February 18, 2014

Dennis Johnson's Nobody Move:

If you’re like me, you didn’t know Dennis Johnson had written anything since Tree of Smoke.  If you’re still like me, you didn’t realize that that book was released in 2007, and you worry about the increasing speed of the passage of time.  

But I was wrong.  Since then he has released this neat little noir book.  There’s a fun mix-up with money and dames and guns.  My initial impression, when I was just a few pages in, was in how tight it was written – no superfluous words or description – like Hemingway meet Spillane.  It allows Johnson to tell his story in less than two hundred pages and still pack in a lot of action.

It is not needlessly edited though, you can tell a lot of work went into this spare novel.  My favorite is the detail he uses.  The best example is narrating from one person’s perspective; he notes that there is a car part on top of the jukebox.  A second person, in a later scene, notices the car part, but he knows just what that part is meant for.  That is a master class in characterization and plotting that can feel like a throw-away detail, but it shows what a craftsman Johnson is.