complicates the relationship between these three. As Clark's narrative rolls slowly forward in time, Caroline tracks down the people he mentions. Walter is at his incisive best juxtaposing the characters in the present with their childhood selves. Spokane is carefully rendered in all its moody complexity. Wracked by urban blight and an inferiority complex (it's no Seattle), the city holds an ineffable attraction for both Caroline and Clark. Similarly, Walter's novel takes sketchy detours and its characters repel as much as compel, but lucid writing and a palpable sense of nostalgia make it hypnotically compelling. (Mar.) Forecast: This thriller is more quiet and literary than Walter's debut, but a stylish cover and West Coast author tour should help get readers' attention. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
For Spokane Police Detective Caroline Mabry, the first questions that a confessor to a homicide answers are "who" and "what," naming the victim and the crime. For confessor Clark Mason, picked up as a derelict yet oddly familiar and just short of attractive, all that matters is "why." A one-eyed former high-tech millionaire who made an unsuccessful run for Congress, Mason writes a statement of fact on four legal pads over 19 hours to explain his role in the death of his longtime friend, Eli Boyle. Mason's statement, which makes up the bulk of this novel, is interspersed with attempts by Mabry-whose job performance has been slipping as personal losses sink her into depression-to identify and find a body. Walter (Over Tumbled Graves) keeps the suspense at a high level to the very end; fans will want more of Mabry and possibly Mason, too. This compelling, intelligent novel, with its strong section on childhood and keen insights throughout, is highly recommended for all fiction collections.-Michele Leber, formerly with Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The confusions of youth shape tragic, unhappy lives in this somber, absorbing second novel. As he did in Over Tumbled Graves (2001), Walter uses the terse police procedural as framework for what becomes a flowing story of character. Spokane police detective Caroline Mabry (returning from Graves) confronts a man, Clark Mason, who wants to confess to murder. Insisting he write his confession, Mason fills legal pads with his "Statement of Fact," which turns into a fevered autobiography in which his vision-and that of the other characters-is scarcely factual, much less perceptive. (A childhood bully has blinded one of Mason's eyes.) Mason writes that his victim was Eli Boyle, a friend since childhood. Bearing a limp, a lisp, crossed eyes, and a snowstorm of dandruff, Boyle is the ultimate class nerd-until a swift, winning play at battle ball transforms him into a school hero. When Boyle asks Mason to rehabilitate him, Mason complies, setting him up with blossoming Dana Brett. Mason, though, finds Brett irresistible. Come prom night, Boyle discovers the two making love, and tensions thereafter rive all three of them. Brett marries a dull, aggressive man, Mason seeks direction in his life through politics, and Boyle retreats into a strange interactive character game called "Empire." He and Mason hatch a plan to develop "Empire" into video game that leads to Boyle's death. Offsetting Mason's dark meditations (and nimbly steering the book itself away from ponderous terrain) are several interjected chapters tracing Mabry's investigation into the case. Depressed by her violent work and unhappy personal life, Mabry identifies uneasily with Mason. As he sits on the high ledge of a hotel, Mabry crawlsout and joins him to watch the sun rise over a bleak city. Walter renders his blind land with a clear-eyed, compassionate vision.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061712845
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/18/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 812,524
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Jess Walter

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.


Jess Walter is the author of four novels -- The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Award for best novel, Land of the Blind and Over Tumbled Graves, a 2001 New York Times notable book -- as well as the nonfiction book Every Knee Shall Bow(rereleased as Ruby Ridge), a finalist for the PEN Center West literary nonfiction award in 1996.

A career journalist, Walter also writes short stories, essays and screenplays. He was the co-author of Christopher Darden's 1996 bestseller In Contempt. His work has appeared in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

His books have been published in sixteen countries and fourteen languages. He lives with his wife Anne and children, Brooklyn, Ava and Alec in Spokane, Washington.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Walter:

"I am one of the organizers of the largest outdoor basketball tournament in the world."

"I have been in one (1) independent movie for which I grew one (1) righteous mustache."

"I come from a family of failed cattle ranchers."

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    1. Hometown:
      Spokane, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 20, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Spokane, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A., Eastern Washington University, 1987
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Land of the Blind

By Jess Walter


Copyright © 2005 Jess Walter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060989286

Chapter One

He Sits Alone

He sits alone in the interview room, his unshaven face in his hands, a guy about her age and not exactly bad looking, for a loon anyway. He's familiar and yet she can't place him. It is the kind of familiarity that grates like an unwelcome song. She gives him names: Dave. Steve. Rocco. It is none of these. The Loon wears dirty blue jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt with the top two buttons open. He is tall and square shouldered, and even though his clothes are a mess, they fit. They are not the clothes of a bum. He seems ... if not successful, at least employable. His hair is dark and long and tousled and the only thing keeping him from being handsome is a missed haircut or two.

And the eye patch, of course. The patch is black and covers his left eye, its strap slicing through his long hair. And even the eye patch isn't so much a flaw as an alarming accessory, making him seem untrustworthy and roguish. A pirate, Caroline thinks.

Caroline Mabry is a police detective, although for the last several months she has not been a very good one. She has burned out on the job or lost her way or stopped believing in it, and while her colleagues were polite at first, there were no illusions once she was put on swing shift -- swig shift it iscalled, the refuge of burnouts and department drunks six months from retirement.

Certainly she's too young for swig shift, just thirty-seven, and yet here she is, stuck on a Friday night watching some lunatic sweat and shift and get his story as straight as his addled mind will allow. The Loon looks around the walls of Interview Two -- her favorite, and even that is depressing, that she actually has a favorite interview room. It occurs to her that if she saw thispirate in a bar instead of sitting at a table in a police interview room, she would want to talk to him. Jesus. When did she begin looking at suspects and derelicts (not bad looking; employable) as potential romances?

