The Great Leader
By Jim Harrison
(Grove Press, Hardcover, 9780802119704, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 2011
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Author Jim Harrison has won international acclaim for his masterful body of work, including Returning to Earth, Legends of the Fall and over thirty books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In his most original work to date, Harrison delivers an enthralling, witty and expertly-crafted novel following one man’s hunt for an elusive cult leader, dubbed The Great Leader.”
On the verge of retirement, Detective Sunderson begins to investigate a hedonistic cult, which has set up camp near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At first, the self-declared Great Leader seems merely a harmless oddball, but as Sunderson and his sixteen-year-old sidekick dig deeper, they find him more intelligent and sinister than they realized. Recently divorced and frequently pickled in alcohol, Sunderson tracks his quarry from the woods of Michigan to a town in Arizona, filled with criminal border-crossers, and on to Nebraska, where the Great Leader’s most recent recruits have gathered to glorify his questionable religion. But Sunderson’s demons are also in pursuit of him.
Rich with character and humor, The Great Leader is at once a gripping excursion through America’s landscapes and the poignant story of a man grappling with age, lost love and his own darker nature.
Jim Harrison is the author of over thirty-one books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including Legends of the Fall, The Road Home, The English Major, and The Farmer’s Daughter. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and The New York Times. He has earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association.
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. The language 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