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Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel Hardcover – December 26, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159691226X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596912267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mosley returns from the vastly underrated Fortunate Son and from Fear of the Dark with a piece of what one might call "deep erotica": there's plenty of sex, and also plenty of motivation for it within protagonist Cordel Carmel's travails and ruminations, as far-fetched as they can get. After a charged-but-chaste lunch with young Lucy Carmichael (a blonde in her early 20s looking to be introduced to Cordel's art agent friend), Cordel, 45, walks in on Joelle (his longtime, non-live-in girlfriend): Joelle's being very consensually sodomized by a white man wearing a red condom, their (very well-endowed) mutual acquaintance, Johnny Fry. Cordel walks out quietly, without being seen. In short order, Cordel buys a porno video and gets enraptured with its sadist star, Sisypha; quits his freelance-translation gig; has conflicted, amazing sex with Joelle (who continues to lie to him); has unconflicted, amazing sex with Lucy (who seems very nice) and with voluptuous neighbor Sasha Bennett (who seems way crazy); meets Sisypha for an Eyes Wide Shut–like experience; seduces the young, ghetto Monica Wells; and finally, within the week, has his confrontation with Johnny Fry. Though it all, Cordel's thoughts on humiliation, submission, pain, family, aging and abuse manage to sustain the wisp-thin plot of this total male fantasy. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Though he's best at crime novels, Mosley has been busy reinventing himself as an all-around writer of high purpose, trying his hand, with mixed results, at literary fiction, political essay, and science fiction. Despite its noiresque title, this one represents a surprising new direction: what Mosley calls the "sexistential novel." Mild-mannered Cordell Carmel drops by his longtime girlfriend's apartment unannounced and finds her having the orgasm of her life with another man. Carmel sneaks out unseen, disturbed and aroused. Obsessed with a movie that seems to mirror his situation, he transforms from passive nice guy to sexual aggressor--and soon finds himself having the sex of his life, with a series of beautiful, adoring women. Adrift and confused, he keeps going, hoping to find himself by losing control. It's hard to know how much of Mosley's audience will want to follow him on this explicitly sexual journey. The sex scenes are compelling, but the story loses its way; it might be too much sex for some readers and too little novel for others. In a way, it contains the same contradictions as a big-budget porno movie that uses a self-important story line to lend the project an air of legitimacy, then drives home the message that our baser sexual instincts are nothing to be ashamed of. Mosley deserves kudos for his courage, but let's hope sexistentialism is a one-night stand. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Walter Mosley is one of America's most celebrated and beloved writers. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, including national bestsellers Cinnamon Kiss, Little Scarlet, and Bad Boy Brawly Brown; the Fearless Jones series, including Fearless Jones, Fear Itself, and Fear of the Dark; the novels Blue Light and RL's Dream; and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and Walkin' the Dog. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Its OK if you like porn otherwise a boring story.
Edwin A. Peckens
This book does have A LOT, and I mean A LOT of graphic sex but the story is quite amazing as well.
Jason Frost
What a read, I put down another book to read this book until I finished, no breaks.
Joseph F. Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Walter Mosley is a writer not afraid to push his craft in new directions. In KILLING JOHNNY FRY, he writes a first person novel containing some of the most explicit sex scenes written by an established American author since Henry Miller and Philip Roth.

Trying something new is not unusual for Mosley. He burst onto the literary scene in the early 1990s with the brilliant mystery series featuring a black Los Angeles private detective named Easy Rawlins. Mosley could have spent the next 30 years comfortably writing nothing but books about Rawlins.

But instead he did what great writers do. He has written literary novels, science fiction books and even nonfiction works about politics. He went, in other words, where his muse and considerable talent would take him without ever abandoning Rawlins. KILLING JOHNNY FRY is a harrowing, extremely well-written story that grabs you from the first page and doesn't let go.

Of course, this being America, anything this sexually explicit is bound to set off all sorts of alarms in some circles. Think of our archaic movie rating system that allows a film with the most gruesome, gratuitous violence to get an "R" rating while anything that seriously and realistically depicts human sexuality has to fear being labeled "pornographic." Yet another reason why people laugh at us in Europe.

