Twenty-five years in its conception, Tree of Smoke is a dark, indelible epic about the American empire in decline.
"Once upon a time there was a war, and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me."
This is the story of Skip Sands, a CIA spy engaged in psychological operations against the Viet Cong, and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of two brothers heading towards self-destruction, and a story about double agents, missionaries, killers for hire and lost souls desperate for sex, death or God – and thus an end to their loneliness.
His first full-length novel in nine years, and one that describes a war where disinformation has become self-delusion, Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson's most gripping, visionary and ambitious work to date.