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Publisher's Summary

Author Jim Harrison has won international acclaim for his masterful body of work, including over thirty books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In his most original work to date, Harrison delivers an enthralling, witty, and expertly crafted novel following one man’s hunt for an elusive cult leader, dubbed the Great Leader.

On the verge of retirement, Detective Sunderson begins to investigate a hedonistic cult, which has set up camp near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At first, the self-declared Great Leader seems merely a harmless oddball, but as Sunderson and his sixteen-year-old sidekick dig deeper, they find him more intelligent and sinister than they realized. Recently divorced and frequently pickled in alcohol, Sunderson tracks his quarry from the woods of Michigan to a town in Arizona, filled with criminal border-crossers, and on to Nebraska, where the Great Leader’s most recent recruits have gathered to glorify his questionable religion. But Sunderson’s demons are also in pursuit of him.

Rich with character and humor, The Great Leader is at once a gripping excursion through America’s landscapes and the poignant story of a man grappling with age, lost love, and his own darker nature.

©2011 Jim Harrison (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A classic Harrison novel, complete with humorous and introspective characters.” (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
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  • Craig
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 05-15-13

Are you an over-thehill guy with one last mission?

Jim Harrison sneaks into the headspace of middle-aged men whose greatest fears are diminishing libido, loss of purpose, and the death of adventure in their lives. He's is so good at this that readers/listeners of both genders become spectators in the secret rituals of the society of men.

The Great Leader: A faux Mystery messes with our heads. It asks us to make value judgements about his main character, a washed up detective whose last case nags at him like his fears of losing his libido. We don't know whether to cheer for our hero or curse him for his behaviors. But, what we do know is that our personal tolerance for edgy behavior and thinking is questioned by the actions of the protagonist.

You should listen to this book, if nothing else than to test your own values about ethics, sexuality, and justice. Don't be afraid to challenge your core beliefs with this excellent mystery.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Not Harrison's best

I love Jim Harrison's work. His novellas (especially Revenge and Legends of the Fall) are some of the best things I have ever read. The latter book packs three generations of action into about 150 pages. His writing is consistently strong and he moves the story forward with every sentence. But not in this book. The Great Leader struck me as a little more than a rumination on growing old and it wore me out in about two chapters. What action there is comes between large chunks of the main character talking to himself. The narrator did a workmanlike job but there was not a lot to work with here.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Harold
  • San Angelo, TX, United States
  • 12-27-11

A Complete, Down-to-earth Man

Jim Harrison is one of the few contemporary writers who speaks (through all his first person narrators) as a reasonable soul who has found in this world of madness and despair the real meaning of living. His love of sex, brook trout, and the richness of every aspect of life comes to him because they are what they are and he is what he is, whether he's a State Police Detective (ret.) or a happy wanderer with a strangely exciting teen-age girl passenger : (English Major).
. I would love nothing better in life than to spend three months (brook trout season) with this richly articulate man whose found himself.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Jim and Ray,,, Perfect Pairing

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

If you love Jim Harrison, then you will enjoy this book. It is classic Harrison.

If you’ve listened to books by Jim Harrison before, how does this one compare?

Yes. I like his style and I adore his take on life. Jim Harrisson is pretty consistent with both of these elements in his books.

What does Ray Porter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Ray Porter is THE perfect reader for Jim Harrison's work. No other reader captures Harrison as well as Porter does. Excellent. He brings Harrison's words alive. I feel a tad let down when listening to a Harrison with another reader. Porter's voice and cadence personifies Harrison's characters.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I pretty much did.

Any additional comments?

Keep up the good work, Jim. Listening to a Harrison-Porter book is a great experience.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I love Jim Harrison

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. Harrison writes stories with interesting characters, and wonderful descriptive prose. He is also thought provoking. I want to read "Playing Indian" now, which is referred to many times in "The Great Leader".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Solid tale of a flawed Yooper.

I understand that some Michigan place names are difficult to pronounce. However, getting them correct is something that should probably be stressed when reading a book that has scenes set in Michigan. The story was quite compelling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator butchers the story

I found the narrator's absolute and total disregard to correctly pronounce many of Michigan's towns and locales a crime against literate humanity.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Narrator didn't learn the author's landscape

The narrator and production crew who let him get away with it probably live on one of the coasts and don't travel very much.

There was a real provincialism to his mangling of nearly every Michigan locale he came across: Munising, the Vierling restaurant, Petoskey, Trenary, even Mackinac, among others.

I live on a coast, too. There's no excuse to not do your homework if you're getting paid to develop a professional production narrating an author notoriously rooted in a specific landscape. Learn that author's landscape.

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"Up North" outdoorsy Michigander storytelling

The narrator was NOT a Michigander, missing 5 or 6 pronunciations, but Jim Harrison tells a good story or 2 or 3. Loved his places, people and storylines. The retired State Police detective protagonist liberally shares his own erotic fantasies and adventures, as he tracks down a cult leader suspected of preying upon young girls along with their parents' bank accounts.

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Awful.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Well, let's see... if the author stopped focusing on the minutia, every tiny detail except the plot...if once in a while SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED, and if he could go on for two or three paragraphs without the hideous thoughts of a 65 year old man's sexual fantasies, well, then there might be a much better listening experience.<br/><br/>

Would you ever listen to anything by Jim Harrison again?

Maybe not. I'm amazed that the reviews of this book were full of praise.

What aspect of Ray Porter’s performance would you have changed?

None. I don't blame the narrator. <br/>

What character would you cut from The Great Leader?

All of them.

Any additional comments?

Don't waste your money on this awful book.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful