Review: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

In contribution to the #1952 book challenge hosted by Rich Westwood at his blog Past Offences. Please check at his website the contributions of other fellow participants.

Orion, 2010. Kindle edition (272 KB) First published in 1952 by Fawcett Publications Black Lizard. ASIN: B003TO5AQ8. Pages 224. eISBN: 978-1-4091-2375-0

The opening paragraph reads: ‘I’d finished my pie and was having a second cup of coffee when I saw him. The midnight freight had come in a few minutes before; and he was peering in one end of the restaurant window, the end nearest the depot, shading his eyes with his hand and blinking against the light. He saw me watching him, and his face faded back into the shadows. But I knew he was still there. I knew he was waiting. The bums always size me up for an easy mark.’

The Killer Inside Me takes place in Central City, a small oil town in West Texas, with 48,000 inhabitants in 1952, where everyone knows everyone. The story is told in first person by Lou Ford, a young man of about twenty-nine, who works as deputy sheriff. At first glance, he doesn’t seem to be very smart. His habit of giving advice to everyone using cliché expressions can be sometimes quite irritating. But almost everyone appreciates him for being a rather simple bloke who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

The action unfolds when old Bob Maples, the sheriff, sends him to take a close look at a tart called Joyce Lakeland, who has settled in a house on the outskirts. Sheriff Maples has full confidence in Lou and will support him in whatever decision he takes. His encounter with Joyce will awaken what he calls his “sickness“, that has been dormant for the past fifteen years. Later on the reader will find that, when Lou was fourteen, he sexually assaulted a three-year-old girl, but he was not punished because Mike Dean, his foster brother two years his senior, took the blame for him. As from their first meeting, Joyce and Lou are going to develop a sadomasochistic relationship.

‘I went back the next day and the day after that. I kept going back. And it was like a wind had been turned on a dying fire. I began needling people in that dead-pan way— needling ‘em as a substitute for something else. I began thinking about settling scores with Chester Conway, of the Conway Construction Company.’

Six years ago Mike, his adoptive brother was killed while working on a construction site for Conway. And Conway’s a big business man – just about the biggest contractor West Texas. 

Had it not been for Joyce, he wouldn’t have dared to do it, but she gives him the required courage for leaving together that crummy town. Joyce’s plan is to get the money from Chester Conway taking advantage of the fact that Chester’s son, Elmer Conway is crazy about her. And Miss Lakeland has promised Chester Conway that she will leave Central City quietly in exchange of money. Elmer believes he’s going to run away with Joyce that night, and Lou is there to help them. But Lou has his own plans. What none of them know is that Lou’s going to kill them.

In a first instance it seems that Lou has gotten away with it. Joyce is in coma and Elmer has died. Everyone seems to believe that Elmer has tried to kill Joyce and that Joyce has killed him. But it will not  take us long to find out that Lou, to protect himself, will need to keep on killing. 

The Killer Inside Me is one of these novels that leave you breathless. Heartbreaking, violent and brutal but superbly well-written. Thompson is able to get into the mind of a psychopath, but what really scares us is that the criminal can be an ordinary person. Someone we know for a long time, even one of us or very close to us. A novel that shakes us and leaves us with certain degree of uneasiness, but a masterpiece. A must read.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Jim Thompson (1906 – 1977) was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He began writing fiction at a very young age, selling his first story to True Detective when he was only fourteen. Thompson eventually wrote twenty-nine novels, all but three of which were published as paperback originals. Thompson also wrote two screenplays (for the Stanley Kubrick films The Killing and Paths of Glory). An outstanding crime writer, the world of his fiction is rife with violence and corruption. In examining the underbelly of human experience and American society in particular, Thompson’s work at its best is both philosophical and experimental. Several of his novels have been filmed by American and French directors, resulting in classic noir including The Killer Inside Me (1952), After Dark My Sweet (1955) and The Grifters (1963).

The Killer Inside Me has been reviewed at Mrs. Peabody Investigates, Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog and at Crime Thriller Girl among others. 

The Orion Publishing Group

Little, Brown and Company 

Further readings:

Jim Thompson – Past Masters 3 written by Penny Hozy at Shotsmag 

Cigarettes And Alcohol – The Extraordinary Life of Jim Thompson by Charles Waring at Crime Time

An Appreciation of Jim Thompson

El asesino dentro de mí de Jim Thompson

9788498677720

El primer párrafo dice lo siguiente: “Yo había terminado mi tarta y estaba tomando una segunda taza de café cuando lo vi. El mercancías de  la medianoche había llegado unos minutos antes; y él estaba mirando por un extremo de la ventana del restaurante, el extremo más cercano a la estación, protegiéndose los ojos con la mano y parpadeando contra la luz. Me vio observándolo, y su rostro se desvaneció entre las sombras. Pero yo sabía que él todavía estaba allí. Sabía que estaba esperando. Los vagabundos siempre me toman por un blanco fácil.” (Mi traducción)

El asesino dentro de mí se desarrolla en Central City, una pequeña ciudad petrolera en el oeste de Texas, con 48 000 habitantes en 1952, donde todos se conocen. La historia está contada en primera persona por Lou Ford, un hombre joven de unos veintinueve años, que trabaja como ayudante del sheriff. A primera vista, no parece ser muy inteligente. Su costumbre de dar consejos a todo el mundo utilizando expresiones tópicas puede resultar a veces bastante irritante. Pero casi todo el mundo lo aprecia por ser un tipo bastante simple que no mataría a una mosca.

