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Gone Bamboo

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Henry and Frances' idyllic, tequila soaked existence in the French Caribbean is interrupted when Henry has to do a small job for the cross-dressing Mafioso, Jimmy 'Pazz' Calabrese, but it all goes wrong.

286 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Anthony Bourdain

85 books4,439 followers
Anthony Bourdain was the author of the novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, in addition to the mega-bestsellers Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour.

His work has appeared in The New York Times and The New Yorker, and he was a contributing authority for Food Arts magazine. He was the host of the popular Emmy and Peabody Award winning television show Parts Unknown.

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5 stars
340 (17%)
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662 (34%)
3 stars
697 (36%)
2 stars
180 (9%)
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46 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 162 reviews
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews96 followers
June 18, 2021
3 stars.
Maybe 3.5 because when your last name is Bourdain, your first name is Anthony, and you have done so much more than write novels with your life, you might deserve a little extra bias?
Profile Image for Stephen.
Author 2 books12 followers
April 24, 2020
It is so sad to finish reading Tony Bourdain's "Gone Bamboo." He wrote only three novels in his life, cut short by suicide: "Bone in the Throat" (1995), "Gone Bamboo" (1997) and "The Bobby Gold Stories" (2001). Publishers Weekly said he created his own genre: "wiseass crime comedy." I've read the other two and the sadness comes from this being the last. I'm angry with him for hanging himself in a hotel room in France before we got to find out what was going to happen next in his very interesting life. The novel is good. He took a creative-writing class from editor-publisher Gordon Lish in the 90s. This book would have earned him a B. Despite Bourdain's culinary credentials (he was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America), little of that is reflected in this novel. One of the characters is a would-be chef-bar owner but his cooking doesn't figure in the work with any prominence. Bourdain's gift is to render the most gruesome, bloody, horrifying, disgusting bits funny as hell. More important, he invites the reader to care about the outlandish protagonist, who is not really such a nice person. Good trick! I've read all his cookbooks. I've read all his gastronomic travelogues. I even read his book about Typhoid Mary. And I miss him. And I want to read whatever he would have written next. And I'm angry and I'm sad.
Profile Image for Wendy.
28 reviews1 follower
December 12, 2009
Fun book with a good pace, some action, and a lot of dark comedy. Dry wit makes even the "bad" guys endearing in this one. Good beach read-not too much philosophy. This is the first of his novels I've read, and I must admit I'm intrigued by their style. Will have to read more.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
April 18, 2020
This is a cleverly written, light-hearted look at mobsters and loyalties. Henry is a business man, who still does some wet work for the mob. He's very good at assassinating people, even though he is very much a people person, business is business. Henry faces some very challenging situations when his loyalty seems to eclipse his business principals. There in lies the challenges presented in this story.

Bourdain writes very good characters and you can't help rooting for some of the bad guys, because, Bourdain wants you to! The dialogue is entertaining but not always sharp witted. The plotting was well done. This definitely has a taste of Jimmy Buffett's efforts as well. Maybe even influenced by Tim Dorsey but not nearly as bizarre (which I find a bit over the top). I can honestly say I liked it and it was just what I needed.
Profile Image for Chris.
573 reviews24 followers
December 9, 2008
The book is a kind of second-rate novel that one wants to keep reading. The anti-hero, Henry, is who the author wishes he could be (this is plainly obvious to the reader)but Henry is also flawed enough to make him likable and believable--that one guy who's smarter, better looking and funnier than you who still drives around on a mo-ped.

The story may have big gaps in the plot and read like it was written to turn an island vacation into a tax deductible expense, but that's OK; it's not written for the sophisticated parts of the reader's brain. I had a lot of fun reading Mr. Bourdain's second book.
Profile Image for Brian.
115 reviews6 followers
December 23, 2008
This is another Bourdain novel, this time about an ex-spook turned mob hit man who lives in the Carribean and tries to carve out a meaningful life away from "work." Unlike other Bourdain novels, this one is without food nerdiness and instead focuses entirely on plot and characters. The Bobby Gold Stories were enjoyable, but not memorable. Bone in the Throat was both, but memorable for its utter ridiculousness. Gone Bamboo was riviting to the point that it could be made into a Jason Bourne-esque movie. This is probably my favorite of Bourdain's fiction.
6 reviews
March 19, 2009
I couldn't put this book down. The perfect read for a beach vacation! I love Bourdain's fiction writing almost better than his non-fiction accounts of what occurs in NY kitchens. His details surrounding these mafia characters is impeccable. Loved reading it.
Profile Image for Joel.
444 reviews4 followers
September 26, 2011
TL;DR - Anthony Bourdain's fiction writing skills aren't quite up to the level of his memoir writing ability but his first attempt at a novel is fun and engaging despite numerous flaws.

