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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cutter and Bone(1976) by Newton Thornburg

Book Review
Cutter and Bone(1976)
 by Newton Thornburg

  The editor who wrote the caption for this book for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die called it a "lost classic," and considering how long it took me to track down a copy to read- an LA library ebook of a belated 2015 reprint- I'd be inclined to agree that is both lost and a classic of crime fiction.  Amazingly, there is an equally obscure movie version called Cutter's Way, which stars- wait for it- Jeff Bridges as "Bone" who is, if I'm not mistaken, a major reference point for his character "the Dude" in the Big Lebowski. I have to watch the movie, which is available to stream on

  Like all late 20th century noir/detective genre stories which rise to the level of literature, the plot is secondary to the scene and character development.  Here, the Cutter and Bone duo are a corporate rat race drop out(Cutter, John Heard in the movie), currently making his way as a sometime gigolo among the casual vacation goers of Santa Barbara, and Bone(Bridges), a paraplegic amputee and Vietnam war veteran, living off his disability check.   They are both living in a one room shack with Mo, who has a baby, and is herself on the run from life in a wealthy suburb and a college education.  The three of them spend their time drinking, smoking and taking pills, and none of them seem particularly inclined to deal with anything.

  Coming home from a bar one night, Cutter sees someone awkwardly dumping a large package into a trashcan.  He wakes up the next morning to read that a local 17 year old is murdered.  Despite his avowals to authorities that he didn't see anything, Cutter blurts out "it's him" the following day reading a story about a Midwestern millionaire in town for a business conference.  Bone then launches a dubious extortion scheme, which eventually leads the duo and the victim's older sister, and a virginal UCSB student named "Monk," on a cross county adventure ending in Arkansas, the home of said suspect and Midwestern millionaire. 

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