Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thompson, Jim; Pop. 1280

Thompson is probably the coldest and most spare of the hard-boiled school of crime writers. He has no standard formula or regular hero like Hammett's Continental Op but deals with the lower strata of human existence as he finds it. This book is
set in the early years of the 20th century and tells of a sheriff in a small town with a population of 1280. His aim is to do as
little as possible to avoid over-exerting himself but circumstances somewhat change this as it is election year and his lack of
effort has led to adverse comments and a strong opponent. In sparse language we learn that he eats a lot, was tricked into
marriage but has sex regularly with two other women, kills the two local pimps and then manages to point the finger of blame at another, kills the husband of one of his mistresses and a local black who learns he has done this and eventually gets rid of his wife and her live-in brother (or lover). There is a strong leavening of humour in the telling without this creating any
sympathy for the sheriff whose apparent dumb exterior hides a cunning, manipulative and psychotic mind. The end is a tad
sudden leaving matters unresolved. The book forms the basis of the film 'Coup de Torchon' which transfers the action fo
Franch West Africa with the lead role taken by the inimitable Philipe Noiret for whom one cannot help but feel sympathy,
misplaced though this is.

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