Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280 is a crime/mystery novel with an introspection of a psychopath’s mind. Thompson’s prose is exceptionally strong, I’ve read a number of his books and believe this to be his strongest. Thinking of when this book was written in 1964 is wild. The book utilizes subtle jokes to point out the racism, classism, and sexism of American society in the 1960s.
Much of his stories deal with people on the fringes of society, sociopaths and psychopaths, and rarely feature characters that are good. What Thompson often employs is a Hamlet-Esque trope of a sheriff presenting himself as a simpleton, harmless, always willing to help but in reality, is a methodical psychopath that manipulates people to his will and pulls off several murders.
Pop. 1280 is told first-person through unreliable narrator sheriff Nick Corey who appears as a small town amiable personality but is a stone-cold killer and manipulator. The book covers some of the problems that Nick deals with including his difficult marriage, local pimps, upcoming sheriff election, and several women that adore him.
The novel was adapted as a French film, Coup de Torchon (1981), and a new movie adaptation by director Yorgos Lanthimos was slated for release in 2020 however the status is still in pre-production. Thompson also wrote The Killer Inside Me, Savage Night, A Hell of a Woman, and The Getaway along with the screenplays The Killing and Paths of Glory with Stanley Kubrick.
A Favorite Quote: “a heck of a lot of things are bound to go wrong in a world as big as this one. And if there’s an answer to why it’s that way – and there ain’t always – why, it’s probably not just one answer by itself, but thousands of answers.”