Eric_W's Reviews > Texas by the Tail
Texas by the Tail
by Jim Thompson
by Jim Thompson
Nov 17, 08
Jim Thompson, was a master of American Noir, stories of drifters, con men, hustlers, your basic asocial types. Mitch Corley is a typical character. Saddled with Teddy, a wife who wants lots of money to divorce him, he leaves for Texas in an attempt to win big at gambling at the expense of the rich. Unfortunately they don't like losing. Thompson also has a sense of humor. His description of the 1965 (presumably) Oklahoma City to Memphis train: "It has no diner. Its cars are of pre-World War I vintage, without air conditioning or other common comforts. Its schedule is presumably the product of a comic books writer. The many and prolonged delays are variously attributed to such causes as holdups by Jesse James, impromptu hunting and fishing parties for the crew, and funerals for passengers who have advanced into and died en route of old age." Mitch and his girlfriend, Red, settle in Texas, the only place where there's lots of money left for gambling (thanks to oil) and where Mitch hopes to make a big score. He has money stashed in a variety of safe deposit boxes -- a hustler needs a substantial stake, but Red likes to live high and his stash is running low. Another of the drain on his finances is his son, whom he has enrolled in an elite and expensive boarding school, there' and the money he sends his wife, partly out of guilt, partly because he doesn't want her to reveal to Red that he's still married. Red wants to get hitched. In a poker game with Walter Lord, he manages to win $30,000 only to learn that the checks Lord had been cashing through Mitch's friend, are not to be honored by Lord's family, who realize they are gambling debts. Mitch approaches Frank Downing for some help. Mitch demurs when Frank suggests he simply have Teddy killed, but Frank sends his goons to rough up Teddy anyway. (Lest you feel too sorry for Teddy, she's not a lovable character, for a variety of reasons.) In the meantime, needing the money, Mitch decides to drive to the Lord's huge ranch in an attempt to collect the $30,000. I would hate to reveal the ending, but will only suggest that it's quite satisfying after leaving the reader hanging (pun intended).
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