A Southern Review of Books Pick for The Best Southern Books of October 2022
A Deep South Magazine Pick for Fall/ Winter '22- '23
A Richland Library Pick for Six New Books for October
Beasts of the Earth tells the story of Harlen LeBlanc, a dependable if quiet employee of the Carter Hills High School's grounds department, whose carefully maintained routine is overthrown by an act of violence. As the town searches for answers, LeBlanc strikes out on his own to exonerate a friend, while drawing the eyes of the law to himself and fending off unwelcome voices that call for a sterner form of justice.
Twenty years earlier, young Michael Fischer dreads the return of his father from prison. He spends his days stealing from trap lines in the Louisiana bayou to feed his fanatically religious mother and his cherished younger sister, Doreen. When his father eventually returns, an evil arrives in Michael's life that sends him running from everything he has ever known. He is rescued by a dying poet and his lover, who extract from him a promise: to be a good man, whatever that may require.
Beasts of the Earth deftly intertwines these stories, exploring themes of time, fate, and free will, to produce a revelatory conclusion that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.
"Beasts of the Earth is a leanly structured western, stripping the genre only to its most basic elements. This allows Wade’s prose and philosophical ideas room to shine...a powerful ode to dreaming, beauty and human goodness."
-- Deep South Magazine
"Wade returns with another stark and chilling tale...From reptiles in the swamp hunting prey, to reptilian men, cold and calculating, beasts feature in this disturbing novel...The prose is beautiful."
-- Library Journal
"Wade's pitch-perfect, personality-driven dialogue sings in the voice of life, and his ability to meld existential thought, situational metaphor, and cinematic setting is a full-bodied experience...A soul-deep exploration of a wounded man in crisis, James Wade's Beasts of the Earth...secures his position as an author of extraordinary merit."
-- New York Journal of Books
"...contemplative character development and evocative descriptions of the landscape..."
-- Publishers Weekly
"The story brilliantly weaves together an ephemeral whodunnit with a transcendental puzzle about god and death. James Wade is a master of blending plots in this manner, and this his third novel is a masterpiece. Wade's prose is lyrical, telling a story with a three part harmony of action, metaphor and imagery. The novel's plot is a haunting ballad of evil and an atonement that is as fleeting as it is obscure...All of Wade's language in Beasts of the Earth is melodious, playing on each page a song that grips a reader's heart and soul...The anticipation makes it impossible to stop turning pages until the end. But there is no "needlessly shocking" conclusion, as one misguided reviewer suggests. For the novel's appropriate closing, the story's music just fades away, leaving it to the reader to decide, in true literary form, the reckoning. Few modern novelists have Wade's literary agility, and Beasts of the Earth will certainly delight sophisticated readers."
-- Midwest Book Review
"All Things Left Wild was one of my favorite novels of the last two years, as was River, Sing Out. But neither of those novels could have prepared me for the dark and compelling vision of Beasts of the Earth. I found myself rooting for the characters throughout their near-Biblical tribulations, and the storyline kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out what would happen next. Here we have a novel that blends realism with existentialist philosophy to redefine contemporary Southern fiction. Don't miss this tour de force of modern literature."
-- David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Spur and Anthony Award-winning author of Winter Counts
"Like Flannery O'Connor, James Wade explores what it means to be human--our capacity for good rivaled only by our capacity for evil, our weakness alongside our urge for redemption and grace--with gloriously complex characters and gorgeous prose. Beasts of the Earth is a beautiful gut-punch of a novel."
-- Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas
"James Wade is a writer of exceptional talent and this novel is his latest entry toward his path to greatness."
-- Scott Semegran, award-winning author of The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island and host of Austin Liti Limits
"James Wade writes a terrific story, but that isn't what makes him so good. Wade is a craftsman. His books should be read slowly, to luxuriate in his word choices, his sentence structure, his character revelation. That is why he is a joy to read."
-- James L. Haley, Spur Award-winning author of the Bliven Putnam Naval Adventures
"James Wade's Beasts of the Earth delivers on the promise of his first two novels with this scorched-earth tale of a solitary innocent struggling against the unrelenting misery of a rural community in the American South who believe him to be a degenerate criminal. Reminiscent of early McCarthy, Larry Brown, or the great Tom Franklin, Wade uses two timelines to weave this intricate story that culminates in a most satisfying crescendo of honor, violence, and the only kind of justice some folks ever get. It's his depictions of noble suffering that strike deepest--I'll be thinking about young Michael Fischer, a boy struggling to hold together that last fragments of his humanity, for a long time. James Wade has all the tools, imagination, and more than enough passion to be at the vanguard of the best Grit-Lit writers of his generation, and I'll be reading whatever he puts out."
-- Matt Bondurant, bestselling author of Oleander City and Lawless
Longlisted for the Reading the West Book Award for Fiction
A Barnes & Noble Pick of Favorite Indie E-Books of 2021
A Deep South Magazine Pick for Summer Reading
Attempting to escape his abusive father and generations of cyclical poverty, young Jonah Hargrove joins the mysterious River -- a teenage girl carrying thousands of dollars in stolen meth -- and embarks on a southern gothic odyssey through the East Texas river bottoms.
They are pursued by local drug kingpin, John Curtis, and his murderous enforcer, Dakota Cade, with whom River was romantically involved. But Cade and Curtis have their own enemies, as their relationship with the cartel controlling their meth supply begins to sour.
Keeping tabs on everyone is The Thin Man, a silent assassin who values consequence over mercy.
Each person is keeping secrets from the others -- deadly secrets that will be exposed in savage fashion as their final paths collide and all are forced to come to terms with their choices, their circumstances, and their own definition of God.
With a colorful cast of supporting characters and an unflinching violence juxtaposed against lyrical prose, River, Sing Out dives deep into a sinister and sanguinary world, where oppressive poverty is pitted against the need to believe in something greater than the self.
Winner of the 2021 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for Best Historical Novel
Winner of the 2021 Reading the West Award for Best Debut Fiction
A Mayor's Book Club of Austin, Texas, Selection
A Barnes & Noble Pick of Best Indie eBooks of 2020
A PopSugar Pick of Compelling Historical Fiction Books
After a botched robbery, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or for ill.
Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.
Powerful and atmospheric, ALL THINGS LEFT WILD is a coming-of-age for one man, a mid-life odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.