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on 3 August 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Denis Johnson's previous book was the enormous, sprawling National Book Award Winner, 'Tree of Smoke'. 'Nobody Move', was no doubt written as light relief after that huge undertaking, and the fact that it was originally published as a serial in 'Playboy' (who pay top wordage rates for high profile authors) should provide a clue that we aren't exactly meant to take it as a serious work.

I read it as an affectionate homage to the golden era of crime fiction, but like 'Useless Article' in his review, I was unable to decide whether it was in fact an actual parody of the hard-boiled sub-genre. The title 'Nobody Move' - a line uttered in many a 'b' movie of the 40s and 50s - seems to indicate this. But, like I say, I really couldn't tell.

The book's leading small-time gangster, Juarez, is wisecracking even as he dies, the femme fatale is beautiful, but innocent of the crime she's charged with, a buxom lady with a heart of gold takes care of a shot gangster - the list of (deliberately employed) noir cliches goes on...

The plot includes usage of that modern day device the mobile (or 'cell') phone, but other than that the book could have been set in any decade from the 40s upwards.

It's a good read, and in length it's little more than a novella, so I was able to devour it in two sittings. Nevertheless I felt the ending let it down slightly. However, it's very skilfully written, has some great punchy dialogue, and features characters you can engage with. I have acquired a copy of 'Tree of Smoke', which I intend reading one weekend in the near future.
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on 17 January 2012
You almost know that Denis Johnson is playing with the genre here, but something very good happens as you read and find yourself involved in the action, hoping that Jimmy Luntz and the beautiful, manipulative, putative fraudster Anita can escape the clutches of Juarez, the local drugs king, and his acolyte the terrifying Tall Man.

The plot is tight, the action is taut, the language is understated Chandleresque without being derivative. Here's Anita questioning him in the motel they go to:
"You're sweet," she said, and she sort of meant it. But not as a compliment, "You're homeless right?"
"I have a home. I'm just not going back there, is all."
"So right in that shopping bag is everything you own?"
"Everything I need."
"And your white canvas bag - what's in that one?"
"Everything else I need."
"I know what's in it. A sawed off shotgun."
He seemed completely unsurprised, "It's not a sawed off. It's a pistol grip. And it isn't mine."
"I peeked in the bag while you were in the shower."
"You zipped it up real nice," he said, "Good for you."

Young Jimmy Luntz owes Juarez money so he sends Gambol to collect, but something, wouldn't you know it, goes wrong and Jimmy leaves Gambol with a tourniquet on one leg courtesy of a gun shot wound. Anita first sees Jimmy as he tosses his gun into the river, and then they meet up again at the Ramada, just outside the County airport. But things don't go smoothly for Jimmy and Anita because Gambol takes his leg wound seriously and Juarez still wants his money. What the Tall Man wants is probably incalculable. By page 170, Jimmy's in his shorts tied to a chair and Juarez is in control. A scant 20 pages later, it's all over, for some.

I'm impressed by Johnson's flair for genre-hopping; he's a US National Book Award winner for his Vietnam War novel, Tree of Smoke, as well as author of seven other novels, four volumes of poetry and two plays.
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VINE VOICEon 13 July 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first Denis Johnson book I've read - it won't be the last. This is a rapidfire tale of a couple of days in the life of a bunch of characters who could have come out of the Wild West, if you substituted saloons and horses for diners and cars.

There's little detail that isn't essential to the story, no excess prose, just a straight delivery that is at times very funny. I'm not sure who I would compare him to, but the cover "blurb" refers to Raymond Chandler and if this were made into a film, then Tarantino would be the director, so we're firmly into "noir" territory here.

It's a very focused book, only a couple of hundred pages and a few characters, so your not going to lose track of things as the story unfolds but the plotlines are reasonably credible, and elegantly pulled together at the end. I liked it a lot.
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on 28 June 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Excellent crime novella to be read in one sitting on a spare afternoon. I loved Tree of Smoke but this is a completely different style of book, so do not expect more of the same.

Jimmy Luntz is a chain-smoking, teetotal wiseguy who got into trouble with someone he shouldn't have - a gangster named Juarez - and who gets mixed up with alcoholic non-smoker Anita, a beautiful woman framed by her husband for a $2.3m fraud.

Anita is out for revenge; Jimmy is on the run (he shot and maimed one of Juarez's henchmen). The tone is comic and grizzly. There is a superb scene with the FBI and a motel and with two of Jimmy's old criminal friends who are now lovers who own a biker bar, itself the fruit of fraud. Denis Johnson also writes gore vividly: there are shootings, stabbings, spade-ings throughout the plot. Juarez, infamous for eating the testicles of one of his previous victims, is a memorable baddie. Jimmy and Anita are a believable couple with some dark, witty banter between them. I expect that the film rights have already been bought.
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VINE VOICEon 8 August 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a short novel which packs quite a punch in a story spread over quite a short space of time.

It's not always easy to follow the quick-fire action, although when you catch up, the leap is worth it.

I didn't really fathom any of the characters mainly because with so few pages (only 200) it doesn't leave much space for character-building. But there is no wasted space; the action moves along rapidly, bodies appear and are made to disappear (or not, in some cases), much money is talked about and plans made to obtain it but, in the end, none of this matters much as the journey of the main protagonists is not a long one.

If you like quirky people, black humour, and a good dose of action, this book will entice you. It's well worth a read and I'll look out for any further stories from the author - though I won't be going back to read 'Tree of Smoke' given previous and earlier reviews.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An odd little number from Denis Johnson. Its a novella really rather than a novel. Particularly brutal in places, it covers the story of a week or so in the life of a no account drifter and gambler. Problem being he is not very good at either. What starts out as a simple "Pay your Bookie" type story soon descends into farce, and extremely dark farce at that. Taking in gay bikers, a woman on a revenge mission, corrupt judges and much more. The dialogue is sharp, short, shocking. The story itself has a few twists and turns that while not unexpected are nevertheless well delivered. Its an adult book, with adult themes and no pat endings for anyone, unless......
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on 22 May 2014
Loved his collection of stories entitled Jesus' Son, but I found this full-length effort lacking a certain spark. Why does every book I read in this genre remind me of Elmore Leonard. Sorry.
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on 22 July 2013
Not a spare word is used in this thrilling book. Denis Johnson's visit to noir is hugely exciting; a sort of ultra noir.
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on 1 November 2013
We are in familiar territory here, debt, damaged people, sleazy motels and last resorts.
Written in a style so spare and brief that it sweeps the reader along at such a pace that
I wished for a seatbelt on my armchair.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 14 August 2013
This short book moves at one heck of a pace so keep your wits about you or you will literally loose the plot.
The dialogue is slick with seldom a word wasted. The characters all have faults, but are more loveable rogues than evil villains. The use of humour to relieve the build up to the climax is masterful and the sexy bits are pretty good too.
All in all this is a great fast moving yarn of robbery , intrigue and infidelity set in approx. present time USA. Cormac McCarthy it is not, but pretty damn good it is. Why not 5 stars? Well the ending kind of took me by surprise, but not in a good way!
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