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The Dewey Decimal System


Debut novelist Larson presents the first book in a literary-noir series featuring an obsessive-compulsive protagonist in a ravaged New York City.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

Selected by Ransom Notes: the Barnes & Noble Mystery Blog as one of the Best Series Debuts of 2011

“A nameless investigator dogs New York streets made even meaner by a series of near-future calamities. [Larson’s] dystopia is bound to win fans . . .”
Kirkus Reviews

The Dewey Decimal System is a winningly tight, concise and high-impact book, a violent, exhilarating odyssey that pitches its protagonist through a gratuitously detailed future New York.”
New York Press

The Dewey Decimal System is proof positive that the private detective will remain a serious and seriously enjoyable literary archetype.”

“Larson’s voice is note-perfect in this tour-de-force. When called for, his clipped, brisk prose expands to the lyrical, adeptly singing the praises of beautiful women, cockroaches, and rubble. Reading The Dewey Decimal System transports you to another world, and although that world is a grim one, you’ll be sorry to leave it. Let’s hope that this book isn’t a one-off, that poor damaged Dewey will return to lead us through the ruins on another near-future adventure.”
Mystery Scene Magazine

The Dewey Decimal System is clever, inventive, lovingly satiric and easily one of the most notable debuts of the year.”

“Like Motherless Brooklyn dosed with Charlie Huston, Nathan Larson’s delirious and haunting The Dewey Decimal System tips its hat, smartly, to everything from Philip K. Dick’s dystopias to Chester Himes’s grand guignol Harlem novels, while also managing to be utterly fresh, inventive, and affecting all on its own.”
—Megan Abbott, Edgar-winning author of The End of Everything

“The perfect blend of dystopia and the hard-boiled shamus. It’s great to know that there are still debut novels coming through the pipe that can knock me on my ass. With The Dewey Decimal System, Nathan Larson has announced his arrival with style and clarity. I’ll be first in line for his second novel, and his twentieth.”
—Victor Gischler, author of The Pistol Poets

“Nathan Larson’s Dewey Decimal is a combination like no other—in a dystopian landscape, he’s discursive, loves dissing fools, dissecting language and violence, and has a hell of a system. He’s like Walter Mosley’s sometime LA hit man Mouse, but with Chester Himes and Jerome Charyn threaded in. This novel is a love song to New York’s streets and boroughs and people, even when they’re decimated, and Larson’s ‘postracial’ character, a mutt for all times, is someone I’d follow over and over again through whatever secret paths he finds in this world.”
—Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales

The Dewey Decimal System is a brilliant and compelling read, and Dewey is a unique protagonist: tough, resilient, smart . . . and, well, nuts—but in the best possible way. We should all be so crazy.”
—Robert Ferrigno, author of Heart of the Assassin


After a flu pandemic, a large-scale terrorist attack, and the total collapse of Wall Street, New York City is reduced to a shadow of its former self. As the city struggles to dig itself out of the wreckage, a nameless, obsessive-compulsive veteran with a spotty memory, a love for literature, and a strong if complex moral code (that doesn’t preclude acts of extreme violence) has taken up residence at the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.

Dubbed “Dewey Decimal” for his desire to reorganize the library’s stock, our protagonist (who will reappear in the next novel in this series) gets by as bagman and muscle for New York City’s unscrupulous district attorney. Decimal takes no pleasure in this kind of civic dirty work. He’d be perfectly content alone amongst his books. But this is not in the cards, as the DA calls on Dewey for a seemingly straightforward union-busting job.

What unfolds throws Dewey into a bloody tangle of violence, shifting allegiances, and old vendettas, forcing him to face the darkness of his own past, and the question of his buried identity.

With its high body count and snarky dialogue, The Dewey Decimal System pays respects to Chandler, Hammett, and Jim Thompson. Healthy amounts of black humor and speculative tendencies will appeal to fans of Charlie Huston, Nick Tosches, Duane Swierczynski, and Jonathan Lethem.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Published: 4/19/11
  • IBSN: 9781617750106
  • e-IBSN: 9781617750403


NATHAN LARSON is an award-winning film composer, musician, producer, and the author of the novels The Dewey Decimal System, The Nervous System, and The Immune System, as well as the coeditor of Stockholm Noir. He has made music for many films, including Boys Don’t Cry, Margin Call, and the Swedish movies Stockholm Stories and Lilya 4-Ever. He and his wife, singer Nina Persson, divide their time between New York City and Sweden.

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