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Showing 1-10 of 72 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 106 reviews
on August 22, 2016
"Faux mystery" is right. If you are expecting a good detective story then you should probably pass. I think this is my 7th Harrison book so I'm used to Harrison getting side-tracked which is ok by me. Simon Sunderson (main character) is a 65 yr old recently retired Michigan State Police detective. His beloved wife recently divorced him which he deeply regrets. However, he is a man with great appetites (sex, booze, food, books to name a few). There is no way a man could eat and drink as much as Sunderson. He always has his eyes open for a cute butt. The story is set primarily in Michigan (U.P.) with side trips to AZ and NB. The "Great Leader" is a cult leader who recruits and has sex with underage girls. There was a review on the jacket that I thought made sense. This story is a kind of meditation on life, sex, religion, relationships and other "big life" issues. However, the book is also Harrison's thoughts on what the "good life" entails and to me that is what makes the book interesting. Some may be offended by Sunderson's sexual encounters, most highly improbable. Sunderson loves to fish (trout), walk, ID birds and flora, drink (insane) and I have never met a character who eats as much as him. I enjoyed the book but I'm a big fan and cut him some slack. He'll make you think. Harrison died a few months ago down in AZ. America lost a great writer. He was one of a kind.
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VINE VOICEon December 27, 2011
Although elusive cult leader Dwight, aka the Great Leader (GL), or reinvented as King David, is a degenerate criminal, who preys on young teenage girls, just retiring Michigan State policeman Detective Sunderson is somewhat intrigued by GL's ability to meld sex, money, and religion. Even after retirement, Sunderson makes it his mission to track down GL from the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) to the Apache desert region of Arizona to the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

But the fact is, this book is primarily about the journey of Sunderson himself, including his past, much of which is slowly revealed on his camping and walking forays. Sunderson is an unmoored soul, not at all sure what to do with himself. Not only has his lifelong work disappeared but his lengthy marriage to the good-looking, efficient Diane ended three years before, precipitating protracted drinking bouts, which have lessened only slightly.

He is a pretty good looking, unassuming, and friendly guy, who, through the years, instead of badgering suspects and witnesses, is inclined to cut through their defenses by offering to buy them a beer. But much more is at work with Sunderson than first appears. He has a reverence for history, constantly reading and putting matters into perspective. He is a devoted brook trout fisherman, finding fishing trips and the general commune with nature to be regenerating.

Most noticeable about Sunderson, however, is his continued fascination, at age sixty-five, with women, especially those with shapely rear-ends. And his interest is generally reciprocated, which is not without its troubles. His intimate connection with a nurse he met in an Arizona hospital, while recovering from an assault by Dwight's followers, comes with having to deal with her violent Mexican drug lord brother. And there is 16-year-old next door neighbor Mona, who likes to parade in her bedroom sans clothes with lights on and curtains open. Fortunately, Sunderson is able to redirect that mutual interest. It turns out that she is a computer sleuth extraordinaire and is immensely helpful in nailing down the mysterious Dwight.

