Shadow Country is a semi-fiction book by Peter Matthiessen, published by Random House in 2008. Subtitled A New Rendering of the Watson Legend, it features the life of Scottish-American Edgar "Bloody" Watson (1855-1910), a Florida sugar cane plantation owner and alleged murderer and outlaw who was killed in the remote Ten Thousand Islands region of southwest Florida in 1910. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2008 and the William Dean Howells Medal in 2010.
Shadow Country is a reworked, re-edited, and retitled single-volume version of a trilogy published in the 1990s. Its three parts Killing Mr. Watson (1990), Lost Man's River (1997), and Bone By Bone (1999) correspond to the three source novels.
Book One is based on Killing Mr. Watson. It is a collection of first-person narrative accounts of the notorious planter's rise to power and eventual death at the hands of his neighbors. A description of Watson being gunned down by an armed posse on the shores of Chokoloskee Island is followed by chronological coverage from his arrival in the Ten Thousand Islands to the opening scene.
Book Two is based on Lost Man's River. It tells the story of Watson's youngest son, an alcoholic historian who tries to reconstruct his father's life in order to determine whether he was really a murderer and outlaw.
Critic Michael Dirda has lavished praise on the work:
Shadow Country is altogether gripping, shocking, and brilliantly told, not just a tour de force in its stylistic range, but a "Great American Novel," as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature. This magnificent, sad masterpiece about race, history, and defeated dreams can easily stand comparison with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Little wonder, too, that parts of the story of E.J. Watson call up comparisons with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and, inevitably, Faulkner. In every way, Shadow Country is a bravura performance, at once history, fiction, and myth—as well as the capstone to the career of one of the most admired and admirable writers of our time.