Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me was undoubtedly a shocking novel when it is was first published in 1952, and, although it is not as unusual today as it must have been then, it still holds up well. The author, Jim Thompson is rightly revered as one of the fathers of the roman noir.

Lou Ford is a deputy sheriff in a medium-size Texas town. To his constituents, he is an amiable, slightly dim-witted guy who has a tendency to speak in clich├ęs. His true nature is carefully concealed, as he is a cunning well-read man struggling to suppress what he calls the sickness. He is at best a sociopath, at worst a psychopath. The novel details his actions as he starts to unravel, deciding to commit a double murder, and then is forced to kill again and again to cover the first murders.

What made The Killer Inside Me so remarkable is the book is told as a first person narrative. The reader makes the journey through the story inside the mind of the killer, experiencing the crimes as they are committed, and then going through the justifications for them (Ford blames the victims for what he is forced to do). No real empathy is felt for the people killed, and Ford feels disappointed in himself for any feelings of pity or caring for anyone else. In today’s literature, where the serial killer is sometimes the hero of the book (Hannibal Lector), this may not seem so remarkable, but it must have blown the minds of those reading it in the early 50s. Highly recommended, it is the sort of book Thomas Harris wishes he could write.

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