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Extended Audio Sample The Laughing Monsters: A Novel, by William Peter Blatty Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William Peter Blatty, Denis Johnson Narrator: William Peter Blatty, Scott Shepherd Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2014 ISBN: 9781427252289
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A post-9/11 literary spy thriller from the National Book Award–winning author of Tree of Smoke

Roland Nair calls himself Scandinavian but travels on a US passport. After ten years’ absence, he returns to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, to reunite with his friend Michael Adriko. They once made a lot of money here during the country’s civil war, and, curious to see whether good luck will strike twice in the same place, Nair allows himself to be drawn back to a region he considers hopeless.

Adriko is an African who styles himself a soldier of fortune and who claims to have served, at various times, the Ghanaian army, the Kuwaiti Emiri Guard, and the American Green Berets. He’s probably broke now, but he remains, at thirty-six, as stirred by his own doubtful schemes as he was a decade ago.

Although Nair believes some kind of money-making plan lies at the back of it all, Adriko’s stated reason for inviting his friend to Freetown is for Nair to meet Adriko’s fiancée, a grad student girl named Davidia from Colorado. Together the three set out to visit Adriko’s clan in the Uganda-Congo borderland—but each of these travelers is keeping secrets from the others.

Shadowed by Interpol, the Mossad, and MI6, Nair gets mired in lust and betrayal in a landscape of frighteningly casual violence as he travels with Adriko and Davidia, gets smuggled into a war zone, gets kidnapped by the Congo Army, and is terrorized by a self-proclaimed god ruling over a dying village. Their journey through a land abandoned by the future leads Adriko, Nair, and Davidia to meet themselves not in a new light, but rather in a new darkness.

A high-suspense tale of kaleidoscoping loyalties in the post-9/11 world, Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters shows one of our great novelists at the top of his game.

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Quotes & Awards

  • National Book Award winner Denis Johnson has brilliantly plumbed the mystical and the macabre in such works as Tree of Smoke and his instant classic Jesus' Son. The Laughing Monsters delivers a more commercial, post-9/11 tale of intrigue, deception, romance, and misadventure set in West Africa without losing Johnson's essentially poetic drive . . . With each twist, Johnson deftly ups the stakes while adding to the cavalcade of entrepreneurs, assassins, seers, and smugglers that populate the book, tuning us in to the roiling political realities and cultural complexities of Africa today . . . This visionary novel is always falling together, never apart. That's Johnson. Lisa Shea, Elle
  • An adventure without any expected twists. Mr. Johnson is adept at keeping the pace of the story up without sacrificing either suspense or satisfaction . . . The mystery is worth trying to solve. Mona Moraru, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • And for his next trick, Johnson delivers a taut, Conrad-by-way-of-Chandler tale about a spy who gets too close to the man he's shadowing in Africa . . . As in any good double-agent story, Johnson obscures whose side Roland is really on, and Roland himself hardly knows the answer either: Befogged by frustrations and bureaucracy, his lust for Davidia and simple greed, he slips deeper into violence and disconnection. Johnson expertly maintains the heart-of-darkness mood . . . his antihero's story is an intriguing metaphor for [post-9/11 lawlessness]. Kirkus
  • Good morning and please listen to me: Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and Tree of Smoke is a tremendous book . . . It ought to secure Johnson's status as a revelator for this still new century. Jim Lewis, The New York Times on Tree of Smoke
  • [A] severely lovely tale . . . The visionary, miraculous element in Johnson's deceptively tough realism makes beautiful appearances in this book. The hard, declarative sentences keep their powder dry for pages at a time, and then suddenly flare into lyricism; the natural world of the American West is examined, logged, and frequently transfigured. I started reading Train Dreams with hoarded suspicion, and gradually gave it all away, in admiration of the story's unaffected tact and honesty . . . Any writer can use simple prose to describe the raising of a cabin or the cutting down of tress, but only very good writers can use that prose to build a sense of an entire community, and to convey, without condescension, that this community shares some of the simplicity of the prose. Chekhov could do this, Naipaul does it in his early work about Trinidad, and Johnson does it here, often using an unobtrusive, free indirect style to inhabit the limited horizons of his characters . . . A way of being, a whole community, has now disappeared from view, and is given brief and eloquent expression here. James Wood, The New Yorker on Train Dreams

