Day 310: The Killer Inside Me

Cover for The Killer Inside MeJim Thompson’s classic noir thriller The Killer Inside Me was one I had never read, so I picked it up out of curiosity. Normally, I am not drawn to classic noir, even though I like a crime novel that is dark. This brief novel easily kept my attention, though.

Lou Ford is a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town. He projects the image of a jovial good guy, maybe even a little stupid, who continually spouts clichés. But he has actually been hiding his sociopathic tendencies for years.

Ford begins a sadomasochistic relationship with Joyce Lakeland, a prostitute. He sees a way to use his relationship with Joyce to get revenge for his brother’s death. As a teenager Ford sexually abused a little girl, and his foster brother Mike took the blame. After he got out of jail, Mike died in a construction accident, and Ford has blamed the local owner of the construction company for Mike’s death.

Ford and Joyce begin blackmailing the owner of the construction company in return for keeping his son’s affair with Joyce secret. Then Ford sees a way to take it all one step further. Of course, things don’t always go as planned.

As in reading Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, a large part of the fascination of this disturbing book lies in wondering how Ford is going to get out of one fix after another. Thompson’s writing is deft and tight. You will be glued to the page, even if you don’t like noir.

14 thoughts on “Day 310: The Killer Inside Me

  1. bishbashboogie May 7, 2013 / 3:05 pm

    I haven’t read this one, but Thompson is a terrific writer. I’d recommend ‘The Grifters’, one of the most merciless books I’ve ever read

    • whatmeread May 7, 2013 / 3:09 pm

      Hmmm, I’ll have to check it out. I remember the movie, although I did not see it.–Kay at whatmeread

  2. Nicholas Ditto May 9, 2013 / 9:27 am

    If you liked The Killer Inside Me, I’d recommend Dorthy B. Hughes’s In A Lonely Place. Although it falls under classic noir, it is a fantastic read.

    • whatmeread May 9, 2013 / 10:26 am

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out!

    • whatmeread May 9, 2013 / 10:27 am

      Hmmm, this Femme Fatales imprint seems very interesting. I hadn’t heard of them before. Thanks for the tip!

      • Nicholas Ditto May 9, 2013 / 10:29 am

        You’re welcome! I just finished a course focusing on melodrama and noir and it really opened my eyes up to some of the great “pulp” writing of the early post-war period. The film versions of the stories are also worth checking out.

      • whatmeread May 9, 2013 / 10:31 am

        That sounds like a great course!

      • whatmeread May 9, 2013 / 10:35 am

        I see that your blog is about graphic novels. I haven’t read very many of them, but have you read Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry? I was really struck by the atmosphere of her illustrations. Whenever I look for more graphic novels in the book store, they always seem to be super hero type things, which I’m not interested in. A Contract with God, on your web site, looks more interesting to me. I think I would read more if I knew what to look for. I think the only other graphic novels I have read are Persepolis and Maus.

  3. Nicholas Ditto May 9, 2013 / 10:58 am

    I have not read that title, but I will certainly add it to my list. I would check out Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; it is a graphic novel about graphic novels and it really provides a lot of insight into the unique possibilities of the medium. And as far as non-superhero graphic novels, there are a lot of them, but many bookstore may stock them with regular fiction and non-fiction. In particular Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is an extremely rich textual and visual experience and Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine was quite good as well. I have some more titles listed in my recommended reading section as well.

  4. Jules M. May 13, 2013 / 9:14 am

    Interesting review, I’ve neither read this or seen the film, but as a big fan of all things mystery and noir, am interested to try both, now I’m just not sure in what order though.

    • whatmeread May 13, 2013 / 9:18 am

      That’s always a difficult decision. I think I tend to want to read the book first, though. Of course, that can set you up for being disappointed in the film, because there is always more in the book, by necessity, than in a film. But sometimes you find a movie that perfectly captures the essence of the book and absolutely delights you. A movie of The Killer Inside Me was released just a year or two, I think, which was what decided me to read the book. But I haven’t seen the movie yet. I think I may put it on my Netflix list.

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