The Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Decimal System

by Nathan Larson


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The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson

After a flu pandemic, a large-scale terrorist attack, and the total collapse of Wall Street, New York City is reduced to a shadow of its former self. As the city struggles to dig itself out of the wreckage, a nameless, obsessive-compulsive veteran with a spotty memory, a love for literature, and a strong if complex moral code (that doesn’t preclude acts of extreme violence) has taken up residence at the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.

Dubbed "Dewey Decimal" for his desire to reorganize the library's stock, our protagonist (who will reappear in the next novel in this series) gets by as bagman and muscle for New York City's unscrupulous district attorney. Decimal takes no pleasure in this kind of civic dirty work. He'd be perfectly content alone amongst his books. But this is not in the cards, as the DA calls on Dewey for a seemingly straightforward union-busting job.

What unfolds throws Dewey into a bloody tangle of violence, shifting allegiances, and old vendettas, forcing him to face the darkness of his own past and the question of his buried identity.

With its high body count and snarky dialogue, The Dewey Decimal System pays respects to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Jim Thompson. Healthy amounts of black humor and speculative tendencies will appeal to fans of Charlie Huston, Nick Tosches, Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, Robert Ferrigno, and early Jonathan Lethem.

Nathan Larson is best known as an award-winning film music composer, having created the scores for over thirty movies such as Boys Don’t Cry, Dirty Pretty Things, and The Messenger. In the 1990s he was the lead guitarist for the influential prog-punk outfit Shudder to Think. This is his first novel. Larson lives in Harlem, New York City, with his wife and son.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617750106
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 04/19/2011
Series: Akashic Urban Surreal Series
Pages: 251
Sales rank: 1,135,835
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.08(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Nathan Larson: Nathan Larson is best known as an award-winning film music composer, having created the scores for over thirty movies, such as Boys Don’t Cry, Dirty Pretty Things, and The Messenger. In the ’90s, he was the lead guitarist for the influential prog-punk outfit Shudder to Think. This is his first novel. Larson lives in Harlem, New York City, with his wife and son.

Read an Excerpt


By Nathan Larson

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2011 Nathan Larson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61775-010-6

Chapter One

And I wake, gasping and flailing at the hooded shapes that recede swiftly with my sleep, the report of the gunshot ricocheting off my skull and out into the great hall of the Reading Room.

Always the same dream.

As the sound fades and the hush returns by degrees to that massive chamber, my heart rate slows and indeed I know exactly where I am: the Main Branch of the New York Public Library at the juncture of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, in the City of New York.

I can't relate in exact detail what led me here, but this much I can tell you: I am a man of mixed ethnicity, from the borough of the Bronx. I freelance from time to time for the government of the City of New York. Or at least what's left of it.

I am, or was, a soldier, in a landscape without features, save for the funnels of sand the wind might kick up, and the occasional cluster of low buildings. In this antispace there were long periods of time where nothing whatsoever occurred, and we were very hot. When shit did happen, it did so very fast, in a flourish of blood and bits of metal and fiberglass. Even so, it all seemed so very half-assed. Hard to take seriously.

Like a bad movie you didn't really want to watch, but settled on for lack of options.

And, you know, I was a husband and a father. I think. But that was before.

I sit up, rifle through my suit jacket for a cigarette, and find none. Despite the relative quiet, I'm not alone here ... a mother and son have an old hot plate going nearby, staring intently into the pot, mother holding a potato aloft, presumably waiting for the water to boil.

I'm surprised they found a working outlet. Take stock of its location should I need to charge my shaver. This might be one of the last public buildings that draws off of the city's skeletal power grid.

Have a job here at the library. I'm taking care of the books. But more about that later.

Beyond the Madonna and child, other human forms are scattered here and there, adrift and irrelevant.

Irrelevant, that sounds cold. But for as much as the city has been transformed, there's one thing that's truer than it ever was in this town, and that's this: if you don't have a direct line, a Batphone, you not going to make it.

I, people, have a direct line.

Speaking of which, my pager hums. It's the DA. Check the code: tells me I need to get down to the office pronto.

Hop up, fasten my belt. Spritz on a little Purell™ and wring my hands. Purell™ is a must-have go-to kind of thing for me, a cool breeze in a hot world of crazy.

I sleep in my suit: fuck it. Saves time. Step into my wing tips, roll up my bedding, shove it all into my army-issue bag, and stow it on a low shelf with my jerky, stash of pistachios, and bottled water.

