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Killing Mister Watson Paperback


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Killing Mister Watson + Lost Man's River: Shadow Country Trilogy (2) + Bone by Bone: Shadow Country Trilogy (3)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 30, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679734058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679734055
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Numerous acquaintances of the leg endary Edgar J. Watson, said to have gunned down the outlaw Belle Starr, are given voice in a fictionalized oral history set in the Florida Everglades. PW called this "an imaginative and haunting evocation of a time and place, and the paradox of the tenderness and brutality with which real and imagined lives are filled." Ten tales about people trapped in futile behavior patterns comprise On the River Styx: "In limpid, lyrical prose, these dazzling stories ob jectively explore the lack of communi cation between husbands and wives, between races and cultures."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- More than 20 men wait in ambush as Mister Watson steps ashore and is shot dead. From this beginning, the story of Edgar J. Watson is told through the recollections of his daughter and neighbors, and by reports from magazines, letters, and other historical papers. This is a study rich in history, social studies, ecology, and nature of the The Ten Thousand Islands area of southwestern Florida from 1890-1910. It was a haven for escapees and renegades, and poor treatment of Indians, blacks, and half-breeds was accepted and expected. When Watson arrived there in the 1890s, he was thought of as quiet and friendly. But an aura of danger grew with the stories told and retold about him. When it was alleged that he killed 57 people (including Belle Starr), the tales became folk legend. The setting and characters are fully drawn as Watson's menacing power grows steadily. Because ten characters tell and retell in dialect their versions of the Watson story, YAs will need to persevere with this demanding format. If they do, they will know the Florida era that ended when Mister Watson was killed. --Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library,
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It has been several years since I read this book...but I have enjoyed few others as I have enjoyed this one.
John Noodles
In novels displaying typical craftsmanship, assigning names to characters who may have little bearing on the story is avoided-why confuse the reader unnecessarily!
F. E. Mazur
This book never drags, presents finely drawn characters in a captivating setting and excellent historical detail.
Alfred B. Shapiro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By John Noodles on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
It has been several years since I read this book...but I have enjoyed few others as I have enjoyed this one. Using multiple voices, Matthiessen tells the story of E.J Watson, a homesteader in the turn-of-the-century Everglades. Matthiessen tells the story in the 1st person, from the point of view of various friends of Watson, family members, and enemies within the Chokoloskee community.
Matthiessen has clearly immersed himself in the lives of Florida pioneers, and conveys the harshness of their lives, and that sticky, fetid overripeness so characteristic of Florida, brilliantly. He clearly loves his players, and adeptly creates "whole" people in even distasteful characters.
I've bought this book for friends who haven't been able to finish it...I have no idea why. Too much MTV, I guess, has rotted their attention spans! It may take 20 or so pages to get used to the shifting voices, but it is far from a difficult read, and you will find yourself compelled by the narrative.
This book has two sequels: Lost Man's River (told from the perspective of Watson's grown son), and Bone by Bone (told from the p.o.v. of Watson himself). Both are worth a look.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on October 16, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title implies, this is the story of a murder, one committed in the Florida Everglades in 1910. The book opens with a description of the death of Edgar J Watson, a pioneer homesteader, at the hands of a mob of his neighbours, who believe him to have been responsible for a number of killings that have taken place in the area. It then proceeds to tell Watson's story through the eyes of those who knew him, each chapter being related by a different narrator to the previous one. Interspersed with these are a number of brief chapters related by the author himself, assuming the role of a historian trying to find out the truth about what he calls the "Watson legend". (Watson was, in fact, a real person, and, although this is a work of fiction, it is based around historical events.)
The one voice we do not hear in the course of this novel is that of Watson himself; he is always referred to in the third person, never in the first. As a result of Mr Matthiessen's multiple-narrator technique, the truth about Watson's character and the events surrounding him, even those following his move to Florida, remains ambiguous. (We hear rumours, but no direct testimony, about his previous life in several other states). Was Watson good or evil, or a mixture of the two? Was his death the work of a vindictive lynch mob or justifiable killing in self-defence? Was he really guilty of the murders attributed to him, or the victim of unjustified suspicion? Mr Matthiessen never gives a final answer to these questions, but allows the reader to decide for himself or herself. Certainly, the various narrators disagree among themselves; while some clearly hate Watson, others point to his good qualities- his love for his family, his capacity for hard work, his honesty in his business dealings.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Matthiessen does a superb job of weaving the known facts of Edgar Watson together with his own imagination to create a novel that is truly a joy to read. It reminded me of Shogun in that it was one of those really great book reading experiences that gives the reader a sense of history and geography while telling a story that I couldn't put down after the first 50 pages. It's the first thing I've read of Matthiessen's, and I'm looking forward to my next one - probably The Snow Leopard. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of good writing, and not hack storytelling. I loved it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Herpel on August 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Peter Matthiessen is a writer of enormous sensitivity and skill. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he eschews the cliches of cynicism and nihilism, and retains a measure of idealism about the possibilities of life.
One of Matthiessen's great skills is to reproduce the local speech of simple people in a way that combines seeming authenticity with striking literary effect. Matthiessen tells the story of Mr. Watson by means of chapter-length monologues delivered by different characters in the local vernacular -- or at least Matthiessen's literary rendition of that vernacular. His ability to make those monologues seem completely authentic, while at the same time investing them with literary significance, reminded me of Twain (particularly "Huckleberry Finn") and Faulkner.
My only possible misgiving about the novel is that the author seems unwilling to pass judgment of any kind on the reputed killer, Mr. Watson. Is this because fact is so difficult to separate from fantasy that we cannot know if Mr. Watson was truly an evil man? Or is it because good and evil were relative concepts in the harsh wilderness of the Gulf coast islands in the 19th Century? Perhaps Matthiessen decided to withhold that judgment until the two later books of the trilogy, which I have not yet read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ZippyBooks123 on December 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
It took me a few chapters to get totally hooked on this narrative. At first, I wondered why I'd want to read a book that gave the ending in the first few paragraphs as well as in its title. Soon, though, I realized that not only is this a well-written historical novel about the early years of Florida's development, it's a haunting exploration into the nature of human beings. How all of Mr. Watson's acquaintances, neighbors, and even family members are influenced by his personality, his actions, the stories that are written about him, the inuendos that float about, and how all of this confusion results in his death, all combine to make an amazingly thoughtful story. This book still occupies a corner of my mind, weeks after I've finished it.
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