La acción se desarrolla cuando el viejo Bob Maples, el sheriff, lo manda a echar un vistazo a una fulana llamada Joyce Lakeland, que se ha instalado en una casa de las afueras. El sheriff Maples tiene plena confianza en Lou y lo apoyará cualquiera que sea la decisión que tome. Su encuentro con Joyce va a despertar en él lo que él llama su “enfermedad“, que ha permanecido inactiva durante los últimos quince años. Más adelante, el lector va a averiguar que, cuando Lou tenía catorce años, agredió sexualmente a una niña de tres, pero no fue castigado porque su hermano adoptivo dos años mayor que él asumió la culpa por él. A partir de su primer encuentro Joyce y Lou van a desarrollar una relación sadomasoquista.

“Volví al día siguiente y al otro. Y continué volviendo. Y fue como si un viento hubiese avivado un fuego que se extinguía. Empecé a provocar a la gente de manera impasible, a provocarles en sustitución de otra cosa. Empecé a pensar en ajustar cuentas con Chester Conway, de la Empresa de Construcción Conway.” (Mi traducción)

Hace seis años, Mike, su hermano adoptivo murió mientras trabajaba en una obra de construcción de Conway. Y Conway es un importante hombre de negocios, practicamente el mayor contratista del oeste de Tejas.

Si no hubiera sido por Joyce, él no se habría atrevido a hacerlo, pero ella le da el valor necesario para dejar juntos ese pueblo de mala muerte. El plan de Joyce es conseguir el dinero de Chester Conway aprovechando el hecho de que el hijo de Chester, Elmer Conway está loco por ella. Y la señorita Lakeland le ha prometido a Chester Conway que ella dejará Central City tranquilamente a cambio de dinero. Elmer cree que va a huir con Joyce esa noche, y Lou está ahí para ayudarles. Pero Lou tiene sus propios planes. Lo que ninguno de ellos sabe es que Lou va a matarlos.

En una primera instancia parece que Lou se ha salido con la suya. Joyce está en coma y Elmer ha muerto. Todo el mundo parece creer que Elmer ha tratado de matar a Joyce y que Joyce le ha matado. Pero no tardaremos mucho tiempo en descubrir que Lou, para protegerse, tendrá que continuar matando.

Jim Thompson (1906 – 1977) nació en Anadarko, Oklahoma. Comenzó a escribir historias de ficción a una edad muy joven, vendiendo su primer cuento en True Detective cuando sólo tenía catorce años. Thompson finalmente escribió veintinueve novelas, todas menos tres de ellas fueron publicadas originalmente en rústica. Thompson también escribió dos guiones (para las películas de Stanley Kubrick The Killing y Paths of Glory). Un excepcional escritor de novela negra, el mundo de sus obras de ficción está lleno de violencia y corrupción. Al examinar la parte más débil de la experiencia humana y de la sociedad estadounidense, en particular, la obra de Thompson resulta ser en su mejor momento a la vez filosófica y experimental. Varias de sus novelas han sido llevadas al cine por directores americanos y franceses, convietiéndose en clásicos film noir incluyendo títulos tales como The Killer Inside Me (1952), After Dark My Sweet (1955) y The Grifters (1963).

El asesino dentro de mí es una de esas novelas que te dejan sin aliento. Desgarradora, violenta y brutal, pero magníficamente bien escrita. Thompson es capaz de entrar en la mente de un psicópata, pero lo que realmente nos asusta es que el criminal puede ser una persona común y corriente. Alguien al que conocemos desde hace mucho tiempo, incluso uno de nosotros, o muy cercano a nosotros. Una novela que nos sacude y nos deja con cierto grado de inquietud, pero una obra maestra. Una lectura obligatoria.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro lo antes posible) 

Pueden ver otras reseñas de El asesino dentro de mí en Viaje alrededor de una mesa y en Elemental, querido blog, entre otras. 

RBA Serie Negra 

Lecturas adicionales

Jim “Edipo” Thompson. Un asunto de familia (1 de 2) 

Jim “Edipo” Thompson. Un asunto de familia (2 de 2)

Arte salvaje: una biografía de Jim Thompson

12 thoughts on “Review: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

  1. I’ve owned this book for ages but never managed to read it – I got part of the way through once but it just made me….sad… in a way I didn’t like. I’ve kept it though…maybe one day. Great review though and I like your new theme too

    • Bernadette, Thank you very much for your comment. I can understand that, maybe, this book isn’t for everyone’s tastes. Obviously I respect your choice. We don’t need to read something that does not tempt us, just because someone has recommended it. Fortunately there are plenty of books to choose from. Hope everything is find on your end.

  2. I think it is an extraordinary book – not even remotely pleasant, but very hard to forget. The recent film did a good job but proved to be very controversial – if it gets people talking about portrayals of violence this can only be a good thing in my view. Thanks Jose Ignacio.

  3. Pingback: Where’s Papa going with that ax? The #1952book challenge | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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