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Redemption Road: A Novel Hardcover – May 3, 2016
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Photo Credit: Jon Lakey, Salisbury Post
Why I Write The South
By John Hart
I was 21 when I read The Prince Of Tides by the great Pat Conroy, and even now I remember it’s opening line. ‘My wound is geography.’ He was speaking of the South Carolina low country, of the waters and the marshes and all the living things that share that place. If you’ve read the book and remember its characters then you understand the power of those words. ‘My wound is geography. ..’
I’m a child of the South, and more specifically, a child of the river. Growing up in Rowan County, my family had 472 acres where the Yadkin spilled into the headwaters of High Rock Lake. It was a beautiful property, its borders unchanged since Cornwallis camped on it during the Revolutionary War. I’ve not stood on that land in three decades, but I remember the fields and woods like I’d walked them yesterday. I can close my eyes even now and feel the breeze that rose off the river. I remember the cattle, the deer, the stutter of quail and the smell of black snake on my hands. We lived in the city, but spent long days on the farm. We had horses and dirt bikes and outbuildings as old as the county, itself. For two miles our property followed the water. That meant coves and driftwood and arrowheads in the sand. For a boy like me it was paradise.
I think most every week of that land, of its pastures and streams and its wild and secret woods. It was a world unto itself, a forgotten nation with a population of me. My family was there, of course - the parents in the garden, the sisters on horseback – but most often I was by myself or with some friend from the city. We’d build forts in the hayloft and rafts beside the river. The old tenement shack was mounded with stored seed, and that was a playground no other boy ever had: a dozen dusty rooms and hills you could never climb. I knew every inch of that property, and I mean every single one. I knew where to watch for Copperhead and the best places to fish, where to pick fig and pear and blackberry, the fallen trees across the creeks, and which muddy spots would suck off your shoes. I caught catfish the size of my sister, bream by the hundreds and, once, a largemouth bass that must have weighed nine pounds. When I was older I hunted, but mostly for quail and dove and rabbit. I liked the deer too much to shoot, and even now let them roam unmolested on land I own in Virginia.
Life on the river was a special gift, and there was a song I learned early: the call of a fox in the night, of bullfrogs and owl and the blow of a startled deer. For a handful of years it was the rhythm of my childhood, to wake in the gray light and fall asleep with fireflies in the trees. And all the while there was the river, the slow, muddy brown and all the wonderful things it carried - not just the fish and the otter, but the blue-glass bottles, half-buried, the boaters and the fowl and the silver wood stacked everywhere the water bent. Childhood on the Yadkin was an adventure, and the river cut a channel right through me. I write about it in my books; it touches most every story. My second novel, Down River, is an unabashed testament to the river, and to the power of memory.
Yet, good things end. And though I blame no one for the sale of the farm – divorce happens, as does life - I ache for the place that was. The land was developed years ago, and in a way that hurts all the more for its thoughtless nature. It’s a junkyard now, and a trailer park littered with plywood additions and dead cars and dogs on short chains. This, too, shows up in my books, and speaks as well to the power of loss.
‘Geography is my wound.’
I can’t think of those early days on the river without feeling the changes time has wrought, not just on the land but on all of us. Things were simpler then. There was no Internet, and no such thing as a Play Station or a smart phone. Kids walked to school and played outside. The television had three channels. When the farm was sold, all that seemed to change. I know it didn’t happen on the same day or even in the same year, but it feels like it, looking back, like the ruination of that farm signaled an end to simplicity. Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe I just got older.
What I do know is that I’ve always aspired to have my own farm on a wide, slow river, to retrieve what I’d lost and to offer the same experience to my children. I never lost sight of that dream, and though it took a long time to achieve it, I’ve been fortunate enough to not only find the perfect property, but to buy it out of development, and thus protect it forever. I walk that land almost every day. I take my children there, and my wife. I lead my dogs through the fields and woods and think, ‘No development will happen here.’
There’s poetry in that, I think.
