I’ve read a few Denis Johnson novels now, and I never considered him a noir guy, especially after his poetic and sensitive Train Dreams. But that’s all changed now. Nobody Move is not new (2009 copyright) but it’s new to me, which is what counts. The title reminds me of a remark Raymond Chandler made about what he did when he got stuck on a scene: Bring in a guy with a gun.
Lots of guns here, starting from the superb opening sentence: Jimmy Luntz had never been to war, but this was the sensation, he was sure of that. Not a complicated setup. Jimmy’s a compulsive gambler. Owes money. A guy comes to collect. Or else. Jimmy manages to shoot, but not to kill (big mistake he makes a few times.) the collector. Of course the perp is not acting alone. Now Jimmy’s on the run from a whole criminal enterprise. The chase soon migrates to the Feather River area in Northern California, (a region where I spent some time in my youth, but never mind.)
Complications ensue. There are a couple of women, of course. People are double-crossing one another right, left, up, and down–with Jimmy himself, as a good noir protagonist, joining the fun. Lots of blood and semen and surprises. It’s a dark and nasty joy ride right up there with the noir best, and it ends in the middle of a beat like one of those rock songs that cuts off before it resolves.