Nobody will so much as touch my gear. They know who I am, and, more importantly, they know who I know.

Dry swallowing my wake-up pill, I'm down the worn marble stairs and out into the piss-warm drizzle; I slap on my hat and tap the northernmost lion's stone haunch as I pass by.

This is part of my System. Left on Fifth Avenue. All important, to follow the System. And use Purell™, especially after you've touched a public edifice.

Rain mutes the pervading odor of burning plastic and garbage. Midsummer, indeed the first summer after the events of February 14.

The smell loiters even now, reliable as death; that's the plastic. The trash odor stems from the waste holes in what was once Bryant Park.

In accordance with the System I take the left on 42nd Street. Prior to 11 a.m. I will only execute left turns. Headed to the B train.

Show my laminate to the female Marine, she bids me proceed, and I descend.

Improbably, the subway soldiers on, thanks to federal funds earmarked for the "Great Reconstruction." Exactly who is responsible for allocating the cash within the city is unknown to me, but I can tell you it ain't done with the public good in mind. First priority would be lining the pockets of many a shady character downtown, as well as the various construction warlords who swarmed the island post–2/14.

That's the real, and no effort is made whatsoever to disguise this fact.

Subway service (now fully automated) is strictly reserved for city employees, dignitaries, and those who are liquid enough to lay a healthy donation across the right sweaty palm. Trust me, such folks are few and far between. Plus, if you can hang with such heavy bribery, why the fuck would you be taking the freaking subway? Chances are you've already headed inland and are holed up behind gates at a compound upstate, or in central Jersey. Away from the water, away from possible future "occurrences." God bless.

Some of us need to work. Some of us have a System.

Just me on the platform. The water looks to be about ankle deep on the tracks, rats paddle by in schools. The very sight of them makes me reach for that Purell™ again.

A D train, then an F, piloted by some distant computer. I board the B when it pulls in.

The System protects me, keeps my thoughts structured. There are rules, sure: When riding the New York City subway, it's essential to begin with letter trains (A, B, C), and then only in alphabetic order. If traveling more than four stops, it's essential to transfer to a number train (1, 2, 3), and in a perfect world the first transfer should be an even number.

It's no disaster if that's not a possibility, I'm just saying: the more you work the System, the more the System works for you. For this reason I switch to the 6 train at Broadway/Lafayette.

I share a car with a group of Transit Authority cops. Uniforms mismatched. The biggest one gives me the once-over, clocks the laminate, nods in my direction.

I touch the brim of my hat. It's an effort to keep my face composed. Funny, no? After everything I've been subjected to, to the limited extent I can remember particulars, I'm jumpy around cops.

I take my pulse and count backward from ten, employing the System. Exiting at Canal, I exhale, feeling the cops' eyes on the back of my neck.

I'm thinking I need to double up, so I pop another pill and emerge into the hot haze, the dank barnyard of Chinatown.

No exaggeration: I'm kicking aside chickens as I move south on Lafayette, handkerchief to my lips. Solid petri-dish stuff, a misting of bird flu, swine flu, dog flu, mad cow, tuberculosis, and worse. Look-alike faces swarm and jabber. SARS masks.

I might be fluent in Cantonese but that doesn't mean I want to stop and have a conversation.

I finger the single key in my front pocket.

And, needless to say, I whip out the Purell™.

Using a System-based technique I block out the human static and meditate on today's possible activities.


Excerpted from THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM by Nathan Larson Copyright © 2011 by Nathan Larson. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A nameless investiagator dogs New York streets made even meaner by a series of near-future calamities. [Larson’s] distopia is bound to win fans..."
Kirkus Reviews

"The Dewey Decimal System is a winningly tight, concise and high-impact book, a violent, exhilarating odyssey that pitches its protagonist through a gratuitously detailed future New York."
New York Press

"The Dewey Decimal System is proof positive that the private detective will remain a serious and seriously enjoyable literary archetype."
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The Dewey Decimal System 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An unusual setting, not too far in the future, with many references to recent historical events, within New York City. A captivating plot with a different writing style. I am not sure if there are a lot of typographical errors or if there is an attempt to portray the difficulty of the life style of the main character.
GrandmaLee More than 1 year ago
Easy to loose your place in the continuity of the story. Lots of implied history with no real background. A bit too contrived for my tastes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago