Friday, January 14, 2011

Atkinson inverted

I've just finished Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me. I haven't enough time to write a review for the forgotten Friday slot, so I'll just share one observation. Earlier in the week I reviewed Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, a story I felt was pretty verbose, with a lot of show at the expense of tell, and which could have lost a hundred pages and the story be unaffected. Thompson's writing is almost the complete opposite - all show and little tell and as tight as a drum. Here's how he sets the scene:

Our standards of conduct aren't the same, say, as they are in the east or middle-west. Out here you say yes ma'am and no ma'am to anything with skirts on; anything white, that is. Out here, if you catch a man with his pants down, you apologize ... even if you have to arrest him afterwards. Out here you're a man, a man and a gentleman, or you aren't anything. And God help you if you're not.

I don't know about you, but I have a pretty good idea about this place and its social norms. Five sentences then straight back into the dialogue and action. Great stuff.


Mack said...

Hi Rob,
Thompson is a remarkable writer isn't he? You've reminded me that I want write about his Pop. 1208 which remains one of my favorite Thompson stories.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That book was in my hand just yesterday. I have always been afraid of it.

Mack said...

Well, Lou Ford is as nasty piece of work as you are likely to run into in noir fiction. Still, it is remarkable look into the mind of a killer.

Rob Kitchin said...

It was actually much tamer than I thought it was going to be. I thought it might be a bit of a gore fest, but it isn't (not by today's standards in any case). There is some violence, but really it's much more a psychological exploration, but done predominately through dialogue and action rather than an inner voice.

Mack said...

Agreed, Rob. But, look at the reception of the recent film version. I've only seen an extended trailer but it looks like a very faithful adaption of the book and there was a lot of criticism of the violence. It is like the violence in the book takes on a whole other aspect when made visual.

Rob Kitchin said...

Mack - I haven't seen the film, but I can imagine that narrative when converted to the visual would seem more extreme, but I think the context might heighten that. It's up close and personal violence. And yet there are loads of movies that probably have more violence and certainly a much higher death rate than TKIM.

Patti - if you can handle Dave Zeltserman's Small Crimes, you can handle TKIM. In fact there are a lot of parallels between the books. Certainly, I think Zeltserman's style is pretty similar to Thompson's.