Denis Johnson is the author of several novels including, most recently, Tree of Smoke, which won the 2007 US National Book Award. He lives in northern Idaho.
Denis Johnson is the author of several novels, including Already Dead (published by Picador), Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, Angels and The Name of the World, as well as a short story writer and poet. He lives in northern Idaho.
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.]-Neil Hollands, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
National Book Award-winner Johnson (Tree of Smoke) goes lean and mean in this slick noir, originally serialized in Playboy last summer. Jimmy Luntz, a chain-smoking, fast-talking addictive gambler, is in the hole several grand to underworld bad dude Juarez, and he knows his kneecaps have a date with a tire iron when enforcer Gambol nabs him in Bakersfield, Calif. But perennial loser Jimmy gets a lucky break when he escapes, having shot Gambol in the leg and taken off with Gambol's cash-fat wallet. Soon enough, he meets alcoholic vixen Anita Desilvera. She's barreling toward oblivion, having been set up by her prosecutor husband and a corrupt judge in a $2.3 million swindle. As Jimmy and Anita hide out and plan a caper to get the millions, Gambol and Juarez track down Jimmy and learn of the big money at stake. Fates collide in the brutal last act, and, naturally, not everyone makes it out alive. With its crackling dialogue and mercilessly bleak worldview, this stark and darkly funny chronicle of a four-way race to the bottom is a testament to Johnson's sublime sympathy for lowlifes. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.