First published 1952; cover shown is the 2006 Orion Books (UK) paperback edition. 220p.
Jim Thompson (1906 - 1977) wrote vicious little tales of small town American life. With admirers such as Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King, he's been on my Must Read list for the past few months. Recently I managed to find The Killer Inside Me, which is counted as a classic amongst the dozens of titles he produced.
Written in the first person, The Killer Inside Me is the story of Lou Ford, Deputy Sheriff in a small Texas town. It covers just a month or so of his life, but it's rather an event-packed month. Years of holding his demons at bay come to an end, and Lou starts killing. Victim #1 is a local prostitute with whom he is having possibly the first sexually satisfying relationship of his life, and victim #2 is the son of a local businessman who may have caused the death of Lou's adopted brother.
The killings - always hard and brutal - continue, and it (obviously...) doesn't take long before the Sheriff and other local lawmen start suspecting Lou. He is incredibly good at lying, and has had years to perfect the art of acting 'normal'. Not even being thrown in an insane asylum will break him, because he knows exactly what's wrong with him.
The Killer Inside Me threw me a little at first with its brutality, which I liked; I was starting to worry that nothing shocked me anymore, literary-ly speaking (which is a sad place to be). I also appreciated the fact that Thompson gave believable reasons for Lou's sickness, and the twist near the end was an interesting surprise.