Well, anybody who dismisses KILLING JOHNNY FRY as pornography or salacious misses not only the point of the book but deprives themselves of the pleasure of reading one of America's greatest writers. Yes, there is some frank, really frank, sex in this book, but it is not an erotic novel by any means. Mosley coined the term "sexistential noir" to describe this work. It is a good description because the book is not about sex.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Angelia Menchan on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Mosley chooses a completely different writing path in penning Killing Johnny Fry. Most noted for his mysteries, this book a startling, erotic expose' proves Mr. Mosley can write across genres.

The opening chapter finds Cordell, known as L to his friends, stumbling upon his longtime girlfriend Joelle, in the throes of passion with another man. Not just any man, but an extremely well-endowed white man. For his own reasons, L chooses not to confront them, or make his presence known. He simply backs away from the apartment, fleeing the premises. He finds himself jealous, excited, confused and instantly changed.

A force is unleashed in L that sends him on a journey of sexual exploration, beyond his imagination. He is also fueled by a desire to kill Johnny Fry, the man involved with his girlfriend. Killing Johnny Fry explores one man's transformation based upon insecurity, fear and obsession. Most interestingly, it might cause the reader to ask, "What would I do in L's position?"

Killing Johnny Fry is a dark, disturbing, thought provoking tale of male sexuality and insecurity run amuck. However, it proves without question that Walter Mosley is a master storyteller, in any genre.

Reviewed By: Angelia Menchan
APOOO BookClub
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. Marvin Dulaney on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you have read some of Mosley's other novels you know that there is always an element of the erotic in them as well as experimentation across the various literary genres. Killing Johnny Fry is definitely an example of Mosley bringing to the fore both of the above and it does not disappoint you. I was surprised that he chose to write such a novel, but I liked it and read it in two sittings. He did raise a lot of issues about our dark sides, our reactions to betrayal, and what lies beneath the surface of our everyday emotional responses to betrayal, sexual encounters and our usual, mundane lives. It is a very thoughtful novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Zane on June 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had been meaning to read Killing Johnny Fry for quite some time and finally was afforded the opportunity. I could not put it down. I read it while I was in Bermuda and it was the perfect read for the scenery. Walter Mosley is a master storyteller--no one can argue that--but this was a new type of offering for him. It was a study on human sexual needs and how they can sometimes become more important than everything else under the sun.

All of the characters in the book were well flushed out but the main character was fascinating. His ability to bounce from female to female to satisfy his desires can me new insight into the male psyche. The characters in the book gave credence to the fact that most of us are who we attract. I really appreciated this book. Thanks, Mr. Mosley, for doing you like only you can.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Walter Mosley, acclaimed creator of the Easy Rawlins crime novels, steps-- as they say-- out of the box in KILLING JOHNNY FRY as he joins the likes of W. H. Auden, D. H. Lawrence, Gore Vidal and Anais Nin et al, proving once again that fine writers produce the best pornography.

Cordell Carmel (named for his color?) also known as "L," quite by accident and unbeknownst to the participants, observes his copper-brown colored longtime lover and only friend Joelle Petty (who time after time denies that she has been unfaithful) in the throes of sexual abandon with one Johnny Fry, a Caucasian, who by Cordell's own admission is much larger in every way than he. In despair and near apoplexy, Cordell sets out to murder the culprit when he is not watching "The Myth of Sisypha," a DVD that he purchases at an adult video store or bedding (metaphorically of course as he has sex on the floor, in the park, on the bushes, in apartment hallways, on couches, etc.) every woman he meets. He also spends a modicum of his time selling the children of Sudan photographs by Lucy Carmichael, who is half his age and one of his sexual partners.

The sex scenes burn up the pages and shoot right off the thermometer. Mosley covers practically every kind of sex there is included (but not limited to) the front, the back, missionary, bondage, the obligatory orgy, digital, interracial, inter-generational, telephone sex, sex with strangers, by hand and with toys. Mr. Mosley comes up short, however, when he attempts to make sense out of all these couplings and tie up the loose ends. The Mosley imprint is certainly here.
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