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Joe Nelms

Joe spent the last twenty years working in advertising, television and film including senior positions at DMB&B, Grey, BBDO and Warner Bros. serving clients like Pepsi, GE, Campbell's, Foot Locker, the Harry Potter series, the Ocean's 11 series, and The Matrix Trilogy.

Blurbs

“THE LAST TIME I DIED is a maelstrom of brilliant prose—dark, delectable, devastating, and utterly, utterly compelling. If this is Joe Nelms’ debut, watch out, world. Chuck Palahniuk fans will love this book.”

– Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Water for Elephants

“One of the most compelling first novels in recent memory, THE LAST TIME I DIED is chilling, cinematic, and unapologetically brash, a heady mixture of all-consuming desire and mortality.”

– Stephanie Turza, Booklist (starred review)

“Flashbacks make up a large portion of the story, filling in the puzzle pieces of Christian’s past by tantalizing increments…Christian is a relatable modern man and Helms’s crackling prose moves like lightning.”

– Publishers Weekly

“Nelms writes in first person, with sardonic, distanced second-person chapters scattered about, with an intensity and focus that will keep the reader wondering.”

– Kirkus Reviews

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Featured Book

The Last Time I Died

I have never read a book that defied my first impressions so quickly.

10/09/14

All readers have biases. We can’t help it. Some of us are genre snobs, reading only literary fiction, science fiction or New Romance. Some of us are book-jacket snobs, unable to pick up a volume that looks cheaply made. Some of us are title snobs, letting a well-turned phrase turn our heads so that we snap up a book without even reading the back cover and rejecting unappealing titles out of hand.

It may be a backhanded compliment to say Joe Nelms’ debut novel, The Last Time I Died, might be prey to book-snobs’ prejudices, but that those prejudices would be, in this case, completely unfounded. The title is, to my mind, unfortunately basic, and the cover image and font make it seem like a grocery-store rack kind of read, possibly a knockoff of some popular thriller that is currently on the best-seller list.

However, I have never read a book that defied my first impressions so quickly. From the very first page, I could tell that Nelms was a good writer. By the tenth page, I knew he was an excellent one. His sentences are crisp, clear and surging, creating a current that makes you unable to put the book down:

My head is pounding and there’s only so much coffee I can drink before the balance tips from beneficial by way of caffeine buzz and energy boost to an annoying incessant need to urinate causing me to excuse myself three or four times from the same meeting. Unprofessional.

I wish I had some coke. I don’t. I have to gut it out.

Alternating between longer rants and short, bite-sized observations, Nelms’ hero – antihero may be a better term for him – begins the novel as a miserable divorcee intent on self-destruction. He’s not the typical successful sleaze ball lawyer, though he seems like it at first. He grew up in foster-care and cannot remember anything that happened to him before he was nine, when he witnessed his father murdering his mother. He never had a problem with this lack of memory, until a fight, which he initiated, leaves him momentarily dead. In the space between living and dying, he catches hold of an early memory.

This memory leads him on what is not simply a masochistic journey, but rather an intensely dangerous and risky path towards the discovery of what he actually experienced before age nine. The reveal of further details is too delicious to spoil them here, but it is perfectly paced and incredibly readable.

Even more surprising, the book is often funny. The alternating voices of the wry first-person narrator and the observing and sarcastic third-person narrator balance one another out and describe situations both familiar and foreign with equal ease and self-deprecating humor:

Our man has arrived back at his apartment upright and sober.

Having administered his own slightly premature dismissal from the hospital, he has bypassed countless liquor vendors along the way home, no doubt disappointing the local population of mixologists hoping for a despondent derelict to while away an afternoon at the mercy of their skilled hands.

Though the plot gets dark quicker than nighttime falls in February, there is playfulness in almost every paragraph. An extremely satisfying read, it’s made sure that I pay attention to Joe Nelms’ future offerings.

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