The story is really rather ragged - not to mention the writing style - proceeding by leaps and jerks, often with Sunderson in the wilderness on the edge of getting lost or freezing to death. And there is the distracting untidiness of his moving every few days in Arizona, often abruptly, not to mention his unsatisfactory dealings with his mother and siblings who live in Arizona. Most interesting about the book are the musings of Sunderson on all manner of subjects. He works through some of his thinking via long conversations with his friend Marion, a half-Indian school principal in the UP. And although Sunderson is a lusty old guy, he seems to gain a certain stability in his life through his dealings with women.
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on January 26, 2012
About 30 years ago I encountered an anthologized short story by this (at that time) unfamiliar writer, Jim Harrison. I was stunned: Here was an artist who wrote of Michigan outdoors, dogs, sex, food, women, road trips, and blowhards, and blended these topics into something that I couldn't put down. Since then, I've read almost everything he's written, and discovered that while I like only the occasional poem, I really enjoy his fiction and essays. Why? I have to think that I appreciate his honesty and his balance. Men do think like this main character, Sunderson, who suffers from self-doubt, remorse, and guilt even as he reaches an age (65 and retirement) at which he is expected to have most things figured out. I also marvel at Harrison's prose style, in which there is a surprising and nimble balance: In one longish paragraph,he can go from regretting losing his wife, to momentarily lusting after someone he shouldn't, to marveling at the beauty of natural Michigan/Arizona,to enjoying a fine meal of Lake Superior whitefish.
Harrison's writing resonates with me, and always has. While I don't think that this book is his best, I do appreciate a writer that seems to write the way he wants to, and not write to cater to any particular editor or audience. If you, as a reader, enjoy a story that confronts class inequalities, the historical mistreatment of Native Americans, a stubborn drive to "make things right," the courage to look back on life's glaring missteps, and an honest acknowledgement of his protagonist's weaknesses and imperfections, sexual and otherwise--all the while expressed in strong, vivid, and sometimes brilliant prose--read this book. (And while, as I said, this book might not be his best, it still easily rates five stars.)
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VINE VOICEon December 27, 2011
I've railed at Harrison the last couple of reviews for just mailing it in and not really living up to the promise of earlier works like Farmer and Wolf. I've been reading Harrison since he first started with poetry and haven't read everything, still, I've read most. I was not patient with English Teacher at all and The Great Leader is a lot like that book what with the road trips and various characters meandering in and out and regret and lost love. This time I decided to just read the damn thing since I am close to the same age as Sunderson and picked up on a lot of what I thought were inside jokes for as far inside as I the name Sunderson for example. Sunderson and I would get along if we were neighbors. We think alike on some things and grouse at the same things like gravity. Except I don't look like Robert Duvall. But I am surprised when younger women give me the eye. So reading the Great Leader with no expectations was preferable to reading it with expectations. I always enjoy the food, hunting and fishing stuff because I live way out in the country and like all the same things. Have I made my peace with Harrison? I don't think so. I might check out the poems he just published...but maybe not.
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on March 3, 2015
Sunderson is living the dream, he just does not know it yet. He is being paid for not working (the current American dream). He has sex often with different younger women which is the exception for men in their 60s unless they are very wealthy. He loves drinking, books, fishing. cooking and eating and indulges himself constantly with only minor problems. He is alive and moving forward despite all his bad habits and having a good time(at least the reader is)
All retired men in their 60s should read this book.
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on June 20, 2016
If you like wasting your time reading a mystery that isn't a mystery, a book that never really goes anywhere, whose main character never quite gets sober, whose mind is constantly on sex with whatever woman will accommodate him or titillate (meaning to arouse, tease, interest, or excite pleasurably and often superficially) then this book might be for you. Other than his sister and mother there isn't one female in the book who does not arouse him and I may be wrong about not including those two. At least he doesn't have sex with his 16 year old next door neighbor who knows he watches her as she trounces around her bedroom in the nude knowing he is watching her. I might be wrong about that too. I was a little over half way through the book when I deleted it from my Kindle. There are too many good and even decent mediocre mysteries out there to waste money and time on a books such as this one.
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on October 28, 2016
Antihero begins his retirement, and appeals to an aging and widening audience along with his large appetites that can't be sated. The writing rambles but is enjoyable most of the time. No real surprises but I think I get it, mostly.
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on February 25, 2015
"When his seat mate seemed to frown at his dawn drink he wished he could fart but he was not a fart-on-demand kind of guy."
My idea of great prose.

In that I am the same age as the story's protagonist, I can relate to his dealings with life, death and purpose. The case that the retired detective was working seemed to be secondary to the story line, and I liked that.
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on December 26, 2016
You'll like this book if you're male, in your sixties and still a horn dog. I am all of these things. Also sympathize with LEO's (law enforcement officers). Superb dialogue and concise observations of human nature.
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on July 15, 2016
1st live in Mich. Second been reading him for years. He just entertains me. Seems to be very earthy . Throws in the intellectuals names I need to look up but overall he entertains me. That's what it's all about. I will miss him. One great Michigander
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