I no longer live in North Carolina, but I set my books there, and when I close my eyes its what I see: Salisbury and Rowan County, the people and the land and the long, forever river.
In Pat’s book there’s a second line after the first. ‘My wound is geography,’ he wrote. ‘It is also my anchorage, my port of call.’
He got that one right, too.
“People in publishing have always known that John Hart can flat-out write. His prose conjures comparisons with James Lee Burke in its sultry, melodious alchemy. With Redemption Road Hart has taken it to another level. The prologue is heart-wrenching and the chapters thereafter pull you in like matter to a black hole. Read this novel. And then go back and read all of his others. He’s that good.” ― David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"There’s no easier way to say it: Redemption Road is simply great writing." - Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"John Hart writes like a poet, and I couldn’t put down this novel, an utterly riveting story of crime and its profound ripple effects on the human psyche. I have long been a fan of John Hart, but in Redemption Road, he has topped himself." -- Lisa Scottoline, New York Times Bestselling Author of Corrupted
“Big, bold, and impossible to put down, REDEMPTION ROAD had me from page one. John Hart is a master storyteller.” ― Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"In this stellar crime thriller, Edgar-winner Hart (Iron House) explores the human capacity for resilience and trust in the face of heartbreaking betrayal...Though Hart employs plot twists effectively, it’s his powerful, wounded but courageous lead whom readers will remember." - Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house―and leave spectators from the orchestra to the balcony moved and misty-eyed. " - Kirkus Reviews
"A police officer with a tragic past, two children in peril, and a wrongly accused men - it all adds up to great story telling. REDEMPTION ROAD is a thriller with a Southern gothic touch. With his trademark strength and deep insight, John Hart rolls out another masterpiece. His first female protagonist is a flawed woman; but the reader never doubts the goodness of her heart. Plan to set aside a good chunk of time. You will have a hard time putting this book down before you reach the stunning conclusion." ― Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books
"John Hart loves the terrain where good people tough by nature or circumstance try to set things right while also rarely asking for help. Mix that with some very bad folks twisted by power and desire and you have the kind of riveting atmospheric story he's great at. Vivid characters determined to get to the bottom of things, breaking through their own reserve to join forces and protect the weak. Redemption Road is deeply engaging from beginning to end. This author has never disappointed me. I love the richness of his stories and the paths this characters chose to in fact achieve some kind of redemption for the powerless." ― Sheryl Cotleur, Cooperfield's Books
"Redemption Road is the best thriller I have read in the past 10 years. You have a damaged cop that refuses to help herself, an ex-cop leaving prison after serving time for a murder he didn't commit and a serial killer who is unknown in the town he has been preying upon for years. And that just starts the book! Thanks to John Hart's masterful writing and my not talking about anything else but his page-turning, electric novel, we have 22 preorders for a book that doesn't even have an ISBN yet!" ― Sally Brewster, Park Road Books
"In Redemption Road, John Hart has created the perfect combination of elements for any reader of thrillers―unending suspense, plot twists galore, in-depth and well drawn characters, and realistic and atmospheric settings. This is perfect for those who love John Grisham, Harlan Coben, Wiley Cash, and C. J. Box. Readers have waited five long years for a new book by Hart so librarians will want to buy plenty for both demand and for introducing to new readers." ― Robin Beerbower, EarlyWord.com Columnist
"Every new John Hart novel is a credit to the written word. Over five books, he has raised the bar for commercial fiction, deftly blending the tension, pacing, and suspense of the classic thriller with characters so richly drawn and prose so elegant that his stories are worthy of being called literature. After The Last Child and Iron House, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Hart's next offering. I was not disappointed. Redemption Road is a triumph." ― Corban Addison, internationally bestselling author of A Walk Across the Sun
"John Hart is the author of one of my all time favorite books, The King of Lies. His latest novel, Redemption Road, is a must read for anybody who loves an intelligent and totally gripping page turner. It is the one book that I recommend to all my friends this Summer." ― Markus Wilhelm
