March 5th, 2010


The Killer Inside Me

I've been meaning to read Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me since, oh, the early to mid-1990s, easy, but you know what they say. Out of sight, out of mind. What reminded me that this book was still on my shelf waiting to be read was a mention in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly that they're filming a new adaptation of Killer starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba. Boy is that gonna suck. So I figured I'd better read the book pronto before this new Jessica Alba movie destroys influences my concept of it.

Lou Ford is a small town deputy sheriff in Texas doing his best to keep up a friendly veneer, though all the while he's struggling with the sickness inside him. The sickness, of course, is that he's a sociopath, and a violent one at that. But what I didn't expect was just how sympathetic Thompson makes Lou at the start of the book (of course, it's written as a first person account, so maybe it's Lou making Lou seem so sympathetic)--but Lou really does seem to be trying to be good at the start, trying to keep everything under control. He still needs to lash out occasionally, but prefers to do that verbally rather than physically. He almost got put away as a kid for killing someone and he doesn't want that again.

Then a situation occurs, and Lou has to take care of business, only there are those who see through his facade and suspect him from the start. As in all good noir novels, the more Lou tries to cover his tracks and throw off the scent, the deeper into it he gets, and the more things start to unravel until, near the end, Lou hits you with the truth. He wasn't trying to keep his sickness under control. He was never in control.

Thompson's writing style is spare; there's nary a description of anything or anyone. He also hints obliquely at certain events rather than informing the reader outright, which can be frustrating but jibes well with the conceit of the first-person account--Lou wouldn't necessarily want you to know that he might have been sexually assaulted by his family's housekeeper when he was just a kid, but he does want you to know something happened back then that shaped him, and here's a few hints. You put the pieces together.

First published in 1952, The Killer Inside Me hardly seems dated outside of a few references to politics and one character talking about "the negro problem." In terms of an exploration of the criminally warped mind, though, Killer still feels fresher than any mass market paperback original serial killer police procedural being churned out today. I think that's because Lou Ford isn't a criminal mastermind the way so many serial killers are portrayed to be in today's popular fiction. Thompson understands that Lou Ford needs to be relatable to be at all interesting, and so he makes Lou as average as you and me. As one character says in the novel, "A weed is just a plant out of place," and that suits Lou Ford to a tee.

The Killer Inside Me is more than just a crime novel written by one of America's best known crime novelists, it's also a great work of literature. This novel wouldn't be a weed on anyone's bookshelf.

Also of Note

Today marks six years on LiveJournal for me! Six years? I have no idea how that much time passed so quickly! Every year seems to speed by even faster than the last one, doesn't it?

I know I've recounted the origin story before, how back in the early '00s I enjoyed reading nihilistic_kid's LJ but rarely commented because I didn't have an account. He suggested I get one just for commenting, I did, and the rest, as they say, is history. I became known as the TV Nerd, and that guy who always talks about Doctor Who; some of my more serious blog entries were picked up and linked to by news services and feeds, and my book reviews apparently became so well known that not only did they land me reviewing and columnist gigs around the Web, but publishers actually started mailing me books for the purpose of being reviewed on this blog. What a strange and wonderful six years it's been!

I've made a lot of friends on LJ in those six years, even managed to meet some of you in person, and I just want to say thanks to all of you not just for making blogging worth the time and effort, but also for taking the time to get to know me. You guys are great. Here's to the next six years!

See My New York

I've lived in New York City on and off my entire life--mostly on. I was born in here in 1969, and though I spent the years between ages 3 and 11 in Connecticut, we came back to the city in 1981. Barring four years of college, 1987-1991, which I spent on a campus a mere thirty minutes outside the city, I've lived in here ever since.

I've seen a lot of changes. Many of them are for the better, some of them are for the worse, but all of them, all of them, are an erasure of the New York City I remember.

The city I still see in my mind sometime is the city I grew up in, and no amount of M&M Stores, Bubba Gump Shrimp Factories and Disney Stores can ever take that away. For better or worse, this is my New York.

(Also, by sheer coincidence, Herb Alpert's Rise--the music in the video--was the very first LP I ever bought!)