Michael's Reviews > A Hell of a Woman

A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson
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's review
Feb 15, 2011

really liked it

I picked this Jim Thompson book off the shelf without expecting very much. It's generally not mentioned amongst the more lauded books Thompson has written, like Savage Night, Killer Inside Me, and Pop. 1280. Fortunately, it's just as strong as those aforementioned books, and if you're a Jim Thompson fan, I suggest you give this one a go.

The main character Frank "Dolly" Dillon is a pretty standard Thompson protagonist; he's ruthless, bibulous, hostile toward women, looking for an angle, and an unreliable narrator. Reading Savage Art, Robert Polito's excellent and exhaustive biography of Thompson, helped me realize how much of Frank Dillon's personality was similar to Jim Thompson's. Friends described Thompson as someone that always felt down on his luck and that the odds were stacked against him in everyway (he also liked to drink quite a bit). Another clue is that Dillon was James Thompson's communist party handle name.

Frank Dillon is a door to door salesman that arrives at a home occupied by a woman who's described as an old miserly crone. She lives there with her young niece, Mona. Dillon gets propositioned to trade a silverware set for an assignation with Mona. He pities the horrendous situation Mona is in and the two decide to conspire against the old maid for her wealth.

Hell of a Woman is a quick book to get through and it's packed with a lot of great plot twists. You don't know how Dillon's planning to untangle himself from the mess he gets in because he doesn't know himself. And it's entertaining to be brought into this hapless criminals thought process. The book is also chock-full of the classic Thompson criminal, lowlife vernacular.

This is another fantastic book to add to the list of Jim Thompson's excellent crime fiction catalogue.
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