Readers who know Denis Johnson only from his 614-page National Book Award winner, Tree of Smoke, a complicated novel about the Vietnam War, will find it difficult to believe that Nobody Move is from the same author. Nobody Move is short and it is certainly not complicated. The novel, in fact, first appeared in print as a four-part serialization in Playboy in 2008 and the book’s pacing reflects the fact that it was written to be presented in four distinct parts over a period of months.
In a book filled with lowlifes, thugs, enforcers, and other assorted sociopaths, Jimmy Luntz is about the closest thing to a hero there is - proving that everything is, indeed, relative. Luntz, in debt to a cutthroat loan shark, one day finds himself in a car being driven by Gambol, a man who intends to remind Luntz of his monetary obligations by using a $10 crowbar on his kneecaps. Gambol, though, gets careless just long enough for Luntz to gain the upper hand. Luntz, not one to pass up an opportunity to avoid a good beating, manages to shoot Gambol in the leg, steal his fat wallet, push Gambol out of the car, and drive away in the man’s Cadillac.
Jimmy, now on the run in northern California, meets one Anita Desilvera, newly divorced and recently framed by her ex-husband in a $2.3 million embezzlement scheme. Anita is determined to get her hands on the money she has been accused of stealing and sees Jimmy as the kind of “muscle” she needs to get it done. Jimmy, on the other hand, just likes what he sees when he looks at Anita and is happy to be hiding out with someone so attractive.
Jimmy and Anita hatch a plan that will net each of them half of the missing $2.3 million dollars but, when Gambol and his loan shark boss catch up with them, plans change – and quickly. What happens next reads like Raymond Chandler on speed. Denis Johnson pulls no punches. This is a dark book, one filled with violence and brutality but, very much in the Chandler style, Johnson uses dark humor and sharp dialogue to temper what his characters are doing to each other.
The audio version of Nobody Move is read by actor Will Patton, well known for the major books he has narrated in the past, including Johnson’s own Tree of Smoke. Patton’s delivery is perfect for this four-CD audio book, employing exactly the tone needed to deliver Johnson’s sarcastic dialogue and witty give-and-take at its best. Even the most brutal of Johnson’s characters are given distinct personalities of their own by Patton’s vocal takes on their make-up.
This one, bloody as it is at times, is still great fun, and that is due in no small part to Will Patton’s reading. I am not sure that I would have found it nearly so funny in written format but I highly recommend the Nobody Move audio book to readers who have a Pulp Fiction frame-of-mind.
Rated at: 5.0 (audio)