"He is a skilled writer who can plumb the minds of a wide range of characters while building tension with an intricate plot and revealing backstories...accomplished achievement." ― Library Journal
"Hart unwinds another complex plot, rich in backstory but driven by a propulsive main narrative...Hart plays brilliantly on the tradition of the southern gothic, but his grasp of character gives this novel―and all his works―the extra dimension that extends his audience well beyond adrenaline junkies.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A two-time Edgar winner and a writer who’s batting .1000 [1.000?] on New York Times best-sellers, Hart hasn’t lost his touch."" - Booklist, starred review
"Hart spins an intricately plotted crime story with plenty of twists and sharp turns...what’s truly satisfying is to see the characters discover their own truths―authentically, painfully, and at their own pace, the way it happens in real life. Hopefully it won’t be another five years until we see more from John Hart." - The Strand Magazine
"It has been a long time since I started a novel that from word one held me captive while it built slowly, inexorably, breathlessly to its heart-stopping finale...Ultimately,Redemption Road is about the power of loss, memory and place. It is a dazzling evocation of what Hart calls “the search for light in dark places.” - Open Letters Monthly
"REDEMPTION ROAD is as good as any of [Hart's] previous novels and in some cases even better. His grasp of plot is still phenomenal, his creation of characters is still amazing, and his way with words is still magnificently acute. In this book he writes with the same southern melancholia style of Conroy and McCullers, which is not an easy thing to do ... his story rings true. It possesses tremendous depth as it reveals the isolation a wounded heart can feel. It shows understanding in the emotions of rage and revenge. It shows the curative blessings of a redemptive soul. That is a lot to pack into a story but Hart has the heart and stamina to make it all work ...Stick out your thumb, flag him down and join him on this amazing journey. It will be the ride of a lifetime." ―Huffington Post
"John Hart's exquisite writing had me the moment I opened this book...Hart introduces a full cast of characters and manages to weave them together seamlessly. " - NJ Star Ledger
"The pages keep turning -- almost involuntarily -- until the end. Hart's writing is, at times, pure poetry. Yet at other times, the violence and cruelty he describes are almost too horrible to read. And that's probably the best way to describe this book -- a novel that has everything from torture and tortured people to beauty and what is the best in human nature. Hart manages to encompass it all. Beautifully." - Examiner.com
"There’s a magic in his work...Hart creates characters your heart bleeds for...thoroughly worth a slow, attentive read. Hart’s muscular prose is an editor’s dream, written not just in active voice but using verbs you feel in your viscera." - Raleigh News & Observer
"Hart ties the two plot threads in a gripping, believable story that doesn't rest until the last sentence...'Redemption Road' contains a more ambitious plot than Hart's previous novels, and he weaves this seemingly far-flung story with aplomb." - Assocated Press
"Hart once again has proved that he ranks among the best writers anywhere when it comes to literary and psychological thrillers, those novels that combine crime, suspense and searing glimpses into the human mind and soul." - Greensboro News & Record
"One of today’s finest thriller writers - certainly in the same league as David Baldacci, John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth and Lee Child. There are moments when Hart’s writing soars off the page with a lyricism that probably only James Lee Burke can match. Unforgettable." - Daily Mail (UK)
"John Hart is as near to perfect as any writer currently working. Redemption Road is conclusive evidence that Hart’s name belongs in the same breath as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, masters of language and character who demonstrated again and again that mysteries and thrillers are not limited to plot-driven potboilers. They can be a beautiful art form, too, triggering emotions as strong as any inspired by music or poetry." - Chapter 16
"Edgar Award winning John Hart cements his status as one of America’s premier novelists, as well as mystery writers, in "Redemption Road," a beautifully rendered, heart wrenching tale that’s the perfect combination of brains and brawn...haunting in its base simplicity and riveting in its emotional angst, this is an extraordinary novel in which the human heart proves the most confounding mystery of all." - The Providence Journal
