Sunday, July 28, 2013

Another star turn by the "Dimestore Dostoyevsky"

Crime novelist JIM THOMPSON had such a way with first-person narratives featuring murderous psychotics that he was tagged the "Dimestore Dostoyevsky."
I just finished reading Thompson's 1964 masterpiece, "POP. 1280," and I'm still stunned at the novel's marvelous construction.
Narrator Nick Corey is a small-town sheriff who performs just enough of his sworn duties to keep his post.
As Corey explains in the opening of the novel:
"Well, sir, I should have been sitting pretty, just about as pretty as a man could sit. Here I was, the high sheriff of Potts County... I had it made, and it looked like I could go on having it made -- being high sheriff of Potts County -- as long as I minded my own business and didn't arrest no one unless I just couldn't get out of it and they didn't amount to nothin'."
During the course of a funny novel that grows more darkly sinister with each turning of a page, the reader learns that Corey is not the lazy and somewhat brainless protagonist we thought we knew.
Instead, Corey reveals himself to be a cunning manipulator who takes his murderous vengeance with a missionary's zeal.
It makes for truly chilling reading to realize Corey's carefully crafted plots against people and the way he uses racism and society's rigid propriety to help cover his tracks.
"Pop. 1280" is a remarkable tale and a stark view of a man who can calmly end lives with the skill of a puppeteer.
Canadian writer Stephen Marche characterized "Pop. 1280" as Thompson's "true masterpiece" -- "a preposterously upsetting, ridiculously hilarious layer cake of nastiness, a romp through a world of nearly infinite deceit."


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