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Cutter and Bone [Paperback]

Newton Thornburg
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2001 Midnight Classics
A thriller, and a whacking good thriller, too—shows how much can be done by a writer who knows his business—the best novel of its kind in ten years!—New York Times

First published in 1976, Cutter and Bone is the story of the obsession of Cutter, a scarred and crippled Vietnam veteran and his attempt to convince his buddy, Bone, that the latter witnessed a murder committed by the conglomerate tycoon, JJ Wolfe. Captivated by Cutter’s demented logic, Bone is prepared to cross the country with Cutter in search of proof of the murder. Their quest takes them into the Ozarks—home base of the Wolfe empire—where Bone discovers that Cutter is not pursuing a murderer so much as the great enemy itself, them, the very demons that have dogged his life.

A prolific writer, Newton Thornburg lives in upstate New York. His novels include A Man’s Game, To Die in California, Dreamland, The Lion at the Door, and Eve’s Men.

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First Sentence
IT WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME RICHARD BONE HAD SHAVED WITH A Lady Remington, nor did he expect it to be the last. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Souls March 18 2003
By A. Ross
Format:Paperback
One of the best depictions of mid-'70s America I've come across, this powerful novel was written when the country was struggling to recover from the Vietnam War and remains as a vivid reminder of that time. Set mostly in Santa Barbara, the story follows two men firmly stuck in cycles of self-destruction. Bone dropped out of the corporate life and left his wife and kids in Minnesota to float around California as a gigolo, while Cutter came back from Vietnam minus an arm and a leg and teeters on the brink of insanity. Both are utterly disillusioned with the world around them and spend a great deal of time drinking and trying to blot out their rapidly suburbanizing, strip-mallifying, consumerist surroundings. The third member of this circle of dead souls is the sarcastic, Quaalude popping Mo, Cutter's live-in girlfriend and mother to his baby.
The whole book reads like one big hangover-the party (late '60s free love, rebellion, Vietnam, etc.) is over, and someone's gotta pay. One evening Bone unknowingly witnesses a murderer disposing of a victim, and what he half saw leads to a half-baked scheme to make some money. In another writer's hands, this could have lead to a comic caper, but Thornburg is intent on showing the county's loss of innocence through the bitter, maimed, and reckless Cutter, and his guilt-ridden and aimless buddy Bone. One problem I had with the story was the friendship between the two men. The book unfolds from Bone's perspective, and it's hard to fathom why he keeps returning to Cutter's side, other than guilt and/or a self-destructive streak.
In any event, the book starts fairly slow and there were a few times I considered ditching it. By the second half though, the lean prose gets more and more compelling, and the dilemmas get a bit more interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dialogue's great... Oct. 10 2001
Format:Paperback
...but there's not a lot of action in this one. As for the much-vaunted "shocking end", well, I saw it a mile coming, but maybe that's only cause I read a lot of thrillers. All in all, an entertaining enough book, but let me stress this: Not in the Ross McDonald-Raymond Chandler-Walter Mosley-James Ellroy league.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, Bleak and heartbreaking. April 30 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A mystery (that holds until the last line), love story and commentary on post Vietnam America. Thornburg paints a collection of the most realistic characters I have come upon in an age.
Read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Souls March 18 2003
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of the best depictions of mid-'70s America I've come across, this powerful novel was written when the country was struggling to recover from the Vietnam War and remains as a vivid reminder of that time. Set mostly in Santa Barbara, the story follows two men firmly stuck in cycles of self-destruction. Bone dropped out of the corporate life and left his wife and kids in Minnesota to float around California as a gigolo, while Cutter came back from Vietnam minus an arm and a leg and teeters on the brink of insanity. Both are utterly disillusioned with the world around them and spend a great deal of time drinking and trying to blot out their rapidly suburbanizing, strip-mallifying, consumerist surroundings. The third member of this circle of dead souls is the sarcastic, Quaalude popping Mo, Cutter's live-in girlfriend and mother to his baby.
