The Painter (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)
Meet Jim Stegner, mid forties, a fly-fisherman, painter, and killer. He is the masculine protagonist in Peter Heller’s new novel entitled The Painter.
The opening line is masterful and captures our attention: 45 year old Jim reflects “I never imagined I would kill a man.” From then on, Heller holds us until the very last sentence.
On his way to fish one afternoon, Heller kills a man for beating a horse. Living low with an air-tight alibi from his lover and model, Sophie he bursts forth with a new body of work for his Santa Fe gallerist to sell. Stegner’s psychological tension as he is questioned and stalked by revenge seekers and detectives is the undercurrent that flows through Heller’s beautiful prose.
Tormented by his guilt over not preventing his daughter’s death, Heller cannot out-fish or out-paint the memories of their last exchange. Heller’s tumultuous state- of- mind can range from quiet contentment as he casts along a secluded mountain stream to violent deadly outbursts at perceived injustice.
Heller, like Stegner, is a man’s man, as reflected in his rock solid prose. Read this novel for the plot and appreciate it for poetic insights into the human condition; either way, you’ll be glad you did.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW.— Sarah Bagby
An Oprah.com "Must-Read" Book
After having shot a man in a Santa Fe bar, the famous artist Jim Stegner served his time and has since struggled to manage the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. Now he lives a quiet life. . . until the day that he comes across a hunting guide beating a small horse, and a brutal act of new violence rips his quiet life right open. Pursued by men dead set on retribution, Jim is left with no choice but to return to New Mexico and the high-profile life he left behind, where he’ll reckon with past deeds and the dark shadows in his own heart.
"Breathtakingly good. . . A darkly suspenseful page turner.” —The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Suspense with literary chops. . . . A brilliant page-turner about an artist with a dark streak." —Reader's Digest
“A moving story about love, celebrity, and the redemptive power of art.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Heart-thumping . . . culminating in an ingeniously played final twist." —The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A taut tale of anger, revenge and inspiration.” —Dallas Morning News
“Amazing. . . . The contrast between serene nature and extreme action made The Dog Stars such a sensation. Heller uses it again well in The Painter.” —The Miami Herald
“[A] carefully composed story about one man’s downward turning life in the American West. . . . Beautiful near-visionary descriptions.” —The Boston Globe
“[Heller’s] stories are of a classic type: unusual men, the kind we can identify with even if we’re not painters or pilots, thrust into unusual, even tragic situations. Yet at heart, these men are not so different than those we know.” —Santa Fe New Mexican
“The Colorado and New Mexico landscapes evoked in The Painter give the novel a deeper than usual sense of place.” —The New York Times
“More than a little wondrous. . . . [Heller’s] writing is strong and sure, at turns fizzy and sensual, dark and brooding, as filled with love as it is with suspense. This is stuff you'll taste in the back of your throat and feel at your nerves' ends.” —Jackson Free Press
“Jim Stegner may be a mess of a man, but it’s fascinating watching Heller plumb his broken soul.” —Salt Lake City Weekly
“Offers modern twists on the ancient themes of family, duty, revenge, and justice. . . . Heller creates in Stegner a . . . flawed, reflective, and fully realized protagonist.” —Outside Magazine
“The Painter achieves the rare alchemy that makes it simultaneously an intellectually provocative literary novel and a pace-quickening thriller. . . . Compulsively readable . . . Heller gives you everything you could hope for in a great summer novel.” —Nashville Scene
“Whether you read this novel for the plot or appreciate it for poetic insights into the human condition, either way, you’ll be glad you did.” —Wichita Public Radio
“The ghost of [Hemingway] drifts through the novel, in style and subject matter. Heller, however, has his own voice.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“At times suspenseful, at times melancholy, at times spiritual, but always engrossing.” —Library Journal (starred)
“A good book about being bad. . . .The Painter is a dark relative of David James Duncan’s The River. . . . Vividly American. . . . Tremendously ambitious, a well-landed punch on the side of rugged masculinity.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
"[A] masterful novel, in which love (parental and romantic), artistic vision, guilt, grief, and spine-chilling danger propel a suspenseful plot." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Heller’s writing is sure-footed and rip-roaring, star-bright and laced with ‘dark yearning,’ coalescing in an ever-escalating, ravishing, grandly engrossing and satisfying tale of righteousness and revenge, artistic fervor and moral ambiguity." —Booklist (starred)