The desk sergeant comes toward her with a clipboard.

"So that's him?" Caroline asks ...

"That's your guy. Fuckin' nut ... Want me to run him off?"

"Nah. It's probably nothing, but if we don't talk to him and it turns out there's something here -- " She doesn't finish the thought.

"Want me to stick around? Or I could send someone back."

"Nah," she says, "I got nothing else to do. I'll listen to his UFO story and then I'll call the bin."

The desk sergeant is only too happy to take an order that requires no work from him. "Your call."

Caroline turns back toward the interview room. "He wouldn't give you a name?"

"Nope. And no ID."

"Run his prints?"

"Yeah. No record. No warrants. Nothing. Just a guy who wants to talk."

"Does he look familiar to you?"

"Sure. He looks like a pirate." The sergeant walks back toward his desk ...

Caroline returns to the door of the interview room and watches the nervous guy chew his nails. That's what you get when you volunteer for swig shift -- UFO abductions, ninja attacks, black helicopters, listening devices,ghosts, Bigfoot, transgender experiments, pirates, and worst of all, the perpetually, chronically, criminally lonesome: those loons flirting with the edge, tired and confused, and, above all, alone -- snap-eyed, breathless people who claim to have information about a murder (usually Kennedy's or Princess Di's or Jimmy Hoffa's or Elvis's or Jesus') but who really just want to talk about when daylight savings time begins and why the Safeway moved and how the children never call and what channel Wheel of Fortune is on.

She watches this Loon, in his black shirt and eye patch, its strap nested in his bushy hair, and thinks there is something different about him, something she can't quite name. Of course, it could be nothing more than her fascination with the place he was arrested. The clipboard duly reports that This Particular Loon was picked up at 8:03 p.m. when patrol responded to a guy scaling the scaffolding of the old Davenport Hotel -- the twelve-story Spanish Renaissance landmark that is the most famous building in Spokane, even though it has been sitting vacant the last fifteen years.

Like any native, Caroline has always known about the hotel, but she really became aware of it in college, when she was researching a paper on the writer Thomas Wolfe and found in his journals that he "arrived into Spokanein good time and to the Davenport Hotel and a bottle of Scotch and conversation," and left the next morning "west from Spokane through country being more barren all the time." The effect on Caroline of reading this entry was something like finding a picture of one's parents when they were young and good looking, and experiencing a shock and a sense of loss because they had once lived interesting lives. She was shocked to find that her hometown was considered -- in the 1920s, at least -- Seattle's jazzy sister, that Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh and Ethel Barrymore had happily come by rail, that Calvin Coolidge and Douglas Fairbanks and Amelia Earhart and, yes, Thomas Wolfe, looked forward to a night at the Davenport as an outpost between the deep forest and the desert scablands.

By the time Caroline was an adult the Davenport Hotel, like Spokane, was long out of style, stripped of its silver service and gilded furnishings, its gardens and tropical birdcages, and remodeled in the plastic-and-shag fashionof fifties motels, the final indignity being the family swimming pool that replaced the rooftop tennis courts and putting greens ...


Excerpted from Land of the Blind by Jess Walter Copyright © 2005 by Jess Walter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

In this fiendishly clever and darkly funny novel, Jess Walter speaks deeply to the bonds and compromises we make as children-and the fatal errors we can make at any moment in our lives.

While working the weekend night shift, Caroline Mabry, a weary Spokane police detective, encounters a seemingly unstable but charming derelict. "I'd like to confess," he proclaims. But he insists on writing out his confession in longhand. In the forty-eight hours that follow, the stranger admits to not just a crime, but an entire life: a wry and haunting tale of poverty and politics, of obsession and revenge. And as he writes, Caroline pushes herself to near collapse, racing against the clock to investigate not merely a murder, but the story of two men's darkly intertwined lives.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is an odd well written police procedural

    Spokane detective Caroline Mabry knows she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following her recent case (see Over Tumbled Graves). However, she is on the night shift trying to overcome the emotional crippling of burnout that has devastated her recent performance when self made millionaire Clark Mason enters the station in the early morning hours to confess he committed a murder. Caroline finds herself shocked by an attraction to Clark with his black eye patch, but lectures herself to stick to the facts.

    Clark begins writing down his Statement of Fact on legal sized paper starting with his childhood betrayal of Eli Boyle whom he sacrificed his friend so he could avoid a beating from preadolescent bully Pete Kramer and again at the high school prom. Mason says he and Boyle created a video game together Empire that led to the latter's death. Caroline follows up on names Clark gives her, but struggles to find the corpse he alleges exists.

    This is an odd well written police procedural in which the alleged culprit confesses to the cop before the corpse is found. The story line is at its best when Mason sadly muses on his weaknesses as he reflects back on his life and his negative dependency relationships with Boyle and Kramer. When the plot focuses on Mabry's investigation, it remains grim as she empathizes with him that life is violent, nasty, and ugly; just the way Spokane comes across. Although very little action occurs, fans who relish a vivid but pessimistic look at humanity will either climb on the ledge with Mabry and Mason or shout at them to jump.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2004

    Good Read

    Jess Walker did A great job of keeping the suspense and an 'On the edge' feeling. I enjoyed the read. Im looking forward to reading another book by this author

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    Posted May 1, 2009

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    Posted January 19, 2013

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    Posted February 24, 2009

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    Posted April 20, 2014

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