Friday, 25 November 2011

Thompson Double Barrell

A husband and wife bank robbing double act jettison their psychotic partner and go on the lam with the cash in Jim Thompson's callous thriller The Getaway. The screen version starring McQueen and McGraw can't hold a candle to the casual violence and quick wit that Thompson has soaked into these 160 pages with it's snare drum tight plot and it's devastating, surreal conclusion in El Rey. It's a tribute to Thompson's writing that despite his spartan style and his amoral, calculating characters that when the duo eventually reach their end you actually feel sorry for them. A thrilling masterclass in cynicism.

The Grifters is not quite up to the previous couple of Thompson noirs I've read but it's still a thrilling, nasty read about a low-key con artist and his possessive mobster linked mother. After perfecting numerous short cons our protagonist suffers a serious assault and finds himself at a career crossroads. The sudden reappearance of his mother and her subsequent feud with his girlfriend muddy the waters and he finds his life slipping from his iron grip and spiralling towards violence. Thompson's lean, mean prose keeps the pace clipping along but the denouement misfires a little with a stuttering series of events that was fairly disappointing, maybe with another couple of chapters things could have improved.

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