Monday, July 4, 2011

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Researching for something to read during an upcoming weekend in Marfa, I googled “the best psychological thrillers ever” and The Killer Inside Me popped up in the top three of every list I found.

The Killer Inside Me is about the chillingly sociopathic Lou Ford, deputy sheriff in a small Texas town in the 1950s, who has a secret need for sadomasochistic sex with compliant women. And he really must kill the people he loves, and anyone who gets in his way, but in disturbingly interesting ways. The fact that I, and many others, enjoyed this book so much is more than a little unsettling. I think (hope) it was the exceptional writing that was the book’s hook and the interesting perspective provided through the first person telling of the story, but I also think that humans have an innate curiosity about things they would never do.

Just to give you an idea of how “rough” this book is (as my mom would say), it and the movie have been described as “misogynist hate-porn with a fancy wrapper.” The movie has even been criticized in Europe where just about anything goes. Hitchcock’s shower stabbing scene in Psycho, which is pretty much the same hate-woman-kill theme as in The Killer Inside Me, doesn’t seem as brutal as what is portrayed by Thompson.

The Killer Inside Me was so sick in fact that I was curious about what kind of person could write such a story, but author Jim Thompson’s bio didn’t present anything particularly provocative. Well, other than the fact that he was raised by a highly educated and politically involved family that was ruined by an embezzlement scandal, and he was a terminal alcoholic. I didn’t see anything especially strange about his life. But then that’s what Thompson wrote about – very peculiar goings on that people don’t see. He wrote more than thirty novels during the1940-50s, but was one of those individuals only truly recognized after his death.

On a side note, why are so many hyper-talented people only discovered after they are dead? I fantasize that a commentator on NPR will someday, far into the future, say, “SueAnn Wade-Crouse, who died penniless in a fleabag hotel in lower east-side Manhattan, was an insightful observer of the human condition during her lifetime and yet her writing was only recognized many years after her death.”

The Killer Inside Me has also been adapted to movies, most recently in 2010, staring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, and Ned Beatty and, in a particularly strange cameo, Bill Pullman. We watched it several nights ago and were simultaneously sickened and impressed! Several of his other novels were adapted to movies as well, including The Getaway and The Grifters.

Don’t read The Killer Inside Me or watch the movie unless you have a strong stomach and understand that there are some truly sick people out there, and a whole lot more who aren’t.

1 comment:

  1. Could not even finish watching the movie - it was that disturbing.