The Washington Post
Nobody Moveby Denis Johnson
From the National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Tree of Smoke comes a provocative thriller set in the American West. Nobody Move, which first appeared in the pages of Playboy, is the story of an assortment of lowlifes in Bakersfield, California, and their cat-and-mouse game over $2.3 million. Touched by echoes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett,… See more details below
From the National Book Award-winning, bestselling author of Tree of Smoke comes a provocative thriller set in the American West. Nobody Move, which first appeared in the pages of Playboy, is the story of an assortment of lowlifes in Bakersfield, California, and their cat-and-mouse game over $2.3 million. Touched by echoes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Nobody Move is at once an homage to and a variation on literary form. It salutes one of our most enduring and popular genres - the American crime novel - but with a grisly humor and outrageousness that are Denis Johnson's own. Sexy, suspenseful, and above all entertaining, Nobody Move shows one of our greatest novelists at his versatile best.
The Washington Post
Lowlifes have never had it this good. Will Patton delivers a flawless reading of Johnson's novel of life on the lam. Patton, whose narration of Johnson's Book of Smoke was honored with an Audie Award, lowers his voice to a purring world-weary, chain smoking growl. He embodies each character with absolute authority-gambling addict Jimmy Luntz, on the run from kingpin Juarez, Juarez's bumbling strongman Gambol and the alcoholic karaoke aficionado, Anna Desilvera, who has the FBI on her tail. Listeners will be hooked-and quite possibly in stitches-from the first sentence of Patton's virtuosic performance. A Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 12). (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Johnson follows his epic Vietnam novel, the National Book Award-winning Tree of Smoke, with this slight noir novella. On impulse, gambling addict Jimmy Luntz shoots and wounds the enforcer Gambol when he comes to collect for loan shark Juarez. On the run, Jimmy crosses paths with the beautiful but alcoholic Anita Desilvera, whose lawyer husband has divorced her, embezzled $2.3 million, and framed her for the crime. A violent cat-and-mouse game through northern California follows as Jimmy and Anita try to take the embezzled money while avoiding Juarez and his henchmen. Originally serialized in Playboy, this combines Jim Thompson's violent noir, a shot of sexuality, and Elmore Leonard's darkly comic characters but falls short of better work by any of those writers. Deeply flawed but surprisingly likable characters are the highlight in what is otherwise a minor effort, devalued by a muddy plot and a hasty, forced ending. This is an adequate but not necessary selection that will most likely find readers in libraries where Johnson already has an audience. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/09.]
“A short, tight, grimly funny dark crime-comedy about losers, hustlers, alcoholics, murder, lowlifes, and a sexy broad with a heart of ice. I loved it.”—Sam Coale, Providence Journal
“A hard-boiled, modern shoot-'em-up in which nobody's hands are clean but everyone gets great lines.”—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
“Reads like a Coen brothers movie waiting to happen, a cross between Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men.”—Andrew Ervin, The Miami Herald
Praise for Denis Johnson:
“The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson’s.”—Jonathan Franzen
“We can hearTwain in [Johnson’s] bitter irony, Whitman in his erotic excess . . . An amazingly talented writer.”—Vince Passaro, Newsday
“Good morning and please listen to me: Denis Johnson is a true American artist.”—Jim Lewis, The New York Times Book Review
Displays a wicked sense of fun.
A short, tight, grimly funny dark crime-comedy about losers, hustlers, alcoholics, murder, lowlifes, and a sexy broad with a heart of ice. I loved it.
We can hear Twain in [Johnson's] bitter irony, Whitman in his erotic excess . . . An amazingly talented writer.
- Renouf Pub Co Ltd
- Publication date:
Read an Excerpt
Nobody MoveA Novel
By Denis Johnson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLCCopyright © 2009 Denis Johnson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJIMMY LUNTZ had never been to war, but this was the sensation, he was sure of that-eighteen guys in a room, Rob, the director, sending them out-eighteen guys shoulder to shoulder, moving out on the orders of their leader to do what they've been training day and night to do. Waiting silently in darkness behind the heavy curtain while on the other side of it the MC tells a stale joke, and then-"THE ALHAMBRA CALIFORNIA BEACHCOMBER CHORDSMEN!"-and they were smiling at hot lights, doing their two numbers.
