Ryan's Reviews > Pop. 1280

Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson
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's review
Dec 05, 10

bookshelves: hard-boiled, pulp, black-humor, western
Read in December, 2010

An impressive work for Jim Thompson - just dropped Tavernier's Coup de Torchon, the French film adaptation, into my Netflix queue. With Thompson's screenwriting credits - Path's of Glory, Killer Inside Me - and the generally cinematic adaptability of his work, can't wait to see how Tavernier attacks the delusional transformation at the core of the book, adapting what many would see as a very American story in a very American genre to French colonies.

The story is simple: ignorant, exploited, and harmlessly crooked small-town policeman begins to see the truth of his situation and take revenge. Falls in the tradition of works that examine the hollow or rotten core at the center of public life ... or almost all human interaction. Particularly ripe in examinations of small town life. Think anything from The Scarlet Letter, to Twin Peaks, or Haneke's White Ribbon. But add a Cape Fear style layer of delusional divinity and retribution, wielding a scythe as the right hand of God. But the humor and language set it apart. Rather than describe, I offer a few examples:

"I'd been chasing females all my life, not paying no mind to the fact that whatever's got tail at one end has teeth at the other, and now I was getting chomped on."

Or, more elaborately:

"There were the helpless little girls, cryin' when their own daddies crawled into bed with 'em. There were the men beating their wives, the women screamin' for mercy. There were the kids wettin' in the beds from fear and nervousness, and their mothers dosin' 'em with red pepper for punishment. There were the haggard faces, drained white from hookworm and blotched with scurvy. There was the near starvation, the never bein full, the debts that always outrun the credits. There was the how we gonna eat, how we gonna sleep, how we gonna cover our poor bare asses thinkin'. The kind of thinkin' that when you ain't doing nothing else but that, why you're better off dead. Because that's the emptiness thinkin' and you're already dead inside, and all you'll do is spread the stink and the terror, the weepin' and wailin', the torture, the starvation, the shame of your deadness. Your emptiness.

I shuddered, thinking how wonderful was our Creator [...]"
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12/03/2010 page 100
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