The Last Time I Died

joe nelms

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The Last Time I Died is a maelstrom of brilliant prose—dark, delectable, devastating, and utterly, utterly compelling.”
—Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Water For Elephants


Christian Franco is truly embracing the despair of divorce, doing nothing to slow the implosion of his career, friendships, and relationships. He camps out at bars and picks fights, finding that getting his ass kicked allows him his only meditative moments, something he explores with sardonic zeal.

Nine years of his childhood are entirely repressed, a consequence of his father killing his mother when Christian was eight. But a single clear memory resurfaces when Christian is beaten to death in a bar brawl: a memory of his stoop in Brooklyn, his father in the back of a cop car, and his mother being wheeled away on a gurney. He is resuscitated, and he craves more memories.

What follows is Christian’s increasingly desperate means to kill himself and be revived, slowly piecing together snapshots from his childhood to understand how this rediscovered self-knowledge could make his wife come back.

Alternating between heartbreaking memories of a happier time, Christian revels in the underbelly of New York City in a spectacular downward spiral.


“Nelms has created a thrill ride in this fast-paced story focused on the conflict between the pain of repression and the pain of knowledge. Fans of the TV show Dexter, the film Memento, and the novels of DBC Pierre will appreciate the brutal honesty of Christian’s narration, spliced with flashbacks to happier times and occasional observations from an omniscient third party. 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.”
Booklist (starred review)

“…Helms’s crackling prose moves like lightning.”
Publishers Weekly

“…Christian’s rage-fueled quest to know the truth of his childhood comes in strobe-light snapshot chapters, flashes of manic action much like Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressional narratives.”

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

“Joe Nelms’ masterful debut is a heat seeking missile headed straight for your gut, and, be warned, it does not miss its mark. The Last Time I Died asks one simple question: how far would you go to recover your lost childhood, to get back to that state of grace before what happened happened, before you set out to lay waste to your own life and the lives around you, of those you love the most? The harrowing answer is the narrative of this wonderfully written book — to the doors of death and beyond, until there’s nothing left to lose and only one thing to gain. The White. Like a junkie, once you pick up this book, you do not put it down until all the dope is gone.”
—Robert Goolick, author of the New York Times #1 Best Seller A Reliable Wife

“From page one this novel thrust you into the fraught mind of a man whose life was ruined before it even began, a nobody trapped inside his own lethal obsessions, and the effect is so gripping, so tragic and chilling, that you wouldn’t escape even if you could. With stark searing prose and keen insights, Joe Nelms will make you feel what it’s like to dive headfirst into disintegration just to discover who you truly are and finally get some peace. The story will tattoo itself to your psyche. You’ll be glad and grateful.”
—Jeff Backhaus, author of The Rental Sister

“In his riveting, searing debut, Joe Nelms forces his main character, Christian Franco, through a self-imposed, bone-crunching, wince-inducing wringer that is so utterly compelling, we cannot stop watching. Funny, disturbing, and full of sharp elbows, The Last Time I Died is ultimately a story of redemption, and Nelms delivers a powerful, punishing, and, amazingly enough, hopeful novel.”
—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

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