It’s going to be difficult to draw out 250 words on this book. Not because it was bad. I rather enjoyed it. But because it’s really not much more than a fun, slim hardboiled tale.
But I’m game to try. Denis Johnson is considered by many to be one of the best writers of the last few decades. I myself have never read him so I can’t comment on that. I’ve been meaning to get to Tree of Smoke for several years now. This one might encourage me to do so.
The average American crime fiction fan, one who reads Michael Connelly today where their grandparents read Raymond Chandler yesterday, generally likes a three-act story spread out between 320-400 pages. However, in the traditional world of hardboiled/noir novels, there are plenty of quick books at or less 200 pages that tell a fast tale. Most of the time, it is resolved. Sometimes, it isn’t. David Goodis is a good example of this. Most of Jim Thompson’s best works clock in around 225. Even today, Megan Abbott’s seminal work Queenpin, which has far more going on than this one does, checks in at 180.
I lift this up because I look at some of the reviews of Johnson’s book, mostly negative ones, and I think people think this is supposed to be something more than it is: a simple crime tale of lower level characters who get mixed up with each other. Get in, read it, get out and get on with life. This doesn’t aspire to be anything more than that and why should it? The characters are fun and not stock. The dialogue is good without pandering. The circumstances make sense. The ending won’t satisfy anyone but I liked it. So what’s the problem? What does everyone else expect?
I prefer a meatier, fun tome I can get lost in but I can also enjoy a quicky crime novel that entertains me and doesn’t make me feel like I’ve wasted my time. That’s what Nobody Move is. It doesn’t aspire to be more than that and, aside from the apparent prestige of the writer’s name, I don’t know why it should. It’s fun. Reading is fun.