  • “Johnson's tenth novel is a stunner: the story of Roland Nair, a rogue intelligence agent looking to make a big score in Sierra Leone amid the detritus and chaos of the post-war-on-terrorism world. Johnson's sentences are always brilliant, but it is in the interstices, the gray areas of the story, that he really excels. David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

  • A thriller of spies and black marketeers that's hard to put down for all the right reasons. Boris Kachka, New York Magazine
  • Easy to love line by line--Denis Johnson's prose, as always, is incandescent . . . [a] hermetic, exhilirating, visionary nightmare of a book. Justin Taylor, Bookforum
  • The single catastrophe is what fuels that demands and mysteries of literature. The wreckage is what essential writers particularize, and Denis Johnson's interests have always beenin wreckage, both individual and universal. If Train Dreams (a Pulitizer finalist) dealt with the dignified tragedy of a past American antonym, The Laughing Monsters addresses the vanishing present, a giddy trickle-down of global exploitation and hubris--the farcical exploits of cold dudes in a hard land. Joy Williams, The New York Times Book Review
  • It would be hard to find a better American writer, at the level of the sentence, than Johnson. Gina Frangello, Boston Globe
  • America's most incandescent novelist. John Lingan, Slate
  • “Johnson has brilliantly plumbed the mystical and the macabre…The Laughing Monsters delivers a more commercial, post-9/11 tale…without losing Johnson’s essentially poetic drive…With each twist, Johnson deftly ups the stakes…This visionary novel is always falling together, never apart. That’s Johnson.”

    Elle

  • “Denis Johnson’s interests have always been in wreckage, both individual and universal. If Train Dreams…dealt with the dignified tragedy of a past American anonym, The Laughing Monsters addresses the vanishing present, a giddy trickle-down of global exploitation and hubris—the farcical exploits of cold dudes in a hard land.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Johnson’s tenth novel is a stunner: the story of Roland Nair, a rogue intelligence agent looking to make a big score in Sierra Leone amid the detritus and chaos of the post-war-on-terrorism world. Johnson’s sentences are always brilliant, but it is in the interstices, the gray areas of the story, that he really excels.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “A thriller of spies and black marketeers that’s hard to put down for all the right reasons.”

    New York magazine

  • “An adventure without any expected twists. Mr. Johnson is adept at keeping the pace of the story up without sacrificing either suspense or satisfaction…The mystery is worth trying to solve.”

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • “Johnson delivers a taut, Conrad-by-way-of-Chandler tale about a spy who gets too close to the man he’s shadowing in Africa…As in any good double-agent story, Johnson obscures whose side Roland is really on, and Roland himself hardly knows the answer either: Befogged by frustrations and bureaucracy, his lust for Davidia and simple greed, he slips deeper into violence and disconnection. Johnson expertly maintains the heart-of-darkness mood…Johnson offers no new lessons about how dehumanizing post-9/11 lawlessness can be, but his antihero’s story is an intriguing metaphor for it.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Scott Shepherd’s husky voice and talent for accents complement this tautly constructed spy novel, set in western Africa…Shepherd mostly succeeds at keeping listeners grounded by adjusting his inflection to distinguish live action from internal monologue. His real skill lies in capturing Nair’s undertones of exasperation, often with an unwritten but well-timed pause or sigh. Using a growling baritone, Shepherd also accentuates Adriko’s imposing presence.”

    AudioFile

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A 2014 New York Times Notable Book
  • A Time Magazine Top 10 Book of Fiction for 2014
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for The Guardian (UK) Best Books of the Year, 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for Time Magazine Top 10 Books of the Year, 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for Washington Post Best Books of the Year, 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, 2014
  • Among longlisted titles for Los Angeles Times Holiday Books Guide, 2014
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