2007 National Book Award Winner,

Denis Johnson

Tree of Smoke

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

About the Book and Author

An epic novel of bungled espionage and small mercies in the Vietnam era.

Denis Johnson was born in 1949 in Munich, Germany, and raised in Tokyo, Manila, and Washington. He has received many awards for his work, including a Lannan Fellowship in Fiction and a Whiting Writer’s Award. He has published several books, including Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond (2001), The Name of the World (2000), Already Dead: A California Gothic (1997), Jesus’ Son (1992), Resuscitation of a Hanged Man (1991), The Stars at Noon (1986), Fiskadoro (1985), and Angels (1983). His works of poetry include The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems, Collected and New (1995), The Veil (1987), and The Incognito Lounge (1982).

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Excerpt from 'Tree of Smoke'

Excerpt from Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Copyright © 2007 by Denis Johnson. Published in September 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed. Seaman Houston and the other two recruits slept while the first reports traveled around the world. There was one small nightspot on the island, a dilapidated club with big revolving fans in the ceiling and one bar and one pinball game; the two marines who ran the club had come by to wake them up and tell them what had happened to the President. The two marines sat with the three sailors on the bunks in the Quonset hut for transient enlisted men, watching the air conditioner drip water into a coffee can and drinking beer. The Armed Forces Network from Subic Bay stayed on through the night, broadcasting bulletins about the unfathomable murder.

Now it was late in the morning, and Seaman Apprentice William Houston, Jr., began feeling sober again as he stalked the jungle of Grande Island carrying a borrowed .22-caliber rifle. There were supposed to be some wild boars roaming this island military resort, which was all he had seen so far of the Philippines. He didn’t know how he felt about this country. He just wanted to do some hunting in the jungle. There were supposed to be some wild boars around here.

He stepped carefully, thinking about snakes and trying to be quiet because he wanted to hear any boars before they charged him. He was aware that he was terrifically on edge. From all around came the ten thousand sounds of the jungle, as well as the cries of gulls and the far-off surf, and if he stopped dead and listened a minute, he could hear also the pulse snickering in the heat of his flesh, and the creak of sweat in his ears. If he stayed motionless only another couple of seconds, the bugs found him and whined around his head.

Excerpted from Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Copyright © 2007 by Denis Johnson. Published in September 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.