From Jim Thompson’s “The Killer Inside” ::
“It was like being asleep when you were awake and awake when you were asleep. I’d pinch myself, figuratively speaking – I had to keep pinching myself. Then I’d wake up kind of in reverse; I’d go back to the nightmare I had to live in. And everything would be clear and reasonable.”
“The Killer Inside” is rightfully considered an underground classic. It can be categorized in several genres from noir to true crime but I feel strongly that its cold, unflinching peek inside the mind of a killer is nothing short of horrifying, making it a perfect contender for a review here.
The publisher’s book description is a nice tease into the story ::
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.
As an outgrowth of my love of horror, I have long harbored a fascination with what makes killers tick. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees were, after all, serial killers in their own right. For all of the psychoanalysis that we have seen in the horror genre, offering a glimpse of the broken minds behind the carnage, we rarely see an exploration of true psychopathy in the way that Thompson presents.
His main character, Lou Ford is disconnected in the way that real killers are, unmoved and unaffected by their acts, but manipulating others into a state of comfort. Ford plies those around him with worn out cliches and good ol’ boy charm in an attempt to lull them into complacency, never forgetting “the sickness” that rules him and drives his actions. The above quote from the novel hints at this. Stanley Kubrick said of the novel: “Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.” I think this is true on many levels.
This is a wonderfully tactile book. You can smell the sweat and cigarette smoke. You can feel the Texas heat, the steam of the sex and the give of bone under Ford’s hands. You can taste the blood and meat. Thompson gives us something that engages the reader on a sensual level, that is to say, through the senses. Simply put, the book is a chillingly violent, sexual creep-fest with a truly dark soul with true physicality.
Annnd, Thompson did all of this in the 50’s. This book was written in 1952. 1952! The EARLY 50’s. Staggering. It would be considered a challenging novel if it was published this year, but to think that it was published the same year that Gene Kelly danced through the puddles of “Singin’ in the Rain” is genuinely stunning.
Stephen King had this to say of Thompson writing in his time: “He was crazy. He went running into the American subconscious with a blowtorch in one hand and a pistol in the other, screaming his goddamn head off. No one else came close.”
This is a wild, hair-raising psychosexual romp soaked in blood that plumbs the depths of the darkest places within the human soul. It is something that only the best books are, an experience.
RATING ………………. 5 STARS