Created by Jim Harrison

Not really a private eye, perhaps, but Jim Harrison’s SUNDERSON, after years as a detective, is no amateur sleuth. What he is is a contrary, stubborn, violent, horny and unrepentant SOB; a retired homicide dick, a brooding philosopher and an unapologetic intellectual who refuses to let things–big or small–slide. And to cap it all off, he’s as outdoorsy as a tree–he’d rather be fishing. In a genre that often never leaves the pavement, he’s a blast of fresh air.

When we first make his acquaintance in The Great Leader (2011), Sunderson’s teetering on the edge of retirement from the Michigan State Police. He’s had it up to here with being a cop (and being married to his long-suffering wife, Diane). He’s looking forward to chucking it all for the solace and comfort of his cabin out in the boonies of the Upper Peninsula, where he intends to wrap up his days drinking, reading history books, fishing, drinking, cooking, frolicking with the local ladies, drinking, thinking deep thoughts, and mourning the loss of his beloved dog Walter, who may–or may not–have been hit by a car a few years back.

And drinking.

In other words, pretty much like he was a Jim Harrison character or something. Or, some have suggested, Jim Harrison himself.

But even as he edges closer and closer to retirement, Sunderson is looking into a freaky evangelist (Sunderson calls him “Dwight”) with a taste for underage girls, who’s set up some hinky kind of cult in the woods near his cabin. Aiding and abetting him in his investigation is Mona, a precocious (aren’t they all?) sixteen-year-old who lives down the road, and isn’t above teasing the old fart (Sunderson at one point notes that she has a lovely behind). But it’s her fierce Googling skills that come in handy when Dwight takes a powder and lights out for somewhere in the southwest. And we’re off, on a blackly humorous road trip (Nevada! Arizona!) that Jim Crumley would have been proud of.

Harrison must have enjoyed writing the character, because he brought him back a few years later, in The Big Seven (2015), which turned out to be his last novel. The sequel finds Sunderson still seeking shelter from the ongoing storm of his life by retreating once more to his cabin in the Upper Peninsula. But his nearest neighbours, the loud and heavily armed Ames family; are a multi-generational conglomerate of shitkickers and troublemakers, and they sure know how to screw up a man’s peace and quiet, not to mention his drinking and musing about the Seven Deadly Sins. Mona’s back, and even Diane pops up (remarried, but there’s some unfinished business), but the main attraction once again is Sunderson.

Not your typical crime fiction, maybe, but Harrison is always worth reading. He’s a balls-out, rough-knuckled writer, out-Hemingwaying Hemingway.

You either get it, or you don’t.


Poet, novelist, and essayist Jim Harrison was acclaimed the author of over thirty-five books, including Legends of the Fall, The Road Home, The English Major, and The Farmer’s Daughter. Prolific and versatile, he left behind a mountain of work: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, memoirs, screenplays, book reviews, literary criticism, and essays on food, travel, and sport. His writing appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and the New York Times. He earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. His work was celebrated worldwide, and published in twenty-two languages.


  • “… The Big Seven is a superb reminder of why Jim Harrison is “one of the finest writers of the past half-century”
    — The Washington Times
  • ”Reading Jim Harrison is about as close as one can come in contemporary fiction to experiencing the abundant pleasures of living.”
    — Boston Globe
  • ”… Harrison proves once again that he is an inimitable, inexhaustible talent.”
    — Publishers Weekly on The Big Seven
  • “In Mr. Harrison’s fiction, especially, lay some of the most vivid, violent and evocative writing of its day — work that in the estimation of many critics captured the resonant, almost mythic soul of 20th-century rural America.”
    — Harrison‘s obit in The New York Times



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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