Beasts of the Earth cover

Beasts of the Earth

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Categories: Literary Fiction / Crime Fiction
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
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Date of Publication: October 11, 2022
Number of Pages: 350 pages
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Beasts of the Earth cover.

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.

"A beautiful, gut-punch of a novel" Beasts of the Earth by James Wade
Beasts of the Earth is a beautiful gut-punch of a novel.” —Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas


“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
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Clueless Gent’s Rating for Beasts of the Earth

5 star rating

I just finished reading Beasts of the Earth, and I am a bit unsettled with the ending; it wasn’t what I expected. But could it be anything else? I imagine it had to end that way, if it had to end at all. It was time.

If that fist paragraph seems a bit odd for a book review, it’s because that’s how my mind processes things after just finishing a book by James Wade. This author is more than a writer, more than a storyteller: he takes words—some simple, some not—and strings them together with an elegancy and purpose that a reader will seldom find anywhere else.

Beasts of the Earth is as thought-provoking as it is soul-provoking. Wade knows how to drive a blade of enlightenment deep into the reader’s imagination. And from that wound comes a trickling of astral ponderances that run rampant as the reader navigates the words and the meanings on the page.

This story follows the paths of Michael and LeBlanc. Although the two paths are told concurrently throughout the story, and although they are set apart by a number of decades, they ultimately come to one end. Michael is a child of the Louisiana swamps, and LeBlanc is an older adult who resides in Comal County, Texas. The only thing they seem to have in common is an unfair association with death; not the inevitability of their own demise, but rather the association of death in others.

“But the past is not a thing to sit still, and there are no new beginnings. The world itself was begun only once. And since that beginning its every rotation has depended on the one before—each circumstance born from the last.”

To say that this author is a master of description is a blatant understatement. Rarely have I read description that so easily seems to put the reader in the scene. For example, the author described a part of a decrepit farmhouse like this: “Weeds grew up through the porch and thick greenbrier vines snaked up the wooden frame of the structure. The paint was peeled and the cedar boards were sun bleached save for a small corner of the house where grew a Lampasas mulberry with its glossy leaves in the summer and its syncarp fruit in the spring.”

In another scene, a character is sitting down and hears a voice in his head. The author wrote, “The voice slithered into his ear.” In my opinion, that description warrants a little chill up a reader’s spine. (I write from experience here.)

But it’s not just description where this author’s brilliance shines; it’s also the dialogue. For instance, in one scene where LeBlanc is trying to break up a fight, he says, “Let’s just all take a step back and unload this gun before it goes off.” It worked.

Between the two storylines, the pacing is pretty constant. It’s a good pace. It’s quick enough to keep a reader engaged, yet slow enough to allow everything to soak into the reader’s imagination. I admit that I re-read several scenes just because they were written so well.

It’s hard for me to describe what kind of story this is because I consider it so unique. However, if Literary Fiction and Crime Fiction ever got together and produced an offspring, it would perfectly describe this story.

After reading only a few pages, I knew my imagination was in for a treat, and I wasn’t wrong. I’m just as sure that your imagination would be delighted to digest all the wonderful words and thoughts between the covers of Beasts of the Earth.

I received a free copy of Beasts of the Earth from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.

the Author

Michael Scott Clifton Author Photo

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.


"A soul-deep exploration." -New York Journal of Books

Two winners each receive an autographed copy of Beasts of the Earth.
(US only. Ends midnight, CDT, October 21, 2022)
Beasts of the Earth tour giveaway graphic. Prizes to be awarded precede this image in the post text.
Or, visit the participating blogs directly:
10/11/22 Review That’s What She’s Reading
10/11/22 Review Writing and Music
10/12/22 Audio Review Hall Ways Blog
10/12/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
10/13/22 Review The Book’s Delight
10/13/22 Review Julia Picks 1
10/14/22 Audio Review It’s Not All Gravy
10/14/22 Review Librariel Book Adventures
10/15/22 Review Book Fidelity
10/16/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/17/22 Review The Clueless Gent
10/18/22 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
10/19/22 Audio Review Forgotten Winds
10/19/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
10/20/22 Review Jennie Reads
10/20/22 Review Reading by Moonlight
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