Cover image for Killing Mister Watson
Killing Mister Watson
Matthiessen, Peter.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Random House, 1990.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Drawn from fragments of historical fact, Matthiessen's masterpiece brilliantly depicts the fortunes and misfortunes of Edgar J. Watson, a real-life entrepreneur and outlaw who appeared in the lawless Florida Everglades around the turn of the century. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Notes

Peter Matthiessen was born in Manhattan, New York on May 22, 1927. He served in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He graduated with a degree in English from Yale University in 1950. It was around this time that he was recruited by the CIA and traveled to Paris, where he became acquainted with several young expatriate American writers. In the postwar years the CIA covertly financed magazines and cultural programs to counter the spread of Communism. While in Paris, he helped found The Paris Review in 1953.

After returning to the United States, he worked as a commercial fisherman and the captain of a charter fishing boat. His first novel, Race Rock, was published in 1954. His other fiction works include Partisans, Raditzer, Far Tortuga, and In Paradise. His novel, Shadow Country, won a National Book Award. His novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was made into a movie.

He started writing nonfiction after divorcing his first wife. An assignment for Sports Illustrated to report on American endangered species led to the book Wildlife in America, which was published in 1959. His travels took him to Asia, Australia, South America, Africa, New Guinea, the Florida swamps, and beneath the ocean. These travels led to articles in The New Yorker as well as numerous nonfiction books including The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness, Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons of Stone Age New Guinea, Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark, The Tree Where Man Was Born, and Men's Lives. The Snow Leopard won the 1979 National Book Award for nonfiction. He died from leukemia on April 5, 2014 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Numerous acquaintances of the leg endary Edgar J. Watson, said to have gunned down the outlaw Belle Starr, are given voice in a fictionalized oral history set in the Florida Everglades. PW called this ``an imaginative and haunting evocation of a time and place, and the paradox of the tenderness and brutality with which real and imagined lives are filled.'' Ten tales about people trapped in futile behavior patterns comprise On the River Styx: ``In limpid, lyrical prose, these dazzling stories ob jectively explore the lack of communi cation between husbands and wives, between races and cultures.'' (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Around the turn of the century southern Florida was an inhospitable region populated by Seminole Indians, runaway slaves, Civil War deserters, and other misfits and desperados. ``Suspect everyone and ask no questions'' was the rule, and those foolish enough to ask questions of Edgar J. Watson, a hard-drinking sugar-cane planter rumored to be The Man Who Shot Belle Starr, were quickly silenced. But as the railroad brought civilization ever closer, Watson's brand of frontier justice seemed increasingly out of place, even to his admirers. Thus, the community's first civic act was to be a ritual murder. Matthiessen's fact-based historical novel assembles the evidence: newspaper clippings, diary extracts, the testimony of neighbors and kin. In constant deep focus is the spectacle of the wanton destruction of the ecosystem--a process well underway by 1910. An important and provocative book from the author of Far Tortuga ( LJ 4/15/75). Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/90.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- More than 20 men wait in ambush as Mister Watson steps ashore and is shot dead. From this beginning, the story of Edgar J. Watson is told through the recollections of his daughter and neighbors, and by reports from magazines, letters, and other historical papers. This is a study rich in history, social studies, ecology, and nature of the The Ten Thousand Islands area of southwestern Florida from 1890-1910. It was a haven for escapees and renegades, and poor treatment of Indians, blacks, and half-breeds was accepted and expected. When Watson arrived there in the 1890s, he was thought of as quiet and friendly. But an aura of danger grew with the stories told and retold about him. When it was alleged that he killed 57 people (including Belle Starr), the tales became folk legend. The setting and characters are fully drawn as Watson's menacing power grows steadily. Because ten characters tell and retell in dialect their versions of the Watson story, YAs will need to persevere with this demanding format. If they do, they will know the Florida era that ended when Mister Watson was killed. --Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.