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Cutter and Bone

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  263 ratings  ·  45 reviews
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 b
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1976)
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82nd out of 105 books — 12 voters
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Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
366th out of 491 books — 568 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,201)
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Paul Bryant
Fate is a heck of a thing, like an answerless question. It all happened because it couldn't possibly not have happened, the proof of which is : it happened. Thriller writers are in love with fate. Things are meant to turn out in a particular way, their books seem to whisper, in order to demonstrate either moral principles (if written from the point of view of the Party of God) or to demonstrate that life is just messy like that, with wires hanging out, and no neat ends anywhere to be had not for ...more
i am stingy with my stars, i admit it. but i read this book twice in a row on first reading, and that means one of two things: i'm not sure how i feel, and i need another go, or i love the book so unabashedly that there is nothing for it but to read it again right away. in this case, cutter and bone kicked my ass, and i'm still sort of reeling.

i read this book a year ago, in june 2010. it's not in my possession anymore, and i gave back my borrowed copy reluctantly. i need to buy it and read it
Krok Zero
I finished this two weeks ago and I can't get it out of my head. The blunt-force terror of the abrupt ending haunts me, the characters and their miseries and their desperation and their awful milieu imprinted on my brain. Newton Thornburg's Cutter and Bone is a bleak masterpiece and I can't recommend it more highly to those of you who are predisposed to love bleak masterpieces. Anyone who doesn't love heroic bleakness, just fuck off.

The cineastes among my GR circle may have seen the 1981 film Cu
Richard Vialet
There is a mystery at the center of this novel. But Cutter and Bone is less of a whodunit and more of a melancholy look at post-Vietnam disillusionment and weariness. The story follows two best friends who couldn't be any more different: Richard Bone, who abandoned his wife, children, and corporate job to live a dead-end life as a man-whore, mooching off of lonely women, and Alex Cutter, a severely wounded Vietnam vet, who seems desperate not to let anyone close to him. After Bone tells him that ...more
A rather good thriller come buddy novel come "road movie" come description of a descent into despair. Difficult to rate because in patches it was brilliant and in patches very much not; with a strong streak of nihilism running through the middle.
The novel centres on two friends and is set in the mid 1970s.Alex Cutter is a Vietnam veteran who is emotionally and physically scarred; missing part of two limbs and one eye; he is the driving force in the book sometimes malevolent, sometimes tender an
A powerful book that needs to be rediscovered. The depth and originality of the characters is truly remarkable.

While often categorized as a crime novel (which it is), that is a far too simplistic classification for the book. Crime drives the story in a number of different ways, but that is true with plenty of "literature" that isn't grouped in the slums of genre work.

The moral questions and gray areas of life that give the crime novel its greatest thematic potential (and so often fall short in e
Steve mitchell

Ok since this is a mystery I will be careful, but this a great book, I can't believe I had never heard of it or the author Newton Thornburg.

Cutter and Bone is fantastic, it has everything a superb novel should be; great writing, great characters, great story, it has surprises, heart and empathy, it is believable and very entertaining. I will tell everyone to read this for quite awhile.

Alex Cutter is a cutup, I love this character!

When he crashes his car into a car that is blocking his driveway,
Possibly my favourite noir novel. This one manages to grab onto a weird brand of post-vietnam American malaise, which brings an extra dimension to the unfolding crime drama.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This story is very tragic, but not in a boohoo sort of way. Alex Cutter is a Vietnam vet who is badly damaged both physically and psychologically by his war and post-war experiences. Richard Bone is a former corporate exec who reached his "psychological menopause" ten years earlier than most businessmen do. He dropped out of that life and moved to Santa Barbara and became friends with Cutter. The story takes place around 1975, and shows a lot about the culture of Southern Cal and the nation in g ...more
I originally bought this book because every review I read of it talked about how good it was and called it something like a lost classic. When it was first published it got rave reviews and continues to have more popularity in the UK than in the US. When Newton Thornburg died very little mention was made of it in the US but several large obits ran in the UK. With that background, I started to read.

