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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Noir review - The Kill-Off


THE KILL-OFF
Jim Thompson (1957)

Ironic that not one of Thompson’s 29 novels was in print in his country (USA) when he died in 1977, at the age of 71. His reputation has since been restored, following on from several of his books being filmed, notably The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me.

Over the years, Luana Devore has used her acid tongue to spread gossip, innuendo and falsehoods about many individuals. She’s living on borrowed time – but who will commit the act and rid the world of the vile woman? The voices are individual and power the story forward to its stark conclusion.

This book is a bravura effort: twelve chapters, each in the first person by a different character from a backwater New England town, Manduwoc. There’s Kossmeyer, the lawyer; Ralph Devore, downtrodden husband of Luana, seeks solace with Danny Lee, the singer; Rags McGuire, the washed up jazz musician employing Danny; Bobbie, wayward son of Doc James Ashton; Hattie, the Negro maid and lover of the doctor and mother of Bobbie; Goofy Gannder, the drunk and incompetent; Henry Clay Williams, county attorney up for re-election; Myra Pavlov, inadequate lover of Bobbie; Pete Pavlov, builder and father of Myra and duped out of thousands by the Devores.

This Corgi paperback(1988) cover accurately depicts the singer Danny Lee, Ralph Devore and Rags McGuire.

6 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Good call. I love it. It was the first Jim Thompson that I read. I got it from Woolies for 35p at the end of the '80s.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I agree whole heartedly, Nik. An underrated Thompson novel, really distinct from his other books, especially the structure.

Maggie Greenwald turned this into a terrific movie in the late 1980s. Did you see it? Almost darker than the book, if you can even imagine that.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Great call on the film version, Cullen. The opening with the criss-crossing telephone lines and the buzzing of the gossip. brilliant.

Nik said...

No, Cullen, I missed the film. I can see the images you conjure, Paul. Phone lines dripping vitriol...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Can I link to this on Friday's Forgotten Books.

Nik said...

Hi, Patti, yes, please do. Thanks for asking!