If I were to make a list of the writers who I keep reading yet I am not the biggest fan of (which is something I have been kicking around), Denis Johnson would surely be on the top of that list. Already Dead, his biggest novel before he became a big name with the publication of Tree of Smoke, is the fifth book of his I have read, but none of them have been anywhere close to great. I pick out things that I like in them, but it is never a grand event on the whole. He has moments of greatness in his books, some I still remember quite well. He is a great chronicler of a great American waywardness that formed in the last part of the 20th century. But with that way of thinking comes very disjointed narratives and characters that tend to go off the rails of realism and credibility. Already Dead is very much like that, with a story that involves drugs, murder and maybe even a little demonology. It centers on two very different characters; Nelson Fairchild, a landowner in the Pacific Northwest burden by an awful father, other familial woes, and the strange people he has to deal with owning a lucrative piece of land, especially if you are growing marijuana plants. Into his life walks Carl Van Ness, a drifter intent on killing himself. It seems these two can solve each other’s problems, if only people would stop dying. A great comparison for this book would be one I just read, actually, which was Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. They both have the same feel, which is a little too off-kilter for my tastes, but if you go along with its craziness, you’ll be rewarded with something. This is one of my favorite books of his, almost as much as his underrated first novel, Angels, so it is worth checking out.