…30-odd books down the roadhis own shelf in the libraryand you can still feel the excitement every time [Harrison] pulls something new out of his ear. Which pretty much happens on every page he writes…Pick up the book for yourself, drop it on the floor and wherever it falls open there will be something…good.
The New York Times Book Review
Harrison (The English Teacher) offers a chunk of comic backwoods noir marked by more plodding than stalking. Detective Sunderson wallows in “the deep puzzlement of retirement” even as he pursues, on his own dime, a pedophilic cult leader. Known simply as “Dwight,” the quarry promises to unknot for Sunderson the bedeviling connections between sex, religion, and money. But Dwight barely appears on the page, leaving the detective often ruminating on his own distrust of money and spirituality, and obsessing about sex—which he actually gets a fair amount of for an overweight, drunk, sardonic, 64-year-old bachelor, despite his belief that the “biological imperative was a distracting nuisance.” Characters and themes like these pervade the prolific Harrison’s work; no one makes horny geezers so lovable, but some will wish he’d distilled this into the novella form he’s so good at. The story’s motifs of lust and power, sex and death resonate, yet the narrative’s slow progression keeps an otherwise entertaining literary investigation rooted in the oft-frozen ground of the Upper Peninsula. (Oct.)
“The Great Leader carbonates page after page after page. You might go so far as to compare it to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Or
Ted Williams, much the better hitter
[Or] Willie Mays. Mays was a magic act, but the kind that left you with the feeling that the miraculous stuff surprised him too. And that’s where Harrison fits in, 30-odd books down the roadhis own shelf in the libraryand you can still feel the excitement every time he pulls something new out of his ear. Which pretty much happens on every page he writes.” Pete Dexter, The New York Times Book Review
“The Harrison Legend
has only grown
. Harrison has outlasted those critics who initially wrote him off as a Hemingway-derived regionalist, and at times he has been as successful as a modern American writer can possibly be
. The Great Leader is hugely enjoyableHarrison is probably incapable of writing a novel that is not enjoyable.
remains stunning.’” Tom Bissell, Outside Magazine
“Jim Harrison brings his established fascination with the rugged places of the natural world, the pleasures of good food and the persistence of sexual desire to this sometimes playful, often poignant story of one man's twilight quest for redemption
. Jim Harrison's latest leaves no doubt he still has much that's fresh, entertaining and thoughtful to say.” Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
The lyrical narrative cascades between dark comedy and revelation and, though it plows familiar soil, could be among Harrison’s more rewarding in years.” Ted Roelofs, The Grand Rapids Press
“Jim Harrison conjures The Great Leader of a bizarre hedonistic cult.” Vanity Fair
“A mountain, a mess and an agonized moralist, Detective Sunderson makes this mock-epic one of the most memorable tales of contemporary master Harrison
Wounds-and-all portrait of a lion in winter, beleaguered but still battling.” Kirkus Reviews
“[The] cat-and-mouse game between the two main characters is used effectively to explore the intrinsic tensions between the universal truths of justice, religion and morality
A classic Harrison novel, complete with humorous and introspective characters.” Joshua Finnell, Library Journal
“Comic backwoods noir
[T]he story’s motifs of lust and power, sex and death resonate.” Publishers Weekly
Perhaps best known for his film-adapted collection of novellas, Legends of the Fall, Harrison is one of the most prolific writers of recent times, with an expansive body of work ranging from poetry (Letters to Yesenin) to children's literature (The Boy Who Ran to the Woods). Set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Harrison's favorite location, this book does not offer the continuing story line of familial heartbreak and reconciliation explored in True North and Returning to Earth, but common themes of alcoholism and loneliness in the Upper Peninsula. Divorced, alcoholic, and recently retired detective Sunderson journeys from Michigan to Nebraska as he tracks a cult and its charismatic leader, whose commitment to evading capture is as strong as Sunderson's commitment to finding him. This cat-and-mouse game between the two main characters is used effectively to explore the intrinsic tensions between the universal truths of justice, religion, and mortality. VERDICT A classic Harrison novel, complete with humorous and introspective characters. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH
A mountain, a mess and an agonized moralist, Detective Sunderson makes this mock-epic one of the most memorable tales of contemporary master Harrison (In Search of Small Gods, 2009, etc.). Swigging schnapps, feeding his face, sneaking midnight peeks at Mona, the nymphet next door—when it comes to lawmen, Sunderson's seems a Wyatt Burp. But joining the ramshackle lifestyle and tough-guy exterior (he's a dead-ringer for Bobby Duval) is a blazing, obsessive intelligence. Which, just as he's retiring from a 30-year gig on a backwoods Midwest force, fixates on Dwight, a Jim Jones in a tree costume (!) who robs his brainwashed cult members and rapes their underaged daughters. Anyone who deserts him, he says, will be "reincarnated as an amoeba buried in a dog turd." Tracking the on-the-lam menace from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the Arizona wastes, Sunderson gets literally stoned by crazed Dwightniks, has sex with another (atop a woodpile), tangles with deranged desperado Xavier (who slays with an artificial hand), takes a break to visit his own 85-year-old chain-smoking ma and enlists Mona to hack into Dwight's computer. Whew! Yet plot here, however manic, mainly provides excuse for Sunderson's meditations. We get his pet peeves: "the frivolous white canticles of the Beatles," the war in Iraq, Anderson Cooper (who reminds him of a chipmunk) and all pundits who subscribe to "the hideously mistaken idea that talking is thinking." We get his passion for history, of which he reads reams, the measured assessment of past chaos providing him solace from the present-day version. And, largely, we get minute-by-minute torrent-of-consciousness observations on growing old, as well as ruminations on nature, loyalty and family. Wounds-and-all portrait of a lion in winter, beleaguered but still battling.