Day: July 26, 2014
jim thompson classics
Have started reading Jim Thompson novels in earnest, after a false start many years back (not sure why I stopped reading). This Crime Time post has a good rundown on Thompson's life, and recommendations of what it considers the best books:
Nothing More Than Murder (1949)
The Killer Inside Me (1952)
Savage Night (1953)
A Swell-Looking Babe (1954)
A Hell Of A Woman (1954)
After Dark, My Sweet (1955)
The Getaway (1959)
The Grifters (1963)
Never had any interest in seeing the "iconic" film version of The Getaway -- Ali McGraw, yuck -- so was able to read the book without imagining Steve McQueen in the role of "Doc." It's an astounding work -- but to film the hard-boiled action scenes minus Thompson's under-the-radar left-wing subversion and the surreal ending is to gut the work. Make no mistake, this is one of the tightest, meanest critiques of the world Ayn Rand made.
Thompson's politics peek out more abruptly in a scene in Pop. 1280 where the town's early 20th Century small town sheriff "kids" a Pinkerton detective (changed to "Talkington" in the novel):
"So you're with the Talkington Agency," I said. "Why, god-dang if I ain't heard a lot about you people! Let's see now, you broke up that big railroad strike, didn't you?"
"That's right." He showed me the tooth again. "The railroad strike was one of our jobs."
"Now, by golly, that really took nerve," I said. "Them railroad workers throwin' chunks of coal at you an' splashin' you with water, and you fellas without nothin' to defend yourself with except shotguns and automatic rifles! Yes, sir, god-dang it, I really gotta hand it to you!"
"Now, just a moment, Sheriff!" His mouth came together like a buttonhole. "We have never -- "
This passage from Savage Night shows Thompson's skill at tossing off humorous one-liners:
I met Mr. Kendall, the other boarder, on the way down to dinner. He was a dignified, little old guy -- the kind who'd remain dignified if he got locked in a nickel toilet and had to crawl under the door.
Or this one, from the same book:
Ruth served breakfast to us, and the way she kept trying to catch my eye I had a notion to take it out and hand it to her.