One of the few American writers ever nominated for the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction presents the second novel in his Watson trilogy.
Lucius Watson is obsessed with learning the truth about his father. Who was E. J. Watson? Was he a devoted family man, an inspired farmer, a man of progress and vision? Or was he a cold-blooded murderer and amoral opportunist? Were his neighbors driven to kill him out of fear? Or was it envy? And if Watson was a killer, should the neighbors fear the obsessed Lucius when he returns to live among them and ask questions?
The characters in this tale are men and women molded by the harsh elements of the Florida Everglades--an isolated breed, descendants of renegades and pioneers, who have only their grit, instinct, and tradition to wield against the obliterating forces of twentieth-century progress: Speck Daniels, moonshiner and alligator poacher turned gunrunner; Sally Brown, who struggles to escape the racism and shame of her local family; R. B. Collins, known as Chicken, crippled by drink and rage, who is the custodian of Watson secrets: Watson Dyer, the unacknowledged namesake with designs on the remote Watson homestead hidden in the wild rivers; and Henry Short, a black man and unwilling member of the group of armed island men who awaited E. J. Watson in the silent twilight. Only a storyteller of Peter Matthiessen's dazzling artistry could capture the beauty and strangeness of life on this lawless frontier while probing deeply into its underlying tragedy: the brutal destruction of the land in the name of progress, and the racism that infects the heart of New World history.
A story of epic scope and ambition, Lost Man's River confronts the primal relationship between a dangerous father and his desperate sons and the ways in which his death has shaped their lives.