book review – Nobody Move – Denis Johnson

“Luntz turned and flung himself to the ground, hearing gunshots, and his senses ceased functioning. When the darkness and silence ended he was over the side of the hill and standing behind the building and hearing the river, and now his senses were sharp, precise.”

If you were to put the bleak violence of McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and the sharp style of Raymond Chandler into a blender then this mixture is the likely result. A sharp but cruel tale of gamblers, gangsters and greed is played out against the backdrop of sleazy clubs and drinking dens.

Motels, cadillacs and guns feature along with extreme violence. Thugs relish the chance to kill their rivals while at the back the brains of the operation pull the strings.

For those that were criminals hoping to put the past behind them all too quickly they are dragged back into it and their chances of getting to their next birthday’s quickly drop down to zero.

So bearing all that in mind why should you care about the relationship between the two main characters Jimmy Luntz the barbershop crooning gambler and his femme fatale Anita as they kill and con heir way through life? Perhaps it is because in a world of complete evil some are less so than others and there is also some truth to the idea that love can emerge even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Compared to Tree of Smoke the style is different but that sense of pace you get in the last 200 pages of that book is the same here from the start. The moment that Luntz decides to shoot rather than pay his way out of trouble the action begins and he makes that decision just a few pages in.

For those that like their crime novels with bullets and blood then this fits the bill but it also comes with plenty of humour and leaves you thinking about just who is wrong when the conned decide to start kicking back at those who have conned them.

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