Anthony Bourdain is a fan of genre fiction. This is apparent to anyone who has read his non-fiction books or watched his travel shows on t.v. He frequently references noir film and pulp heroes in his writing and has mentioned more than once that writing was a hobby for him during off time while working as the head chef for Les Halles restaurant in New York.

And, Anthony Bourdain is a fantastic writer. Of non-fiction. His memoirs are hugely entertaining, full of dry wit and snarky asides, and his voice comes across as that of someone who knows and wants to let you in on the secret.

None of that voice, however, translates well to fiction. To be fair, the novel is fun to read. It's quick and has the same easy pace and readability of Bourdain's non-fiction. Unfortunately, there are a few plot holes, several stock, even generic characters, and the lush, tropical setting of the book could have benefited from the descriptive prowess Bourdain has developed in the later part of his career.

The story is simple enough: a hitman accepts a job, botches part of it, and goes back home to wait for the inevitable backlash. When it comes, the hitman and his wife settle in to a siege of sorts where their desire to protect their lifestyle and home comes into conflict with their desire to live, period. It's good. Like I said, it's easy and fun to read.

It's not perfect.

The main character is an obvious stand-in for Bourdain himself and the reader can only imagine that this entire novel came into being as a fantasy that got written down while on vacation one week. The other characters exist mainly as someone for the Bourdain stand-in to talk to, drink with, or, occasionally, shoot. Several characters speak in New York / New Jersey dialects that read like a cliche pastiche of every mob movie ever written and their actions are, if anything, even more so.

The plot moves fast and loose and the unlikeable characters appear in flashes and bursts of action that help the reader bounce over the more awkward elements. And it, too, is a pastiche of the noir and action films Bourdain loves.

However, there is one single redeeming feature and it is this: the book is fun to read. For all its faults and cliches, the book is a lot of fun; it's as much an homage to the pulp and noir fiction Bourdain grew up with as it is lazy summer read and well worth it for that alone.
Profile Image for Chazzi.
984 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2016
I picked this book up because of the author. I'd read another book of his before, " Typhoid Mary", and enjoyed. I also read the back cover blurb and the first page or two. It made me laugh.

I wasn't disappointed.

Henry and Frances, husband and wife, have taken up life on a Caribbean island, living the ideal beach life...they have gone bamboo - sun, sand, booze and sex. But all that is disrupted when the U.S. relocates a powerful capo, Charlie "Wagons" Iannello, to the island in a witness protection deal. He is scheduled to testify at a federal trial against a number of his old crime mates.

One of the upcoming gangsters going on trial is a transvestite mob boss (he only dresses up among close associates) who has decided it is time to take out the capo Charlie "Wagons" Iannello. Sending some of his boys to the island to accomplish this becomes a variation of a Keystone Cops comedy.

Henry and Frances are pulled in to protect Charlie, but the marshals and other law types have no knowledge about it. Did I mention that at an earlier time Henry was hired to ace Charlie but missed? Henry and Frances are perfect for the job as they are like two James Bond types - one male and one female - in pretty much all things that make Bond Bond, except they don't have the fancy gadgets. They do have quite an arsenal and the expertise in using these tools to come out on top of whatever they do...even if it gets a little wild and screwball at times.

To quote Anthony Bourdain in his introduction: "I wanted to write a sociopath beach book - something that jaded, hyperactive chefs, bent lawyers, paroled arsonists and protected witnesses might find entertaining and escapist. I wanted a hero and heroine as lazy, mercenary, lustful and free of redeeming qualities as I sometimes see myself."

I'd say he has done it. This is a Goodread at the beach or else where. You may find sand between your toes and you nose a little sunburned when you finish!

Author 26 books29 followers
December 8, 2015
Anthony Bourdain has taken his love of mobster movies and his 'running off to the islands' fantasies and mashed them together into a nice little beach read.

Semi-retired hit man has a job go wrong and the fallout follows him back to the island resort he calls home.
Henry and Frances are likable, obviously happily married and borderline sociopaths.

Half the mobsters are likable and fleshed out, the other half are cliches.

The low key humor was nice, the more obvious 'Hey, this will be funny!' bits were hit or miss.

There is a vibe of 'I want to be Elmore Leonard when I grow up' and some of the wrap up was clunky and I felt could have used one more chapter to fill in some info, but at the same time if Bourdain was to write 'Gone Bamboo 2" I wouldn't mind reading more adventures of Henry and Frances.

