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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Night Letter

Narrator: Nick Walther

ISBN: 978-1636140636

Publisher: Recorded Books

Publication Date: 01/31/2023

Format: Audiobook 🎧

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

A taut thriller set in Florida's desolate panhandle, part coming-of-age story, all hard-boiled noir.

Eighteen-year-old Travis Hollister is always the stranger who comes to town.

As a twelve-year-old escaping a disordered and unhappy home and parents who loved hard but couldn't make it work, Travis left the Midwest to spend a summer with his grandparents in the Deep South. There he met Delia, the love of his life, who, tragically, was beyond his reach for two reasons—she was his aunt and she was sixteen years old. That summer made Travis guilty of crimes discovered and undiscovered. For his public wrongs, he did time, six years in a Nebraska reform school. For his undiscovered wrongs, he suffers mightily and wants desperately to be shriven. Can he achieve redemption, or is he bound for the hell on earth he can imagine all too well?

Driven by his need to rejoin the human community, he becomes the stranger who arrives in Panama City, Florida, searching for Delia, the aunt who was the idol of his twelve-year-old passion. Who is she now? What have the years done to her? Will she welcome the return of Travis or fear it? What will she do about the return of the stranger she once held to her teenage heart?

Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Hell is other people." In the course of this story, Travis learns that other people can also be salvation. Amid a cast of characters struggling with their own needs, desires, tragedies, and, yes, crimes, Travis finds violence, hatred, vengeance, and, in greater measure, friendship, honor, loyalty, and at least a glimpse of the road to redemption.

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My Review

Utterly captivating!

I loved Sterling Watson's NIGHT LETTER! The audiobook was exceptional, narrated by Nick Walther. My first book by the author, and I cannot wait to read more.

An evocative tale of a young man struggling to find his way. My heart went to Travis—you will fall in LOVE with the main character, 18-year-old Travis Hollister.

A thought-provoking coming-of-age, full of wisdom, life, humor, and superb storytelling!

The book picks up from the first book, 2002’s Sweet Dream Baby (which I rushed to buy, and now reading). You can read this as a standalone; however, you will be dying to know more about Travis/Delia.

Travis has spent six years in a Nebraska reform school for the crimes he committed in the first book in rural Panama City, FL, where he finds work as a busboy at a seafood restaurant.

Still haunted by his troubled childhood and the sins of his past, including stabbing a boy in self-defense, Travis wants to reunite with Delia, his aunt whom he idolized and fell in love with when he was 12, and she was 16. She is now married to a lawyer. (His dad's sister) His dad (former marine-now attorney) is remarried. His bio mother is in California and is mentally challenged.

The past and present converge as Travis tries desperately to find his way. A hard worker, he wants to be independent. He is pulled by his past with Delia and his present. What a cast of colorful supporting characters!

The author's writing is lyrical, poetic, and spellbinding!

I cannot believe I have not read this author previously—and that is about to change. Cannot wait to order his backlist. I listened to this in one day and could not put it down. Check out Watson's impressive bio.

The supporting characters are hilarious. Loved The Widow (the motel), and the girl he tries desperately to save, Dawnell Briscoe, from her abusive homelife, while he risks it all. Travis cannot seem to catch a break and runs into some evil and mean characters on this road to redemption.

An atmospheric, bittersweet tale of innocence, regrets, and second chances.

An emotional coming of age with a twist of Gothic Southern hardboiled noir. Inspiring and heartwarming, the characters will stay with you long after the book ends. Thought-provoking, and an ideal pick for book clubs and further discussions.

For fans of authors John Hart and Dennis Lehane. Also, fans of Amor Towles' Lincoln Highway will enjoy it. Highly recommend NIGHT LETTER! As a Floridan, I love books set in my state. (even though I am on the east coast).

Thank you to #RecordedBooks and #NetGalley for a gifted ALC.🔉 Also pre-ordered the hardcover.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 🌟 STARS ++

Pub Date: 31 Jan 2023


"Sterling Watson's Night Letter is a revelation and one of the most engaging books I've read in a long time. Part voice-driven coming-of-age, part atmospheric noir, the writing itself is incisive and poetic, and the characters themselves are those rare literary creations—complicated and human and real. Imagine a thriller conceived by David Goodis and written by Carson McCullers. This book helps to redefine the boundaries of contemporary American fiction."

—Joe Meno, author of Book of Extraordinary Tragedies

"In Night Letter, Sterling Watson delivers an evocative tale of a young man struggling to come of age in the wake of a troubled childhood. Using pitch-perfect language, Watson transports readers to a Florida of the past and immerses them in a nuanced era. From its first page, the novel simmers with a certainty that if Watson's well-drawn protagonist is to find redemption, it will not come without a fight."

—Lori Roy, author of Gone Too Long

"The novels of Sterling Watson are to be treasured and passed on to the next generation."

—Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River

"Sterling Watson is an American treasure."

—Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

About the Author

Sterling Watson is The Peter Meinke Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Eckerd College. He and Dennis Lehane are Co-directors of the Eckerd College Writers' Conference: Writers in Paradise.

Watson is the author of six novels: Weep No More My Brother, The Calling, Blind Tongues, Deadly Sweet, Sweet Dream Baby and Fighting in the Shade.

Watson is the recipient of three Florida Fine Arts Council Awards for fiction writing. His short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Southern Review. His main professional interests are fiction, play and screenwriting, American and British and European short and long fiction, and the theatre. He served for five years as the fiction editor of The Florida Quarterly, and taught secondary English and later fiction writing at Raiford Prison. READ MORE

Want to read the earlier story of Travis?

Sweet Dream Baby

Sent to live in the humidity of rural Florida with his grandparents and his sixteen-year-old Aunt Delia for the summer, twelve-year-old Travis becomes absorbed in the closed ways of small-town life. Captivated by Delia, Travis watches her attempt to find a place for herself in the socially stunted, gossip-driven town.

Delia's secrets go beyond what Travis can understand, but he believes that he alone can save her--a belief that not only forces him to grow up fast, but one that builds to a dangerous and disturbing climax. In trying to free Delia from her past, Travis leads her into a shocking present and a most uncertain future.

In a work at once honest, chilling and compulsively addictive, author Sterling Watson has created a time and place where rock 'n' roll hums from AM radios, steam rises from a secluded riverbed and violent summer storms threaten the peace of silent nights. Watson's characters are brought vividly to life through Travis's touching, powerful and intensely personal voice. A dark and evocative coming of age tale, Sweet Dream Baby begins steeped in innocence and ends in a dramatically different place.







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