Tag Archives: Jim Thompson

The Rip-Off by Jim Thompson

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I was hesitant about reading The Rip Off because of everyone claiming how much it sucked. Well, after reading it I can definitely say it is only they who are doing the sucking. This book cracked me up! I had to do a fake cough several times to cover up my laughter. Thompson knows how to write dialogue. It’s witty, original, and occasionally outrageous. Likewise is the cast of desperate characters who are big enough to speak them.

The Rip Off is about a guy out in the country who is screwing around on his wife. He isn’t very bright, in fact he’s a moron. Well, sticking your thing into everything that walks is bound to get you in trouble and that’s exactly what happens. The dude get’s caught up with these crazy dames that don’t know if they want to screw him or kill him.
The biggest gripe against this book is that it’s lacking the blood and guts violence from his other novels. Ok, that I will give to you. There isn’t very much violence, it’s more of a flirtation with disaster. It’s refreshing to see Thompson write a hard-boiled comedy without dumping a bucket of blood on top.

The plot is a little so-so, but as Stephen King says about plot: “The good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.” What makes this book shine are the character interactions and risky situations.

Good pulp doesn’t have to be all gore.

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POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson

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I decided to keep the pulp fiction train going with another classic. POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson is a story takes place in a small, racially segregated, god fearing town called Potts County. Nick Corey, the High Sheriff, is known to the townsfolk and his wife as the easygoing moronic lawman that’s too cowardly to arrest anybody. What nobody knows is that hidden underneath his goofy exterior lays a mercilessly sinister and manipulative personality. One day Nick gets tired of the corruption in the town and decides to do a little vigilante work which opens a can of worms. Nick’s other problem is that he can’t quite keep it in his pants. Eventually the juggling act is set to blow up in everyone’s face.

Besides being a classic pulp that beautifully weaves murder, sex, and betrayal, POP. 1280 is a biting satire of American culture. There are several scenes in which lawmen debate the issue of “Nigger” politics and law with an air of total sincerity. The hypocrisy of Christian brotherhood is hilariously depicted when a character is literally assaulted with a bible. Thompson cracks the mask of the good American citizen which then breaks away, piece by piece, to reveal the true American character: animalistic and absolutely shameless. But Thompson doesn’t get on a high horse. His critique of society is almost a concession to the amorality at the core of our being.

You want some pulp? Here it is. Pop 1280 takes no prisoners and makes zero apologies. It’s crude, vulgar, and sadistic as hell. For a tiny pocket book of merely 215 pages, it’ll grab you by the throat and drag you through the woods. It’s funny. I laughed out loud multiple times. The murders are always personal. Like all of Thompson’s writing, this one is deeply psychological. It puts you in the passenger seat alongside a charming psychopath. What a ride…what a ride. Who are we going to run over next? The suspense is killing me.

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After dark, my sweet by Jim Thompson

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Jim Thompson is quickly becoming my favorite noir writer with books like my latest read, After Dark, My Sweet. It’s a story about Williams Collins, an escapee from a mental institution who tries to blend into a small town as a normal person. He’s a very kind man who is too easily persuaded and is subject to violent episodes. Quickly he becomes entangled with a wickedly alcoholic woman named Fay Anderson who pulls him into a sinister plot with her partner in crime, a crocked ex-cop named Uncle Bud. Collins easily sees that he’s being setup to be the fall man in their plot, but his desperate loneliness compels him to stay in tragic company. Fay and Uncle Bud figure him for a prime sucker until they find themselves trapped in their own web and it becomes a deadly game of cut-throat.

Thompson creates a deeply intimate connection between the reader and Collins. We get to feel the inner working of his paranoia, desires, and morality. The characters are deeply flawed people who are surviving by any means necessary. Fear and sex are used for bargaining chips in a game of poker with no cards. It’s interesting to begin psychoanalyzing the characters in an attempt to predict their next move and play their motives. Thompson creates a bond between the reader and Collins in which his existence becomes shared. You don’t want him to get killed because it would mean your death too.

 This book is short read of only a 133 pages. It’s amazing how much Thompson can accomplish in such a short time and still make it feel complete. The violence in his work is balanced by the gentle and charming nature of Collins who in the end is both a victim and aggressor.  The suspense is worked supremely like a symphony raising and falling with dramatic affect. Murderous sexual tension is never in short supply. O’ how the fragility of people makes for such rewarding entertainment! Jim Thompson is considered a master from the school of hardcore American noir. This is the second book I’ve read by him and I’ll be reviewing another of his books soon.

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