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Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Tree of Smoke follows the lives of several characters through two decades, starting with the Kennedy assassination in 1963, following them through the War in Vietnam and the years afterward. Skip Sands is an innocent young man from Kansas who joins the CIA so that he can be close to his charismatic uncle, known as The Colonel. The Colonel has run covert operations since World War II, he mistrusts everyone, and runs Psy Ops missions on his own. The Houston brothers join the army and navy looking to certify their manhood and are shipped overseas. James Houston serves three tours of duty in Vietnam. The Colonel concocts a plan to send a Vietnamese man working as a double agent into North Vietnam with disinformation. In a world of lies, half-truths, betrayals, and misinformation, Skip loses control of the truth and is overwhelmed by the myths of war. Denis Johnson's novel has received glowing reviews with the San Diego Union-Tribune saying, "There are 'drugs, drink and alienation' in the book - and darkness - just as in the world. They are instrumental to the narrative, not its main subjects. People and places, complete with sounds, smells and weather, are rendered throughout with an extraordinary empathy and vividness. Johnson puts you there. Tree of Smoke is a great read, an amazing achievement."
Editor's Pick
Buy Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Winner of the 2007 National Book Award for fiction

Read our review

San Francisco Chronicle review
by David Hellman

Boston Globe review
by Gail Caldwell

Washington Post review
by David Ignatius

New York Times review
by Michiko Kakutani

San Diego Union-Tribune review
by James Leigh

Seattle Times review
by Tyrone Beason

Denis Johnson
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