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Johnson Covers Vietnam, CIA in 'Tree of Smoke'

Denis Johnson's new novel, Tree of Smoke, is one of the late summer's big books in a number of ways.

It covers the Vietnam War and the U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia — and the life of a CIA agent whose career grows with the war. Also, it's more than 600 pages long.

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Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.