The two primary characters have few admirable qualities, morally or ethically, and the story is mos
la bislacca amicizia tra due disperati, alexander cutter- reduce del vietnam e mutilato- e richard bone- ex manager di successo, fuggito da una vita opprimente che si mantiene facendo il gigolò è la vera protagonista di questo romanzo in cui la storia (un omicidio forse commesso da un tycoon di provincia in trasferta in california) è il pretesto per raccontare la solitudine, l'emarginazione e la miseria morale che sono il contrario del sogno americano. nei suoi personaggi (ognuno a modo suo grot ...more
Cracking thriller with some surprising twists and turns. When Bone witnesses a body dump late one night he tells Cutter, a Vietnam vet crippled during the war. Bone doesn't see the face only a silhouette, but later when he thinks he recognises the person in a paper Cutter comes up with a plan.
The result is a book at times funny, at times sad but a great read.
A genuinely extraordinary novel that smashes the neo-noir genre barriers to bits. I have long been a fan of the movie, but I can see why the author was not one; despite superb casting and performances by Jeff Bridges, John Heard, and Lisa Eichhorn, the punch and power of this novel was diminished by the need or desire to wrap things up too early.

There's a great louche quality to this one, and the ending is one of the best endings I've ever read. Do not under any circumstances peek. Truly a wond
Joe  Noir
Superlatives fail me. Startlingly original, with awe inspiring characterization. Cutter is a severely wounded Vietnam veteran (he lost one eye, one arm, and one leg), and may or may not be insane. He tries to convince his friend Bone that the strange scene Bone witnessed was actually a murder. Bone is skeptical, but ultimately needs little convincing. The suspect is a corporate fat cat who is rich enough not to be bothered by Cutter and Bone. As Bone falls deeper into Cutter's plan to expose the ...more
Desiree Zamorano
I was on the fence for awhile, because the writing was excellent, the depiction of a 70s Santa Barbara not so very different from the contemporary--but ultimately this was an unpleasant experience, and I think that was very much part of the author's intent. So, rough going, excellent writing.

I marveled that they turned this into a movie, due to both the content and the interiority of Bone.
Patrick James
This should be mandatory reading for those who say they don't like crime/mystery novels. This should also be mandatory reading for those who say they do. No one does it better. Like George P. Pelecanos, much of his books are almost identical in structure and style. Unlike Pelecanos, each of his characters is a fully realized individual that you meet as you read. There is extreme attention to things an author must consider when writing through a character---"Would my character say this? Would my ...more
An interesting look at America in the post-Vietnam, empty 1970's. I think I read somewhere that it reads like a big hangover - the party of the 60's is over, the country has lost its innocence and someone's got to pay. The book concerns two friends apparently bent on self-destruction; Cutter is back from Vietnam minus a couple of limbs and on the verge of insanity, and Bone has dropped out of corporate America, left his wife and child and is floating around California as a gigolo. The story begi ...more
Very powerful novel of the post-Vietnam 70s. The story is basically about two dropouts from society - Cutter, a scarred and maimed Vietnam vet and Bone who abandoned his family to drift around California as a gigolo. A very unlikely pair who get involved in a potential blackmail plot of an Arkansas industrialist who may have killed and dumped a young girl in the trash as possibly witnessed by Bone. The novel is full of unforgettable characters and dialog and takes you along a twisted path to a v ...more
Great book!

This is a downbeat mystery-thriller-whodunit with a lot of very cool anti-Establishment and counterculture touches. Sort of a combination of Ross MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, and "Easy Rider", if you ask me.