Luntz was one of four leads. On "Firefly" he thought they did pretty well. Their vowels matched, they went easy on the consonants, and Luntz knew he, at least, was lit up and smiling, with plenty of body language. On "If We Can't Be the Same Old Sweethearts" they caught the wave. Uniformity, resonance, expression of pathos, everything Rob had ever asked for. They'd never done it so well. Right face, down the steps, and into the convention center's basement, where once again they arranged themselves in ranks, this time to pose for souvenir pictures.
"Even if we come in twentieth out of twenty," Rob told them afterward, while they were changing out of their gear, the white tuxedos and checkered vests and checkered bow ties, "we're reallycoming in twentieth out of a hundred, right? Because remember, guys, one hundred outfits tried to get to this competition, and only twenty made it all the way here to Bakersfield. Don't forget that. We're out of a hundred, not twenty. Remember that, okay?" You got a bit of an impression Rob didn't think they'd done too well.
Almost noon. Luntz didn't bother changing into street clothes. He grabbed his gym bag, promised to meet the others back at the Best Value Inn, and hurried upstairs still wearing the getup. He felt the itch to make a bet. Felt lucky. He had a Santa Anita sheet folded up in the pocket of his blinding white tux. They started running at twelve-thirty. Find a pay phone and give somebody a jingle.
On his way out through the lobby he saw they'd already posted the judgments. The Alhambra Chordsmen ranked seventeenth out of twenty. But, come on, that was really seventeenth out of a hundred, right?
All right-fine. They'd tanked. But Luntz still had that lucky feeling. A shave, a haircut, a tuxedo. He was practically Monte Carlo.
He headed out through the big glass doors, and there's old Gambol standing just outside the entrance. Checking the comings and goings. A tall, sad man in expensive slacks and shoes, camel-hair sports coat, one of those white straw hats that senior-citizen golfers wear. A very large head.
"So hey," Gambol said, "you are in a barbershop chorus."
"What are you doing here?"
"I came here to see you."
"No, but really."
"Really. Believe it."
"All the way to Bakersfield?"
That lucky feeling. It had let him down before.
"I'm parked over here," Gambol said.
Gambol was driving a copper-colored Cadillac Brougham with soft white leather seats. "There's a button on the side of the seat," he said, "to adjust it how you want."
"People will be missing me," Luntz said. "I've got a ride back down to LA. It's all arranged."
"Good, sure-just find a pay phone, and I'll hop out."
Gambol handed him a cell phone. "Nobody's hopping anywhere."
Luntz patted his pockets, found his notebook, spread it on his knee, punched buttons with his thumb. He got Rob's voice mail and said, "Hey, I'm all set. I got a lift, a lift back down to Alhambra." He thought a second. "This is Jimmy." What else? "Luntz." What else? Nothing. "Good deal. I'll see you Tuesday. Practice is Tuesday, right? Yeah. Tuesday."
He handed back the phone, and Gambol put it in the pocket of his fancy Italian sports coat.
Luntz said, "Okay if I smoke?"
"Sure. In your car. But not in my car."
* * *
Gambol drove with one hand on the wheel and one long arm reaching into the back seat, going through Luntz's gym bag. "What's this?"
"From what? Grizzly bears?" He reached across Luntz's lap and shoved it in the glove compartment. "That is one big gun."
Luntz opened the compartment.
"Shut that thing, goddamn it."
Luntz shut it.
"You want protection? Pay your debts. That's the best protection."
"I agree completely," Luntz said, "and can I tell you about an uncle of mine? I have an appointment to see him this afternoon."
"A rich uncle."
Excerpted from Nobody Move by Denis Johnson Copyright © 2009 by Denis Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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