"With prose that runs the gamut between tough and lyrical, a page-turner plot that raises issues both timely and timeless and the talent to delve deeply into the psyches of the injured, Hart...again shines in a novel that examines our ability to rise above the destructive events in our lives ― or to surrender to our weaknesses. More than a crime novel, “Redemption Road” offers a volcano of unspeakable cruelty, corruption and sin ― but also a testament to saving love, courage and grace." - The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Redemption Road returns Hart to his rightful place as one of the most literary of living crime writers; and one that illustrates the power of genre fiction when placed in the hands of a master story-teller." - Shotsmag (UK)
"Redemption Road is an achingly beautiful literary thriller powered by evocative prose and remarkable characters, a disturbing tale of wounded people scrabbling about in a world of secrets, betrayals, and tough choices." - New Zealand Herald
“Redemption Road by John Hart is a major work of creative writing that has few equals in recent fiction and stands alone in the crime fiction genre. It is a spectacular achievement and this year’s most satisfying read.” ―The Durango Telegraph
About the Author
John Hart is the author of REDEMPTION ROAD, and of four New York Times bestsellers, THE KING OF LIES, DOWN RIVER, THE LAST CHILD and IRON HOUSE. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller's Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in over seventy countries. A former defense attorney and stockbroker, John spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia, where he writes full-time.
Top customer reviews
Former consummate police officer Adrian Wall is released after doing thirteen years hard time for a violent crime he swears he did not commit. The victim’s son, Gideon, wants revenge against Wall. Detective Elizabeth Black has been obsessed with Wall since the day he saved her life and believes him to be innocent. However, a police shooting has placed her in the center of an investigation and, for some reason, she’s not cooperating. Channing, the rape victim Black saved during the shooting, suffers from PTSD and shares an unknown connection with the detective. And a killer, quiet over these last few years, has returned, leaving the body of a young woman where Adrian Wall’s victim was found thirteen years ago.
The story revolves around these main characters and they drive the narrative as they seek their own form of closure, of revenge, of redemption. And complicating their hope for absolution are the repercussions of choice. Each has made a choice, for good or for bad, that has affected their lives and the lives of those around them. Every character in the book, minor ones included, must live with the fallout of their choices. So many times the reader can feel the pain as some characters recognize and think “if only…”
And Redemption Road is not a straightforward whodunit murder mystery, there are more secrets and puzzles for the reader to discover and solve. The author has presented the readers with a magnificent gift that is complex and multilayered and a thrill to unravel. Some answers are easily discovered while others rival the country roads that surround this North Carolina town, full of twists and surprises and unexpected detours. Red herrings are tossed into the mix and, to complicate things even further, some turn out to be truths.
The characters are flawed and frail and tragically human. While Adrian may be broken and Channing desperate and Gideon heartbreaking, Elizabeth is the star of the book. Her deep, dark strength and compassion bring this woman to life. She sacrifices her love, her sanity, and her sympathy for the people in her life, whether they are deserving of it or not. She suffers for children such as Channing and Gideon. She commendably forgives those that merit her hatred. Truly, an amazing woman.
While choices are what brought all these people to whatever anger or greed or insanity or lies or heartbreak or desperation now ruling their lives, they will all stand at the crossroads that lead to redemption, or oblivion. All will be given a second chance. The choice is theirs.
An author has to be really, really good to get my attention and he/she has to work at all aspects of his/her work to present a novel worth remembering -- and worth recommending to others. My preferred genres include horror, mystery, thrillers, and detective novels. Some of the best books that I have ever read include: "Boy's Life" (Robert McCammon), "The Stand" (Stehen King), "The Girl Next Door" (Jack Ketchum), "Mystic River" (Dennis Lehane), "The Cabinet of Curiosities" (Preston and Child), and "The Anvil Chorus" (Shane Stevens). Other authors I enjoy include: Lee Child, Robert Crais, Nelson DeMille, Stephen Hunter, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Ken Follett, George Pelecanos, John Sandford, Tom Wolfe, Lawrence Block, and Greg Iles.