There's a movie version of this book, released in 1981 with the title "Cutter's Way". The film follows the basic plot of the book but I would recommend watching it first, for two reasons: First, the movie won't "spoil" the book because the villain, the ending action, and the fates o
Tony Quintiliani
"Cutter's Way" has been one of favorite movies ever since I saw it while attending Boston College and writing a paper on it. I've always wanted to read the original book.

It was a lot more involved than the movie of course, but it did have the same flavor. Alex Cutter is one of the most unusual characters I've ever encountered and he is funny as hell. A little wacky but funny nonetheless.

I still think I like the movie better but would highly recommend this story to anyone who appreciates a good
Mike Jensen
Jan 03, 2012 Mike Jensen marked it as books-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I read the first 29 pages because this book was highly recommended, but I was wary because I know the book has a cult following. It reminds me a LOT of Elmore Leonard, with a similar plain style and it is about losers. I find the style too familiar and unengaging, I don't like any of the people, and the scene in which Cutter enters and induces vomiting was the final straw so I put it down. I can see the potential for a brilliant story if a brilliant story can be told in a plain style, but I find ...more
"Cutter and Bone" (in italiano "la strana vita di Cutter e Bone"), non è un giallo, né tanto meno un thriller. E' un libro sulla depressione, la paranoia, la fuga dalle responsabilità, gli effetti della guerra e quelli dell'amore. E' un libro emozionante, comico, ma allo stesso tempo tragico e grottesco. Consigliato? Non so, dipende dal lettore. Non vi è molta azione, anzi, quasi niente. I protagonisti non sono affatto personaggi positivi: sono spesso vigliacchi, meschini, estremamente egoisti. ...more
Rachel Stevenson
Imagine Philip Marlowe, 30 years on, a part-time gigolo rather than a PI, still mildly misogynistic and rather racist, still hanging with the low lives and partying with the right set in SoCal, almost accidentally solving a mystery along the way whilst taking beatings and falling for the right women and sleeping with the wrong ones. Still cynical and disgusted by modern life but set against the aftermath of Vietnam and the '70s oil criss rather than the aftermath of the depression and the war,
One of the best books I've read all year. This is a very engaging story about a manic/depressive Vietnam Veteran (Alex Cutter) and his free-loading/playboy friend (Richard Bone). Bone thinks he recognizes a corporate bigwig as the murderer of a high school girl, and Cutter takes the idea from there, trying blackmail to procure a confession. Good, realistic dialogue and an exciting plot kept me reading this one to its finale all day today!
Lucky all the rings were little/quick reads, so got to this fairly quickly after all of that. Having read comment about the last line, I was quite tempted to have a look, but I resisted! It was a good book with two characters that were not particularly likable, but there was something about them that made you keep reading. A good ending, that at first made me think 'is that it', but could not stop thinking about it after.
One of the most riveting things I've ever read. The movie is one of my favorites, so that was what led me to it; this is every bit as brilliant, and in certain ways better in the differences of its story. It had me somehow guessing until the last page even though I was essentially spoiled as to how it ended. If you're interested at all in noir or neo-noir, not just as a genre but a philosophy, you need to read this.
All-time great final paragraph.
Reminds me a lot of Bukowski or Kerouac as the writing is the seedy side of the American dream. This is set in the early 70's when drug use and alcohol was prevalent. Although I don't have a lot of sympathy for any of the characters it is still a compelling book. I understand why Thornburg is important to American literature.
Woody Lewis
A forgotten classic. You realize how good this book is right away, and then you think it can't be that good because the characters are so dark, and then you realize that this is the work of a master. Talk about raw humanity, torn from the pages of pulp hallucinations.
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Born in Harvey, Illinois, Thornburg graduated from the University of Iowa with a Fine Arts degree. He worked in a variety of jobs before devoting himself to writing full-time (or at least in tandem with his cattle farm in the Ozarks) in 1973.
His 1976 novel Cutter and Bone was filmed in 1981 as Cutter's Way. The New York Times called Cutter and Bone "the best novel of its kind for ten years." Anoth
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