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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 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.
Lou Ford is a small town deputy, and—based on Thompson’s telling—1952 wasn’t necessarily as pleasant as we’ve been led to believe. Ford comes across as a harmless, gentle person who speaks in clichés, and does not even carry a weapon on the job. However, Lou Ford has dark secrets from his past, and a couple of chance encounters rekindle the darkness within him.
What ensues is one of the most compelling Noir novels I’ve had the pleasure to read. Thompson takes us to some dark places. His understanding of the mind of a sociopath takes the reader a bit too close to the edge of reality. I felt conflicting emotions as part of me was pulling for this psycho to get away with his crimes while at the same time feeling pretty lousy about feeling that way, and that’s just good Crime/Noir in my book.
If you’ve ever wondered how far a truly amoral man with no inner convictions toward violence or the truth can go and what damage he can do, then The Killer Inside Me is one you don’t want to miss.