The Harder They Come
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Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author T.C. Boyle makes his Ecco debut with a powerful, gripping novel that explores the roots of violence and anti-authoritarianism inherent in the American character.
Set in contemporary Northern California, The Harder They Come explores the volatile connections between three damaged people—an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son's paranoid, much older lover—as they careen towards an explosive confrontation.
On a vacation cruise to Central America with his wife, seventy-year-old Sten Stensen unflinchingly kills a gun-wielding robber menacing a busload of senior tourists. The reluctant hero is relieved to return home to Fort Bragg, California, after the ordeal—only to find that his delusional son, Adam, has spiraled out of control.
Adam has become involved with Sara Hovarty Jennings, a hardened member of the Sovereign Citizens’ Movement, right-wing anarchists who refuse to acknowledge the laws and regulations of the state, considering them to be false and non-applicable. Adam’s senior by some fifteen years, Sara becomes his protector and inamorata. As Adam's mental state fractures, he becomes increasingly schizophrenic—a breakdown that leads him to shoot two people in separate instances. On the run, he takes to the woods, spurring the biggest manhunt in California history.
As he explores a father’s legacy of violence and his powerlessness in relating to his equally violent son, T. C. Boyle offers unparalleled psychological insights into the American psyche. Inspired by a true story, The Harder They Come is a devastating and indelible novel from a modern master.
DEDICATION For Scott and Nicky, Chuck and Donna, from Quintara Street to Lion Loop EPIGRAPH The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. D. H. LAWRENCE Studies in Classic American Literature CONTENTS Dedication Epigraph Part I: Puerto Limón Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Part II: Willits Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Part III: Northspur Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Part IV: Mendocino Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Part
south, coast to mountains, and that no one was to be allowed in for any purpose whatever until the threat had been neutralized. And what about Route 20? Route 20 was a major artery, as was the Coast Highway, and they would remain open to traffic, but he cautioned people not to linger or get out of their cars—the suspect was armed and dangerous and if anyone encountered him or knew anything of his whereabouts they should call 911. Then up came the picture of Adam, full-screen—a picture, she
face to Carolee’s before dropping to the watch on his wrist: 6:15. Was that right? He blinked at Carolee. Blinked at Oscar. “Jesus,” he rasped, “they going to make us wait here all day?” Oscar—he’d been asleep too—rose from his chair, stretching. He was wearing shorts, plaid shorts, and below the hem of them his kneecaps were discolored, smudged still from where he’d knelt over the dead man in the mud. “I’ll go check at the desk.” “No, don’t bother.” He was on his feet now too, a sudden jolt of
old. Looked like somebody he didn’t even recognize. “Barco,” he announced to the driver. And then, to clarify, added the definite article: “El barco.” The driver was dressed in shorts and sandals and the ubiquitous flowered shirt open at the collar and he wore some sort of medallion dangling at his throat. He didn’t have an iPod, but he sported the same wispy goatee as the bus driver and the two thieves in the lot—in fact, and this came to him in a flash of ascending neural fireworks, the guy
goddamned gun, which he’d already proved fully capable of doing, but no, she wasn’t afraid to be there with him in the blackest depths of the blackest night she’d ever dreamed or imagined. He was right there beside her, breathing steadily. She could smell him, the sweat of him, the neat’s-foot oil he used on his boots, a faint chemical drift of the rum on his breath. He’d brought her here because that cruiser was going to turn around, he was sure of it, because their car was the only one on the