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A Swell-Looking Babe
Jim Thompson
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A Swell-Looking Babe

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,408 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews

The Manton looks like a respectable hotel. Dusty Rhodes looks like a selfless young man working as a bellhop. And the woman in 1004 looks like an angel. But sometimes looks can kill, as Jim Thompson demonstrates in this vision of the crime novel as gothic.

Paperback, 143 pages
Published May 1st 1986 by Creative Arts Book Company (first published 1954)
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(showing 1-30)
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James Thane
Dusty Rhodes is one seriously screwed-up dude. Of course when this book was first published in 1954, no one would have thought to call him a "dude," but no one would have disputed the fact that he was a young man with some pretty nasty problems--in other words, just the sort of protagonist that you'd expect to find in a novel by Jim Thompson.

Dusty has a little bit of college behind him--how much is not exactly clear--and he had once hoped to go to medical school. But he had to drop out of school
Feb 09, 2014 Tfitoby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Not one of Jim Thompson's better outings. A tale of a bellhop seduced by the beautiful looks of a hotel guest, and how he gets mixed up with some criminal shenanigans. Pretty much the same set up as Charles Willeford's Sex is a Woman but written with a greater psychological insight and slightly more interesting sub plots and background details. Neither book were particularly amazing however. Just straight forward pulp crime fiction written to entertain for a few moments.

Thompson adds a bizarre O
May 31, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a jerk for a main character! However, it was hard to look away. No promising attributes for this guy. My first by this author but definitely not the last. Rating somewhere between 3.5-4, so lets round up.
Dec 26, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read_2016
Trademark Jim Thompson; a psychological crime pulp that delves deep into the confused and corrupted amid a mixture of violence, longing and sense of hopelessness that only Thompson can muster.

The plot itself is simplistic, with the linear nature incorporating flashbacks to Dusty’s (lead character) childhood that justify his easy acquiescence to seduction in the forms of lust and crime. A Bell Hop at a hotel with actor good looks and a high intellect, Dusty is easily swayed by swinging hips and
Samantha Glasser
This book opens strong. Dusty Rhodes is a bellhop but only until he can save enough money to go to med school. While working at the Manton he makes big money, but he is warned to stay away from women. That's been no problem until she walked in. Now he's willing to do anything to get her, even to his own detriment.

Thompson's writing flows very well so this is a quick and entertaining read. This is quite a feat because our hero is anything but the ideal subject of idolatry. The more we learn, the
William Johnson
It is a tough task to read an author's best and most popular work (two of them in fact) and then kind of swing at a ball you shouldn't by picking something deeper in the bibliography that really doesn't get talked about.

I mean, A Swell-Looking Babe is interesting, if anything, because of Jim Thompson. He has a way with language that makes his weakest efforts better than most people's best. But on the levels of Jim Thompson brilliance, this one just gets too convoluted and weighed down by its own
Ryan Hathaway
Thompson is a great writer. However this is not one of his best IMO. His best work is in characters -- most notably in making nasty characters sympathetic. This story just doesn’t do that -- or even try to. The plot itself is very cliche noir genre and the characters have little interesting happening. Furthermore, the main character is kind of wimpy and whiney throughout, I had a hard time enjoying him. He was an Everyman, not a Jim Thompson character... maybe even an idealized version of himsel ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horny claustrophobics
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Some nutty goings on in a hotel told from the perspective of a bellboy (not Jerry Lewis). There's cliche-type gangsters in there, too. Most of the action takes place indoors - Thompson should have turned this into a play!
Made me feel icky and miserable, like a good crime novel should.
Christopher Roberts
Thompson is great at a bait and switch. He really does this with all three of the novels of his I have read so far. He sets up what seems like a pretty standard noir plot and then pivots into something totally unexpected and much deeper. In this case he sets us up for the "naive young man who gets involved with the wrong woman" plot. After making this set up he takes nearly a third of the book before returning to it because he is setting up something else, but you don't realize it at the time b ...more
Mike Nemeth
Maybe it's the era this was written. Maybe it's that I'm too far removed from the time in which this gritty tale takes place. I don't know. The writing is punchy and solid. The story engaging. However, the babes are babes and a cigarette in every mouth thing got old. Reminded me of afternoon movies on TV where I wished it was Humphrey Bogart and I got some no-name actor in a bad drama trying to be a low-budget version of the thin man. "A Swell-Looking Babe" takes place in an aging hotel staffed ...more
This is a strange little novel. The first chapter really baits the hook and then the narrative wanders for 40 or so pages, where I was wondering ok what is the point of all this? - although it will all become important by the end of the book - and then blammo, we are headlong into a blackmail and hotel robbery scheme. So there are two main threads involving Dusty, our noir protagonist, who is a bellhop at a hotel. He is "taking care" of his father who is in ill health. As the novel progresses th ...more
150 pages of slowly revealing how the main character is a massive piece of shit.

