Johnson wrote this as something of a palate-cleanser after the vast Tree of Smoke. This 200-page hardboiled crime story was originally serialised in Playboy before being published last year. It has echoes of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and about two-dozen noir movies. [amtap book:isbn=0330503995]
The central character is Jimmy Luntz, a compulsive gambler in debt to a guy called Juarez. When Gambol, Juarez's right-hand man, comes to collect, Luntz shoots him in the leg and goes on the run. He meets Anita Desilvera, framed by her husband and her boss for the theft of $2 million. While Anita and Jimmy plot to steal the money, Gambol and Juarez come to town hunting Jimmy.
The book is so pared down that it reads like a film script. Johnson limits his taut, spare prose mostly to dialogue. He's got a knack for the kind of zinging speech that makes this genre work and he has great fun with a couple of set pieces, including a shotgun fight in the dark.
The characters are all fairly stereotypical and the plot plays out along the expected lines, though Johnson does leave a few loose ends. Though the story is set in present-day California, it could easily be the 1940s. Only the occasional appearance of a mobile phone gives the era away.
Nobody Move is pure homage; Johnson doesn't do anything new here but he's obviously enjoying himself and it's hard to resist being carried along.