First Sentence: Jimmy Luntz had never been to war, but this was the sensation, he was sure of that – eighteen guys in a room, Rob, the director, sending them out – eighteen guys shoulder to shoulder, moving out on the orders of their leader to do what they’ve been training day and night to do.
Years back I read Tree of Smoke and it is one of those books that inspired me to start this website in the first place. It was clear that I needed to keep a closer eye on all the book s I read. It inspired me inasmuch as, a few months after I finished it, I had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of what it was about, or even if I liked it or not. I mustn’t have hated it though, as here I am reading another Denis Johnson book. This one is more of a straightforward noir crime story following the incredibly unlucky Jimmy Luntz. Jimmy owes money to Juarez, and when Juarez sends Gambol to collect for him, Jimmy ends up shooting him. From there, things just go from bad to worse for Jimmy. The writing in this brief novel is incredibly sparse and affecting. At times it seems quite simple, almost straightforward, but that is deceptive as it is actually quite complex, Johnson’s skill just makes it look like an easy thing to do. Lionel Shriver described this book as a cross between Raymond Chandler, Cormac McCarthy, and James Ellroy. I’d have to say that sums it up perfectly for me, and if that sounds appealing, give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.
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Last Sentence: “It’s cold. But it won’t kill you.”
Last Sentence explained: The final scene ends with some dialogue between Jimmy and a girl in a gas station. He’s asking her where the nearest river is, and if it’s cold. To which she replies…
By the end, Jimmy manages to get the better of his enemies and most of them end up dead, but there is still the sense that his troubles are not yet fully over. Anita, an attractive woman he hooked up with for most of the book, is also at that river, waiting, and you get the sense that when they meet again, sparks will fly. Jimmy never did have much luck…