Already Dead: A California Gothic

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9780060187378: Already Dead: A California Gothic

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.

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About the Author:

Born in Munich, Germany, gifted poet (Throne of the Third Heaven ) and story-teller (Jesus' Son )Denis Johnson now resides in northern Idaho. Johnson's first work of fiction in five years, Already Dead: A California Gothic , is a complex, darkly comic take on life in America's deeply weird West Coast.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A kinky jeremiad about drug culture burnout (and fallout), powered by amusingly feverish images of California-as-Armageddon, from the poet and author whose recent fiction includes Jesus' Son (1992) and Resuscitation of a Hanged Man (1991). Johnson's latest is composed of a series of linked narratives set along the northern California coast in 199091, and centered in the psychic unraveling of Nelson Fairchild, a 30ish rich boy marijuana-grower who has unwisely cheated a murderous colleague, and spends his generally stoned, panicked days simultaneously fleeing the hit men who pursue him and arranging his own hit on his wife (who controls their finances, and in any case has been supplanted in Nelson's lustful affections by his mistress Melissa). Johnson surrounds Nelson's ordeal with a garish jumble of variously related outlaws and misfits, including Carl Van Ness, a philosophical drifter who vacillates between the consolations promised by suicide (Johnson's title denotes Van Ness's passive mind-set) and the intriguing prospect of becoming Nelson's hired gun; Wilhelm Frankheimer, a gigantic acidhead merchant marine turned blacksmith; Nelson's gently delirious brother William, who lives in the woods and writes deranged letters filled with cosmic paranoia to the police; a cop named Navarro who's drawn into their increasingly bizarre dance of death; and several alternately lissome and lethal women who, when not fulfilling their men's erotic fantasies, are blithely double-crossing them. There's also an effective Grand Guignol appearance by Nelson Fairchild pŠre, the kind of venomous old man whom John Huston always played in movies. The book does move right along, despite its bulk, and the writing is frequently charged with energy and wit. But it contains a little too much of everything: fashionable despair (though Nelson's imagined ``demon'' has a gritty surrealism), New Age meandering, and fitful little explosions of overcalculated violence. A novel this one resembles, Charlie Smith's The Lives of the Dead, did it better. Johnson's attempt at a noir epic intermittently excites and teases, but doesn't satisfy. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Published by Harpercollins (1997)
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