Nicely done crime novel, with a pinch of gothic influence.

**Daniel Polansky recommended this book to me. Thanks, Dan!**
M Griffin
Oct 14, 2015 M Griffin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even one of Jim Thompson's lesser novels is worth a read.
Jan 06, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good stuff.

Watch out for the pretty ones. They'll be the death of you.
Bill Shubert
Not one of Thompson's best. The atmosphere and the plot is there, but the characters are weak; I didn't find either of the leads to be believable.
Feb 22, 2017 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
A really fun read with a complex, vaguely unreliable narrator that only added to the twists. A bellboy falls into a scheme involving a gangster and the titular femme, while dealing with the mounting pressure of taking care of his hapless father as well as a somewhat debilitating Oedipal complex.
May 04, 2010 Matthew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: texana, detectives
I can't say I particularly enjoyed watching Thompson usher this character into complete oblivion. The final judgment made on the protagonist of this book is made with such masochistic fervor, it makes one's stomach turn - Fascinating and upsetting, considering Thompson must've identified with this character at least a little, since it was informed by his experience as a night bellboy in a Fort Worth hotel.

Every authority and every relative and every colleague of the bellboy in this book thrives
Matt Spencer
Aug 12, 2015 Matt Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...Where nothing is what it seems," is cliched hyperbole when pitching crime/mystery thrillers, though few authors so consistently, brain-scramblingly make good on that claim as Thompson does. His favorite protagonists are deeply confused, disturbed, unreliable narrators, in the middle of narratives initially presented as a matter-of-fact presentation of events, where the slimy secrets and hidden agendas of all participants bubble little by little to the surface, and by the time you realize you ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Piker7977 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Poor Dusty...just some mixed up kid working nights at a hotel to take care of his ailing father and, hopefully, someday continue his education toward becoming a doctor. At the surface this is Dusty's story. Underneath this veneer is a deeply troubled sociopath who suffers from extreme "mommy issues" and oedipal tendencies. While working at the hotel he befriends an aging gangster, irritates his night supervisor, and becomes enchanted with a seductive beauty. In other words, working nights at the ...more
Jason Edwards
Picked this up in a used book store for a few bucks. Didn’t recognize the title, although I was hunting down Thompson tomes. I haven’t memorized his works list yet, but I knew a few to look for. This one, A Swell-Looking Babe, never gets a mention. Now I know why.

I shouldn’t compare one book to another, but I do it all the time anyway. And I’m no keen scholar Thomson scholar, yet, but this one seemed a bit meager. I mean, Thompson’s got this reputation for a real crackling suspense writer, and t
A Swell Looking Babe by Jim Thompson (1954)

