Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Late City

by Robert Olen Butler

A 115-year-old man lies on his deathbed as the 2016 election results arrive, and revisits his life in this moving story of love, fatherhood, and the American century from Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date September 06, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6032-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date September 07, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5882-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date September 07, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5883-3
  • US List Price $16.00

A visionary and poignant novel centered around former newspaperman Sam Cunningham as he prepares to die, Late City covers much of the early twentieth century, unfurling as a conversation between the dying man and a surprising God. As the two review Sam’s life, from his childhood in the American South and his time in the French trenches during World War I to his fledgling newspaper career in Chicago in the Roaring Twenties and the decades that follow, snippets of history are brought sharply into focus.

Sam grows up in Louisiana, with a harsh father, who he comes to resent both for his physical abuse and for what Sam eventually perceives as his flawed morality. Eager to escape and prove himself, Sam enlists in the army as a sniper while still underage. The hardness his father instilled in him helps him make it out of World War I alive, but, as he recounts these tales on his deathbed, we come to realize that it also prevents him from contending with the emotional wounds of war. Back in the U.S., Sam moves to Chicago to begin a career as a newspaperman that will bring him close to all the major historical turns of the twentieth century. There he meets his wife and has a son, whose fate counters Sam’s at almost every turn.

As he contemplates his relationships–with his parents, his brothers in arms, his wife, his editor, and most importantly, his son–Sam is amazed at what he still has left to learn about himself after all these years in this heart-rending novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner.

Tags Literary

Praise for Late City:

“This grandly retrospective novel warns of the political consequences of failures of personal insight.”—New Yorker

“As I devoured the story, I had to wipe away tears more than once. The narrative’s emotional power is fully earned, never manipulated, and Butler’s elegant language is true to the tongue. His research blends so seamlessly into the story that one is inclined, at times, to believe it isn’t fiction at all. Late City is an honest, poignant reckoning of what it means to gaze unblinkingly at our own failings and to find transcendence.”—Historical Novel Society

“It’s God, the supercilious wit who rules the center of Late City…While it has a consistently subtle profundity, Late City isn’t exactly a Novel of Ideas — it’s too entertaining and accessible for that, especially with jagged bolts of wry comedy dispensed by God.”—Atlanta Journal Constitution

“An engaging read and a commendable quest into the underpinnings of the complicated, often contradictory American people. More crucially, the novel is a poignant meditation on the circle of life, the wonder we all feel as it slips away.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“In other novels, notably Perfume River, Butler explores the devastation that war inflicts on individuals. With Late City, he focuses instead on the inner life of one fallible, lovable, redeemable man over 12 tumultuous decades, a soul forever striving to be a right guy.”—Chapter 16

“With two dozen remarkably imaginative and empathic fiction titles to his credit, Butler brings preternatural attunement to the spiraling of the mind and ardently honed artistry to this exceptionally nuanced, tender, funny, tragic, and utterly transfixing portrait of a man reflecting on more than a century’s worth of horror and wonder.”—Booklist, starred review

“A moving tale of love and misunderstanding.”—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Robert Olen Butler:

“Butler’s prose is fluid, and his handling of his many time-shifts as lucid as it is urgent. His descriptive gifts don’t extend just to his characters” traits or their Florida and New Orleans settings, but to the history he’s addressing . . . ‘You share a war in one way,’ Robert thinks. ‘You pass it on in another.’ Perfume River captures both the agony and subtlety of how that happens.”—New York Times Book Review, on Perfume River

“Butler roves gracefully . . . across the perspectives of many characters, showing particular tenderness.”—New Yorker, on Perfume River

“No synopsis can convey the deceptive richness of Butler’s storytelling. The writing style, precise and beautiful, discloses more than the simple surface action of any one passage . . . [A] quietly bristling book . . . Perfume River tells a human story that sums up in an entire era of American life.”—Miami Herald, on Perfume River

“The story builds its force with great care . . . Its power is that we want to keep reading. The entire journey is masterfully rendered, Butler lighting a path back into the cave, completely unafraid.”—Washington Post, on Perfume River

“Butler’s assured, elegant novel explores a family fractured by the Vietnam War as its members face the losses of age . . . Eddying fluidly through its half-century span, the book speaks eloquently of the way the past bleeds into the present, history reverberates through individual lives, and mortality challenges our perceptions of ourselves and others.”—Publishers Weekly, on Perfume River

“The climactic scene . . . is devastating and beautifully written. Many weighty themes . . . the shadow of Vietnam, the push and pull of father-son relationships, the pitfalls of long-term marriages, and the psychic toll of aging . . . Butler pulls it all together into a story that’s both complex and meaningful.”—Kirkus Reviews, on Perfume River

“What I so like about Perfume River is its plainly-put elegance. Enough time has passed since Viet Nam that its grave human lessons and heartbreaks can be”•with a measure of genius”•almost simply stated. Butler’s novel is a model for this heartbreaking simplicity and grace.”—Richard Ford, on Perfume River

“Butler does a terrific job of depicting both the journalist’s facility for teasing information from his subjects and the spy’s incessant fear of being discovered. There’s something almost magical about the way the author re-creates this 1915 milieu.”–Wall Street Journal, on The Empire of Night

“This high-spirited adventure by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler is an antic concoction of genre clichés, literary sendups, personal homages, fanciful history and passages of great writing.”–New York Times Book Review, on The Hot Country

“[Butler’s] writing is both crisp and thoughtful, his people ring true and he offers an amusing portrait of a golden age in journalism.”–Washington Post, on The Hot Country

“Butler’s elegant writing elevates the book–he is a master of everything from lyrical description to believable dialogue.”–Tampa Bay Times, on The Empire of Night

“A smart and layered yarn . . . propulsive reading . . . Butler has developed a knack for snapping off taut, Hammett-esque sentences at tense moments.”–Minneapolis Star Tribune, on The Empire of Night

“The novel commingles character-driven historical fiction with melodrama. . . [Butler] holds the reader transfixed, like a kid at a Saturday matinee.”–Booklist (starred review), on The Star of Istanbul

“Robert Olen Butler is having fun in The Hot Country and readers will too. An intelligent entertainment with colorful history.”–Joseph Kanon, on The Hot Country