The whole book reads like one big hangover-the party (late '60s free love, rebellion, Vietnam, etc.) is over, and someone's gotta pay. One evening Bone unknowingly witnesses a murderer disposing of a victim, and what he half saw leads to a half-baked scheme to make some money. In another writer's hands, this could have lead to a comic caper, but Thornburg is intent on showing the county's loss of innocence through the bitter, maimed, and reckless Cutter, and his guilt-ridden and aimless buddy Bone. One problem I had with the story was the friendship between the two men. The book unfolds from Bone's perspective, and it's hard to fathom why he keeps returning to Cutter's side, other than guilt and/or a self-destructive streak.
In any event, the book starts fairly slow and there were a few times I considered ditching it. By the second half though, the lean prose gets more and more compelling, and the dilemmas get a bit more interesting. The final quarter or so takes the two men on a road trip from California to the Ozarks, in possible pursuit of the murderer. The climax is awfully gripping in a "y'all ain't from around here" Deliverance kind of way, and the final sentence packs a huge punch. ...Still, book's theme-that the Vietnam war did irreparable damage to the American psyche and values, and led to an America where money and consumption are king and justice is a mirage-emerges in full color, and the book remains an important picture of the empty '70s.
Note: This was made into a great dark film called Cutter's Way.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended Feb. 4 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Richard Bone is a handsome stud who uses women to his advantage. Alex Cutter is bitter Vietnam war vet: Crippled, relentlessly articulate, and seemingly always drunk, they make an unlikely friendship. That is until on day Bone witnesses a man dumping a dead body of a young woman; a man answering the description of a powerful business tycoon. So, pushed on by Cutter's vengeful maxims about the rich, they both decide to investigate in the hope of bringing the tycoon to book. But neither of them will ever guess the savage payoff. A powerful novel that deals with post-vietnam malaise and corporate power, this is highly recommended.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This One It's a Real Find! July 16 2000
By Joseph B Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The film is a neglected classic, and the novel it was inspired by is likewise. It will hook you as a good thriller does, yet also profoundly engage you with it's extraordinary mixture of the poetic and the grittily, absurdly real. The Characterisation is rich and broad and constantly surprising - tough yet warm - and it is stylistically muscular in a Chandleresque way, without ever becoming arch. Touching movingly on so many issues from some extremely archetypal relationships to the state of post-Vietnam America, Thornburg takes you on a rollercoaster ride that you won't want to get off. Finally, as an exploration of messed-up masculine insecurity it is devastating and compulsive with that rare thing in such books,great female characters! Read the book, see the film - you won't forget either.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent noir novel. June 11 2007
By fluffy, the human being. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
last year i picked up a copy of the book "1001 books you must read before you die." this book ("cutter and bone") was included as one of the 1001. i already had a copy of it. it had been in a cardboard box in one of my closets for about 20 years. so i dug it out and read it, and, unlike many of the other recommendations from "1001 books...," this was actually a very good book. like most noir novels, likeable characters are scarce. this is dark stuff, about unappealing people; but interesting and compulsively readable their lives are. the story is a wild one, and the author pulls it off in an unpretentious and seemingly effortless way. i felt not a false step among the pages. it struck me as believable from 1st page to last. all in all, an outstanding crime novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Distopia? Feb. 14 2014
By M. Seither - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pretty much a must read for lovers of crime novels. Savagely ironic. Almost a send up of the genre. In the newer edition's introduction, George Pelecanos mentions "The Last Good Kiss" (Crumley) and "Tapping the Source" (Nunn) as other novels he keeps around as examples of terrific writing and story telling in the crime novel genre. I've read both those books and recommend both highly. Especially Crumley. Like eating dessert. I can say the same for "Cutter and Bone." Yes, everybody is selfish and depressed but with a wicked tinge of insane humor and erudition. Cutter is Holden Caulfield after stepping on a land mine. It does turn the detective noire novel on its head and why not. If you take it literally and seriously be prepared to take a short walk off your nearest bridge but I've read lots of Russian nihilism and survived so why not some American Distopianism as an exercise in philosophy but don't get the idea it isn't funny, as well. If you like black humor, it's a 10.
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