What we got in this is Bill ‘Dusty’ Rhodes, a hotel bellhop who works the night shift at the Manton hotel for the money. Despite being handsome, he is sad and angry at everyone, the hotel manager, Bascom, the mysterious lady, Marcia Hillis, a woman that Dusty sees usually in a dream in the beginning, then manipulative and needy like his mother in flashbacks, and his father who is old and grasping in his love and concern for his resentful son.
The bala
Feb 04, 2010 jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Oedipus Complex, Thompson-style.
Young college drop-out Bill "Dusty" Rhodes is working as a bellboy at the Manton Hotel until he can get his life situated so he can go back to school. But the money is good and the job is easy and Dusty has his sick old father to support. He loves his dad but doesn't understand where the old man spends all the money Dusty gives him. Then the swell-looking babe, a gray-haired older woman, checks into the hotel and Dusty can't stop thinking about how beautiful s
Mitch Duckworth
Weak ending mars an otherwise swell novel . . . If there are any Thompson scholars out there kind enough to respond, do you know if he regretted opting out of any his novels too soon and rushing in to print? This is not the first I've read that left me feeling somewhat disappointed. I have the feeling that A Swell-Looking Babe might have escaped the genre moniker and found itself being praised as high art if he had worked harder to find a climax offering more satisfaction. It feels as if the pub ...more
Sep 23, 2008 Karl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another crime novel finished. This one was okay, though I'm not as enamored with Jim Thompson as a writer as others tell me I should be. Yes, he's a bit over the top (but not as bad as say, Frank Miller with Sin City), but I'm not sold on his dialog. He's good with plots and characterization, but I'm still favoring Raymond Chandler. I was pretty bored with this book, until the end. The plot revolved around a good natured, but angry kid stuck in a bad situation. Because of that, he makes some mov ...more
Tyler Hayes
Sep 03, 2009 Tyler Hayes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I officially love Thompson's writing. This piece—about a young med student, his chronically ill father, and the sexy, sexy woman who stays at the hotel where the first works to support the second—is a fantastic slice of noir writing, without any of the noir stereotypes we have come to expect. His style is terse, involving, and gritty, and quite psychological; I was excited to see a really well-done incompetent protagonist. I feel like he was a strong, if indirect, influence on the Coen Brothers' ...more
Guy Salvidge
Aug 25, 2015 Guy Salvidge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew I would like this one, and I did. This is my sixth Jim Thompson novel and for me it is up there with Savage Night and Pop 1280 (my favourites so far). Most of Thompson's novels follow a similar structure, and I was reminded of The Getaway and After Dark, My Sweet, except that I found the whole thing more compelling here. Two things set this slim masterpiece apart from the others. First, the hotel bell-boy setting, which the author knew well from his own early experiences. Second, the ince ...more
Jan 11, 2017 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another twisted, spiraling fever-dream from Big Jim Thompson. All the usual suspects are in attendance: Unreliable Narrator. Dubious Femme Fatale. Poor Judgement. Lofty, Unreachable Aspirations. Descent Into Madness. Betrayal. Naivete. Dismal Fortune. Rampant Criminality.

Just like the last few I read, this one left me feeling in dire need of a morality car wash. I always close a JT book feeling soiled, ill-used, exhausted, and thankful to be who I am. But I eat them up ravenously. It's a madcap
Oct 22, 2011 Nina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a crime novel, which focused on human immorality, and naivety. Dusty Rhodes has all the potential in the world in front of him, but the reader learns Dusty’s character flaws. We see the warning signs as a third party looking in, but will Dusty? He has opportunities with his sick father, who has a dark reputation. He also encounters temptation at his place of employment; the upscale Madison Hotel. Lastly there is Marcia Hillis, who exudes mystery, and has captured Dusty’s heart. This is a ...more
Lisa Ciarfella
Sep 20, 2015 Lisa Ciarfella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thompson, as always, takes us to the dark side, with good guys who are bad and bad guys who are good and the dames who are falling in fast and hard with them on either side of the coin.

Rhodes, his main guy, is torn, conflicted, as only the noir can do, between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing and gets mixed up in both as the story descends into massive score madness gone bad, and getting worse all the time.

Tug Trowbirch is a great bad guy, all guts and guns, and reminds me of a
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Myers Thompson was a United States writer of novels, short stories and screenplays, largely in the hardboiled style of crime fiction.

Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications by pulp fiction houses, from the lat
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“He was dignity distorted, bravery become knavery, sanctimoniousness masking sin. He was a mirror, jeering at the subject it reflected. Yet so muted were the jeers, so delicate the inaccuracies of delineation, that they evaded detection. True and false were blended together. The false was merely an extended shadow of the true.” 3 likes
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