Nobody Move by Denis Johnson



Jimmy Luntz owes money to a man called Juarez. Trouble is, Juarez isn’t the most patient of men. And when he gets bored of waiting, he sends someone round to collect. Luntz doesn’t actually plan to shoot the guy, but the way he sees it, it’s shoot or be shot. Either way, though, Luntz is out of his league, and he knows it: nobody messes with Juarez — or, at least, nobody messes with Juarez and lives to tell the tale. Against all the odds, however, it seems that somebody up there is looking out for Luntz, if only he can keep his cool.

With it’s spare, haunted prose, a plot that moves like a pitbull on crank and an elastic band tied around it’s balls and a line in damaged losers who’d probably be successful if they could get past their own bullshit, Johnson has written a powerful and swift read.

It has lashings of amusing Americana, it understands the sexual allure of damage and self destruction, Johnson shows the humanity of these people who consider themselves damned by their actions or good, simply by the virtue of justifying their actions to themselves and forgetting the particularly bad ones.

Noir is a genre that is gleefully subversive, iconoclastic in that the authorities are corrupt or incompetent, that a man’s word isn’t worth shit if a better option comes along and that the heroes are merely those not quite as steeped in horror and degradation.

For all that though, Johnson makes the characters engaging and empathetic. I think the best noir holds up a broken mirror and lets us see who we could be, if we really put our minds to fucking things up. Johnson does that. It’s not the repressed poetry of an MFA working out their father issues, it’s terse and mean storytelling but one that understands the poetry of broken bones and bullets.  Nobody Move is entertaining, engaging and has the sweet brevity of a kiss with a stranger. Except this one might lead to you waking up in a bathtub of crushed ice and a note to call 911 as you feel for stitches in the small of your back.

The book has beautiful women, dangerous men and when it’s done, you can close the book and go do some charitable work or eat something healthy to make yourself feel better about it. But you’ll find yourself thinking about it long after it’s over.


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