Brutal. Compelling. And Utterly Absorbing: first-person narration at its finest
“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.”
I have to admit I was rather unsure how I’d find this book. On the cover is an endorsement from Stanley Kubrick. It reads, “Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.” This made me worry that the book might be a little too much for me to handle.
But I didn’t need to. Because although Kubrick is absolutely correct: the story is both chilling and believable, and there is no doubt that the first-person narration of Lou Ford is decidedly warped. It’s also brilliant. Utterly brilliant.
A true story of gritty noir, Thompson’s honest and darkly charming style pulls you into the story and gets you to care about Lou Ford, even though you know things are going to get bad. And despite the fact that you know “the sickness” is coming, and that Lou is preparing to do some very bad things, you can’t help but want to read more.
But, let’s be clear, this isn’t a first-person narrated killer like Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter. Lou Ford’s not doing anything that’s justifiable or righteous in any way. And when the bad stuff happens, although you knew it was coming all along, it slams into you quicker than you think.
Lou’s actions are brutal and horrifying, yet you find yourself wanting to stay with him and keep following the story to find out where it leads. Because warped and wrong as what Lou does is, he’s a compelling and complex character that you can’t help but keep reading about.
Written in 1952, and adapted to film in 1976 and 2010, Jim Thompson’s novel still seems fresh and contemporary.
- “The Killer Inside Me” at the Tribeca Film Fesitval (somecamerunning.typepad.com)
- Bargain Alert! The Grifters by Jim Thompson for $1.99! (randomizeme.net)