November 2014 Indie Next List
“In the chaos of West and Central Africa, Johnson has found a setting to match his fevered, conspiratorial, and hilarious imagination. Crackling with wild energy and bizarre happenings, The Laughing Monsters tells the story of two desperate and insane souls -- an American spy and an African combat expert and 'man of opportunity' -- who are each trying to pull off bizarre and dangerous schemes without revealing their true motives to each other or even to themselves. Taut, poetic, startling, and filled with incredible specifics about African politics and culture, this is quintessential Denis Johnson madness.”
— Rico Lange, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
Denis Johnson's "The Laughing Monsters "is a high-suspense tale of kaleidoscoping loyalties in the post-9/11 world that shows one of our great novelists at the top of his game.
Roland Nair calls himself Scandinavian but travels on a U.S. passport. After ten years' absence, he returns to Freetown, 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 has allowed 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 fiancee, a grad student from Colorado named Davidia. 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. Their journey through a land abandoned by the future leads Nair, Adriko, and Davidia to meet themselves not in a new light, but rather in a new darkness.
About the Author
Denis Johnson (1949-2017) is the author of eight novels, one novella, one book of short stories, three collections of poetry, two collections of plays, and one book of reportage. His novel Tree of Smoke won the 2007 National Book Award.
Praise for Tree of Smoke
“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