Nobody Move

Nobody Move

Having won the National Book Award for 2007’s fever-dreamed Tree of Smoke , former Texas State professor Denis Johnson does a 180 with Nobody Move , a slim but engaging caper novel. Where his previous effort was literarily complex and fraught with geopolitics, the current offering is straight-up crime fiction. Jimmy Luntz, a losing gambler from Alhambra, California, is on the run from a passel of nasty debt collectors sporting names like Gambol, Juarez, and the Tall Man. He eventually crosses paths with Anita Desilvera, who is likewise adrift but for a much different reason. Anita’s run of bad luck began with an indictment for allegedly embezzling $2.3 million from a school bond fund and continued with a divorce filing by her husband, Hank, the real embezzler; a paid-off judge then denied her any compensation. Anita enlists Jimmy in her effort to extract the ill-gotten loot from Hank. As Jimmy’s pursuers close in and Anita ruthlessly exacts her revenge, Johnson dials the mayhem up to eleven, and the whole affair rumbles to a bloody conclusion. Like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Nobody Move is a rousing shoot-’em-up that demonstrates how literary novelists use the conceits of genre fiction as means to surprisingly satisfying ends. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22

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