Profile Image for Danielle.
163 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2018
After the news of Anthony Bourdain's death, I was looking for books he'd written and found this novel. It's a fun, quick read about New York gangsters and hit men. The characters were likable (those who were supposed to be likable, that is), and the writing style accessible.

Bourdain's early demise is so sad, but we're lucky that he left us with so much.
Profile Image for Micaela.
736 reviews10 followers
May 18, 2011
I love Anthony Bourdain, but I just couldn't get into this book, or his other fiction. His non-fiction is wonderful.
150 reviews1 follower
June 21, 2018
I wish I could recall what Bourdain's first fiction novel was like (I did read it, but have no recollection of the story), as it would inform me better on how his second one is, in a way. I should probably search for some interviews with him about this one, too, just to see who he was influenced by. I detect obvious Hiassen and Leonard notes, both in the subject matter, humor, and overall style, but Bourdain injects a wee bit more travel, fashion, and food sense. Sometimes these elements feel dropped in for the sake of naming things (not being a supreme foodie, traveller, or fashionista, I often had to look up dishes, locales, and footwear, which while cool (because I learned something new) also felt forced, placed in the book just to show off the author's knowledge of said subjects (they didn't really add to the story in most instances). Those quibbles aside, Bourdain paints great characters, even if most of them are killers and gluttonous mobsters. While I usually disdain series, I wouldn't have minded another book or two featuring Henry and his wife Frances; they were just f@#king cool. Good, swift summer read if you're into mobsters, gunfights, and alcoholic shenanigans.
Profile Image for Carmen.
1,985 reviews
May 18, 2021
He stepped silently over to the bed and saw on the nightstand a framed photograph of a woman, an out-of-focus posed shot of a dark-skinned, attractive brunette, features blurred, standing under a palm tree, a wide smile on her face. Someone had written in lipstick over the photo the words GONE BAMBOO!
Profile Image for Bob Schnell.
488 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2023
The second book of fiction by the late Anthony Bourdain could be described as Rambo vs the Sopranos in paradise. There's a lot of action and dark humor with just enough culinary talk to remind us of Bourdain's other career. Although a few scenes went a bit too far for my taste "Gone Bamboo" is an enjoyable, escapist romp.
Profile Image for Abi.
116 reviews
May 2, 2022
(really 3.5 stars)

My husband read this book for work and then suggested I read it because he thought I would like it even though it’s not my usual affair.

And he was right, I did! In his intro, Bourdain does not hide the ball — this is a beach read about bad people who don’t change. This is pure pulp. But the ultimate enjoyment is that the main character is a total Wife Guy and his wife is pretty great.

As a side note, I had no clue Bourdain wrote fiction. A man of many talents, gone way too soon.
Profile Image for Sam.
537 reviews81 followers
May 27, 2017
This was okay. To be honest, I did expect way more from Bourdain's fiction but it was pretty average.
I enjoyed the storyline but there were A LOT of people to keep track of.
I love a good piece of mob fiction but this just fell a little flat, it'd be a good holiday read.
Profile Image for Kevin Rubin.
113 reviews7 followers
November 11, 2012
"Gone Bamboo" was fun. Fast paced, quick and easy.

It opens with the main character, professional assassin, Henry, being hired by some New York mobsters to kill a couple of rivals. After fixing the price the mobsters ask if he can scare some of the others, but Henry puts his foot down, "You gentlemen want to play practical jokes on each other, buy a fuckin' whoopee cushion. I don't do that. I don't play around when I work."

He botches half the hit, at a ski resort, and then returns to his wife, another professional assassin, and their comfortable Caribbean home, and all is pretty much well until they get some unwelcome neighbors.

Henry's French intelligence service handler stationed on the island asks him to get friendly with the new neighbors and he and his wife, Frances, get buddy buddy with Tommy and Cheryl, Bourdain's characters from his last book "Bone in the Throat".

Tommy and Cheryl are down there trying to start up a restaurant and get away from New York, where Tommy witnessed some mafia murders but wants to cook rather than become a gangster like all his family and friends.

Trouble then ensues for everyone involved as hitmen come down from New York to try and settle things.

Bourdain's introduction says it all, ""I wanted to write a sociopath beach book - something that jaded, hyperactive chefs, bent lawyers, paroled arsonists and protected witnesses might find entertaining and escapist. I wanted a hero and heroine as lazy, mercenary, lustful and free of redeeming qualities as I sometimes see myself. Whether I succeeded or not - I don't know."

