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Beasts of the Earth by James Wade | BOOK REVIEW

Beasts of the Earth


James Wade

Genres: Literary Fiction / Crime Fiction

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Date of Publication: October 11, 2022

Number of Pages: 350

James Wade, whose first two novels were praised as “rhapsodic” and “haunting,” delivers his most powerful work to date—a chilling parable about the impossible demands of hate and love, trauma and goodness, vividly set in the landscapes of Texas and Louisiana.

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.


“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

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

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

Purchase Links

Blackstone Publishing | Amazon |

Alternating between the perspectives of a young boy, Michael, and an older man, Harlan, this engrossing narrative documents the deeply-rooted pain that encompasses the lives of these two tragically linked individuals and the ties that ultimately bind them together.

I have had the incredible opportunity to read this author’s previous two books, and with each one he solidifies his voice at the top of the modern literary Western. In much the same way that the previous books centered on the fine line between vengeance and justice, this story also explores that dilemma, yet weaves in the weight of burden when delivered.

He’d spent more than twenty years working to find solace from the things he’d see and the things he’d done. And yet his past still belonged to him, dragging along behind him like a great linked chain, becoming heavier with every step, and [he] forever feared the day when the chain might cease its extending and jerk him backward into his reckoning.”


The author’s skilled storytelling created an unsettling and suspenseful exploration of good and evil as well as an intense and impressive character study on the effects of personal trauma and morality. There is an understanding of human nature that makes the rawness of these characters come alive. Every emotion resonates off the page and steers the course of so many lives.

The story is filled with a multitude of captivating lines that speak so much truth and metaphors that will have you pondering their meaning long after the final page is turned. I was overwhelmingly struck by the motif of the pelican throughout the story and its connection in crafting this contemporary parable. For all the cruelty and callousness that dominates this devastatingly bleak environment, there is beauty if you choose to see and a peace that will prevail if you only embrace it.

A compelling and affecting read that is deeply moving, hauntingly atmospheric, and entirely unforgettable.

Five stars.

Many thanks to the author and Lone Star Book Blog Tours for providing me with a copy of the book. I feel so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this story. This is my honest and thoughtful opinion.

James Wade lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country with his wife and daughter. He is also the author of River, Sing Out and All Things Left Wild, a winner of the prestigious MPIBA Reading the West Award for Debut Fiction, and a recipient of the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel from the Western Writers of America

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