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The Killer Inside Me Paperback – March 13, 1991
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"Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered." --Stanley Kubrick
"Jim Thompson is the best suspense writer going, bar none." --The New York Times
From the Inside Flap
Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas. The worst thing most people can say against him is that he's a little slow and a little boring. But, then, most people don't know about the sickness--the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger. The sickness that is about to surface again.
An underground classic since its publication in 1952, The Killer Inside Me is the book that made Jim Thompson's name synonymous with the roman noir.
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Top Customer Reviews
I remember sitting down in one of the bookstore's aisles, (mystery I suppose), trying to make the decision between purchasing Norman Mailer's most recent "opus" and Tom Wolfe's latest "era-defining novel," when something caught my eye. It was a flash of color, a bright shade of orange, which actually turned out to be the spine of a book. It was then that I read the title: "The Killer Inside Me." The title intrigued me even more and in a matter of seconds I placed both of the novels I had been holding on the shelf and took this short 'surprise' with me to the cashier.
Two days later, I had finished one of the most enjoyable, thought-provoking 'genre-books' I had ever read.
The story is told in the first-person narrative which heavily influences the suspense of the story. The main character is Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a small, middle-of-nowhere Texas town of Central City. The thing with Lou is that he is a sociopath...and more importantly, he knows he is a sociopath. To hide this "sickness", as he puts it, that he's carried with him since childhood, he makes himself appear bland, dim-witted, and his conversations are drowned in cliches. However, this sickness that Lou has tried so desperately to hide is about to resurface again, and the aftermath of this explosion inside him isn't very pretty.
The course of the novel is one that would better serve the reader if left unsaid by a reviewer such as myself, so I feel this is all I will reveal of the book's content.
I will leave you with this. There is a part within the novel where a character states, "A weed is just a plant out of place," and then adds, "If I placed a hollyhock in a cornfield, it would be considered a weed. But if I put it in my front yard, it's a flower. You get what I'm sayin'?"...and this affected me. How something so hackneyed and simple could strike a reader such as myself remains a mystery. But it did. The same goes for the story. Jim Thomson is an excellent writer and my sole regret is not finding out about his work until now.
I was not sure I wanted to read this book. It has a reputation as a 'portrait of a serial killer,' and that does not appeal to me; but this strange pulp novel did. It is a 'Texas tale,' very Southern, about the standards that uphold society, and that society upholds, sometimes to the detriment of truth:
“Bruises?” I said. “Gosh, you got me there, Howard. How would I know?”
“H-how”—he sputtered—“how would you know?”
“Yeah?” I said, puzzled. “How?”
“Why, goddam you! You’d been screwing that gal for years! You—”
“Don’t say that,” I said.
“No,” said Jeff Plummer, “don’t say that.”
There is a running gag that deadpan platitudes are as bad as a punch in the gut:
Rothman got up and put on his hat. “Well, I can’t find it in my heart to chide you for the stunt, despite its unfortunate outcome. I almost wish I’d thought of it.”
“Aw,” I said, “it wasn’t nothing much. Just a matter of a will finding a way.”
“Ooof!” he said. “What are Conway’s feelings, by the way?”
“Well, I don’t think he feels real good,” I said.
“Probably something he ate,” he nodded. “Don’t you imagine? But watch that stuff, Lou. Watch it. Save it for those birds.”
Thompson wants us to know that although Lou Ford is not as dumb as everyone thinks he is, he is also not as clever as he tells us he is. The fact is, his form of irony is pretty low grade:
I debated calling up the newspapers and complimenting them on their “accuracy.” I often did that, spread a little sunshine, you know, and they ate it up. I could say something—I laughed—I could say something about truth being stranger than fiction. And maybe add something like—well—murder will out. Or… the best laid plans of mice and men.
I stopped laughing...
Many have aptly compared Killer to Pop 1280. But, Killer is darker. It is also a more complete story, delving into enough backstory to give us a greater understanding of who Lou Ford is. It also has a great ending, whereas Pop 1280 doesn't end so much as stop abruptly. Even so, the humor of Pop 1280 made it slightly more enjoyable for me. My recommendation: Read both.
Like other Thompson books, Killer is quite violent. Yet it is never gratuitous. We don't get a graphic description of every drop of blood. The book is not so much about the violence as it is about the psychology of the man who commits it. Even so, it is shocking and disturbing, and always compelling.
I've seen these books described as pulp fiction, but I hope the new reader is not dissuaded by that. These are not sordid crime dramas. Well, I suppose they are, but they are also so much more. Pick one and read the first chapter and see if you aren't hooked.