Not entirely, I never thought of the main characters as lazy, they worked hard, prepared hard and put all their effort into succeeding.

Overall, a lot of fun.
Profile Image for Eve Schaub.
Author 3 books89 followers
November 8, 2016
I'm a huge, enormous, and really, kind of ridiculous fan of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, as well as his food/travel show No Reservations, so I've always pretty much assumed that someday I'd get around to picking up the two novels he wrote before his blockbuster success. When I saw Gone Bamboo in the piles at the church rummage sales I knew that the time had come.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't like Gone Bamboo very much at all. Maybe that's because I'm not a fan of "wise-ass crime comedy" as the cover blurb describes it. I kept wanting to be more into this book than I was... the characters felt one-dimensional and stereotypical: fat mobster number one, fat, mobster number two, uber-cool tropical hit-man and his insanely hot wife... and so on. In the intro, Bourdain feels like he's apologizing when he describes the work as "entertaining and escapist." He also explains that his characters are intentionally "free of redeeming qualities," which I think is true, but also explains why I couldn't get into the book any more than on surface-level: there's no one to root for. None of it really seems to matter; even the characters themselves seemed resigned to this odd, detached sense of meaninglessness.

Yet, because I'm fan-girling I kept wanting to give Bourdain the benefit of the doubt: maybe in mobster-crime fiction this is exactly as it should be.

So here's the thing. If you enjoy smart-alecky sentences such as "The kitchen smelled of cloves and gun oil," you will heartily enjoy this book. Everyone else? Well....
Profile Image for Nomad.
127 reviews16 followers
January 13, 2016
Gone Bamboo is the second of Anthony Bourdain's fiction stories and it's just as good as the first one Bone in the Throat. Like I've said many times, Bourdain is one of my very favorite authors and he very rarely disappoints. Sadly, he's not really writing fiction anymore and more's the pity as he seems to have a talent for it.

Gone Bamboo is the direct sequel to Bone in the Throat and does feature Tommy Pagano and his girlfriend Tracy. However, this story is seen through the eyes of the hired killer couple Henry and Frances. Henry made a very important appearance in BitT, here we follow him to his island paradise home in the Caribean and meet his lady love Frances. This couple is just sarcastic comic gold, Frances is tough as nails and Henry is somewhat of a gentleman killer. They have their rules and heaven help you if you invade their peaceful island with your bullshit.

Events set in motion in BitT are concluded here, with the capo Donnie (Tommy's uncle) is taking refuge on Henry and Frances's island and the assorted people who want him dead and the feds protecting him are stirring no end of shit. The whole ride is fast paced and keeps you turning the pages. This was a 2 day read for me because I could barely put it down.

Again, pick this up, you'll be happy I introduced you to this author. And of course, there are restaurants and cooks galore in this one. It's not an Anthony Bourdain book without them.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,918 reviews350 followers
November 16, 2008
Remember that Bourdain is a reasonably famous chef at a well known New York restaurant. Food certainly is important to him, and one of the characters, Mickey, in this second of his mob-oriented novels, is the chef to a mobster hiding under the witness protection plan in a French island in the Caribbean. Henry, a hit man, had been hired by Jimmie several years before to take out Donnie, a Mafia chieftain. Unfortunately, Donnie had only been badly wounded, had survived the shooting, and was now, several years later, singing to the feds. He is being hidden on the same island where Henry and Frances have taken up an idyllic retirement. Donnie' arrival on the island changes all the dynamics, and Henry, knowing that Donnie probably knows that Henry had been the one hired to shoot him, decides to make some peace overtures. If you like ganster-type books, you' enjoy this one, although I understand that Bone in the Throat should be read first.
Profile Image for Fiona.
629 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2012
This book is much better than the other Anthony Bourdain book I'd read (Bone in the Throat). This is a continuation of the 1st book. Tommy & Cheryl have relocated to the Caribbean island as a guest of Charlie, a gangster, who is now a protected witness for the FBI. New thugs appear on the island such as Frances & Henry who apparently were agents for the CIA at one time, or that is what everyone suspects. Occasionally, Henry freelances with hit jobs and the last being Charlie (before he became an FBI witness). Oddly, there's no hard feelings between Charlie & Henry.

Things get wild when an FBI agent doesn't trust Frances & Henry. Then there's a hit planned on Charlie & Henry. Apparently, when Henry shot Charlie previously, he didn't kill him, but he collected his full fee.

Odd twists & turns in the plot which are interesting.