The first test an author has to pass is to come up with the story, preferably something unique and based on reality, yet full of twists and turns that are believable but not contradictory. A great author doesn't want to cause any suspension of disbelief. He/she has to present interesting characters who are well developed and are able to think and act as required in the story line. The environment where the story takes place has to be described well enough to allow the reader to put himself/herself in the story alongside the main characters. The author has to research all of the bits and pieces that he/she includes in his/her work in order to make all of his/her descriptions accurate. One poorly researched and described event can ruin the author's credibility. And the author has to introduce his/her story and then consistently build on it until it gains momentum and rushes to its conclusion -- all the while throwing in subtle distractions to keep the reader thinking but not enough to give away the ending. "Terrible events always have small beginnings." After the dramatic conclusion is presented, an unwinding (denouement or epilogue) has to wrap things up and describe the new normal that the characters have entered. The inclusion of humor in all its forms can add considerable punch to a story.
Readers who don't take the time to buy and read "Redemption Road" will miss John Hart's best work (so far). Seldom have I read a book where all the characters carry such heavy baggage, damaged by past events or manipulated by people close to them. Their burdens have cast them into a world of darkness with only the barest sliver of hope dangling in the distance, a glimmer that seems to get farther away as the story progresses. Mr. Hart's imagery is stark, his verbage gut wrenching, and he paints a dark picture of bad thoughts, strong emotions, hopelessness, and with no way out. Physical and psychological torture is not just used to gather information, it is used as a tool to inflict permanent damage. The bad guys are really bad and even the good guys seem to lack many redeeming qualities. Birds of a feather tend to flock together -- but sometimes vultures eat their own.
You want the characters to survive against the insurmountable hurdles thrown at them. You want love in all its forms to conquer all -- but it appears that instead it could all end in flames and darkness. Reading this story is like jumping on a chainsaw. Body parts and pieces of psyche are torn apart and scattered everywhere. The sounds of screaming and tearing work their way deeper into your mind until you become -- what? A small piece of your former self? Unconnected fragments too small to be reassembled? A mind, a body, ruined one tiny piece at a time? Or can they survive everything thrown at them and live a new life together as permanently damaged individuals? Imperfect people struggling with severely damaged minds and bodies tend to have difficulty finding common ground. And what about faith?
John Hart has written a complex novel that throws a lasso around you, capturing and holding the reader while he has his way with you. His writing is clean and taut, causing your emotions to rise and fall with what his characters endure. You will be surprised, you will cry, you will become angry, and you might even laugh once in a while. But the best thing that you can do is to pick up this book and strap yourself in for a long and terribly bumpy ride. This is the first book I've read since "The Exorcist" that kept me up all night until I finished it as the sun came up. And I'm still thinking about it.
Elizabeth Black is a highly decorated police veteran. As the book opens, she is caught in a blaze of negative publicity, accused of using unnecessary force in the shooting two men who held a young girl captive, torturing and raping her repeatedly. Ratal her than making any attempt to justify her action, Elizabeth simply refuses to discuss the matter.
Simultaneously, a former police veteran, Adrian Wall, a man Elizabeth admired, is being released from prison after 13 years, convicted of a particularly brutal murder of a young housewife in a trial where he refused to testify. Almost immediately, the murder for which Wall served his sentence, is repeated.
At its core, this is a novel where those in power are greedy, sadistic and duplicitous - at best. At worst, they are brutal and murderous.
Adrian Wall had a particularly horrible time in prison, victimized by guards, the warden and other prisoners. History is about to repeat itself.
Secondary characters in novels of this genre are often fungible. Not so when John Hart is writing. The motel clerk, the waitress in the diner, the witness with a small story to tell are stars of their scenes. The dialogue and action are such that the reader, at least this one, was not tempted to skip ahead.
When the mass murderer is revealed, it is a bit of an eye-roller, but, all in all, it was two pages at the end of a really well written novel. For those who have not read John Hart's novels, you simply must.
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