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Already Dead: A California Gothicby Denis Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
A contemporary noir, Already Dead is the tangled story of Nelson Fairchild Jr., disenfranchised scion to a northern California land fortune. A relentless failure, Nelson has botched nearly every scheme he's attempted to pull off. Now his future lies in a potentially profitable marijuana patch hidden in the lush old-growth redwoods on the family land.
Nelson has some serious problems. His marriage has fallen apart, and he may lose his land, cash and crop in the divorce. What's more, in need of some quick cash, he had foolishly agreed to smuggle $90,000 worth of cocaine through customs for Harry Lally, a major player in a drug syndicate. Chickening out just before bringing the drugs through, he flushed the powder. Now Lally wants him dead, and two goons are hot on his trail. Desperate, terrified and alone, for Nelson, there may be only one way out.
This is Denis Johnson's biggest and most complex book to date, and it perfectly showcases his signature themes of fate, redemption and the unraveling of the fabric of today's society. Already Dead, with its masterful narrative of overlapping and entwined stories, will further fuel the acclaim that surrounds one of today's most fascinating writers.
"Just as noir seems exhausted, Denis Johnson comes along with his new novel, Already Dead. Although Johnson appears to have smashed the genre, only to reassemble its shards, the rich and strange result is greater than the sum of those parts." Spin
"His most ambitious book yet....Denis Johnson is a master chronicler of wrecked lives whose dead-end journeys he delineates in excruciatingly beautiful prose." Elle
"Murderers and dope fiends never sounded so poetic....What makes this book hard to put down...is the operatic grandeur of Johnson's prose, which is sometimes beautiful and often hypnotic." People
"Johnson's prose conjures up a world that is as tangible as it is magical. He is an utterly brilliant and original talent, a novelist who reminds us just how wonderful fiction can be." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Already Dead looks very much like Johnson's bid to hit the charts, with a bullet....This new novel offers just about everything that thriller buyers look for: drugs, booze, sex, murderous violence, a soupcon of the supernatural and a large cast of enterprising psychopaths." Time
"Mr. Johnson writes beautifully, with energy and grace, as though his hands were on fire and his head caked in ice....Every page boasts exhilarating flights of Mr. Johnson's prose." New York Observer
"[A] mesmerizingly hazy journey through evil....Johnson is a crafty writer....His characters cross-pollinate the novel with human emotions and inclinations....Ultimately, Johnson brings a poet's eye and style to the novel." Scott Martelle, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review
"A kinky jeremiad...powered by amusingly feverish images of California-as-Armageddon....The book does move right along, despite its bulk, and the writing is frequently charged with energy and wit." Kirkus Reviews
"Johnson's strengths lie in his lyrical descriptions of the Pacific Coast and the surprising depth he evokes in his character development....Reminiscent of the work of Robert Stone and Jim Harrison." Benjamin Segedin, Booklist
"[A] black comedy of Wagnerian proportions....The pace is excruciatingly slow, the structure sloppy, and the huge cast of weirdos unwieldy, but Johnson's druggy prose is simply gorgeous." Library Journal
Nelson Fairchild has a thriving marijuana business in California's lush redwood country. But he may lose land, cash, and crop in a divorce settlement. Needing quick cash, Nelson agreed to smuggle $90,000 worth of cocaine through customs for drug dealer Harry Lally. But Nelson chickened out and flushed the powder. Now, Lally wants him dead. This is award-winning writer Denis Johnson's biggest and most complex novel yet.
For three generations Nelson Fairchild's family has owned miles of coastal Northern California, a region to whose grandness, he believes, the best people are drawn. But it's also a land of interminable rains, puzzling droughts, and cloying fog-banks. And some of its fine people have become, in Fairchild's eyes, "isolated minds bending around tightly to feed on themselves." These are his people — the burnouts and mystics, the bikers and surfers, the witches and warlocks.
Into this world comes Carl Van Ness, a man bent on suicide who thinks of himself as "already dead," drifting along the coast until he finds this strange community waiting for him. Then he collides with Nelson Fairchild. The pacts Fairchild makes — first with criminal associates, later with the would-be suicide, finally with a demon — all have to be paid for. The lengths to which he's willing to go ultimately become the depths to which he must sink before he's ready to confront himself. And his journey leads readers into the labyrinth of Northern California's demimonde.
About the Author
Denis Johnson is the author of The Name of the World, Already Dead, Jesus' Son, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, and Angels. His poetry has been collected in the volume The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award, among many other honors for his work. He lives in northern Idaho.
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