Profile Image for Melber.
498 reviews
December 10, 2016
Did you know that Anthony Bourdain, chef and worldwide culinary explorer, is also the author of the fiction novel “Gone Bamboo?” Similar to the high-jinx writing style of Carl Hiassen, Dave Barry, and Elmore Leonard, Bourdain tells the story of Henry and Frances, ex-patriots and ex-assassins, who have retired to the islands. They love to eat, drink, and relax in the sun. However, when a dangerous mobster moves to their Caribbean haven, the couple will be forced out of retirement in order protect their idyllic life. What they soon find out is that they are a bit out of practice and things go awry when they try to kill the colorful mob-boss.

“Gone Bamboo” is a silly read and will give you a few hours of entertainment. Bourdain will serve you a few chuckle-worthy moments with his familiar dry sense of humor.
Profile Image for Amanda.
65 reviews1 follower
January 15, 2008
If you want drama about a war-torn middle eastern country, or hollow romance, don't read this book. If you want to read about guns, boozing, assassinations and good food, then this is the book for you. Not to mention the toughest, sexiest female lead character I've ever read about.

Anthony Bourdain writes a good action novel. I didn't even know this was a sequel to "Bone in the Throat" (since my library never has it), and it was still great!

The pace of this book is lovely. There's action interspersed with tropical lounging, and none of the story is cluttered up with flowery descriptions. The gritty, slang-infested dialog is believably written. I've come to expect tantalizing food descriptions from Bourdain, and he continues to satisfy.
Profile Image for Art.
786 reviews8 followers
February 20, 2014
I have to admit it took two tries to finish this book. I had liked the first novel so much that this one seemed to jump the shark and I found myself skipping through chapters and skimming pages until I was totally lost. For some strange reason I did something I never do once I give up on a book and set it to go back to the library, I took it out of the library bag and restarted where it had lost me, I don't know why, maybe it was that accidental Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown/Layover/No Reservations marathon we watched on the DVR last week during the the big snow day, but for some reason reading it the second time it clicked. Granted I felt like I was in some Barry Sadler 1980s Indochina action novel a lot of the time, but I enjoyed it. Take it was a grain of salt and enjoy the beach.
Profile Image for Treasure.
576 reviews13 followers
May 8, 2008
I am trying out Bourdain's fiction, and I am quickly learning that I prefer his non-fiction. It's not that the fiction is bad, I just don't enjoy the mobster scene he writes about. And the langauge and sex references seem like they are "placed" rather that really necessary. His food details are fun, though.
I adore his non-fiction, for being gritty, funny, honest, and even respectful upon occasion (only of other cultures and other cooks, though, the rest of us can go to hell and that's why I like him. It makes no sense, but I can't help it).
So the book was alright, funny, great setting, but just not my thing.
Profile Image for Chris.
163 reviews6 followers
December 27, 2009
Anthony Bourdain may have the perfect life. Apart from being a great chef and writer, his name may be affixed to the best show on American television.

Before becoming a TV star, he wrote books. Kitchen Confidential put him on the map, and if you haven't read it, you should. But this book is very different. It's just fun -- violent, sex-fueled fun.

This is beach reading, except I read it in snowy Ohio over Christmas. Still, a story about a hitman and his wife trying to evade a crossdressing Mafia boss? How can you turn it down?

P.S. Downside was I kept picturing Bourdain as the main character Henry.
Profile Image for Dan.
128 reviews3 followers
May 8, 2010
Pure escapism from Anthony Bourdain (author, chef, professional traveler, TV host). This is a macho, gritty, sexy yet grim beach read - which is to say, it was a lot of fun. I challenge you to read this book and not wish you were right there with the characters in the Caribbean, whether they're drinking tequila in a dive bar on the beach or they're dodging a spray of bullets in an automatic weapon firefight. Looking past the sun, surf and sweat (and of course, food), Bourdain did a great job making you root for some pretty hard characters - the good guys are bad, and the bad guys are even worse. I'd recommend this book for anyone's summer reading list.
Profile Image for Roy.
Author 2 books
March 11, 2018
In a semi-continuation of "Bone in the Throat", Bourdain promises a great story but fails to deliver. Some characters are continued over from the first novel, but their personalities devolve into caricatures of their former selves, old enemies are now uncharacteristically good friends, and good and bad swap continuously. Overall the story is decent, a predictable continuation of the excellent "Bone in the Throat", but as a whole, the novel just whiffs on the fun of the first. AB hasn't written fiction in this vein since, and if this is his final work of fiction, than that is extremely disappointing.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 162 reviews

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