by Jim Thompson
“It’s a screwed up, bitched up world, and I’m afraid it’s going to stay that way. And I’ll tell you why. Because no one, almost no one, sees anything wrong with it.”
This book takes a fairly strong stomach as the story unfolds from the first-person perspective of our main character, a brutal killer with an otherwise rational mind. Published in 1952, society hasn’t changed much since. The perspective is relatable partially due to the killer’s logical mind and partially due to us recognizing every character type as living and breathing today. Perhaps not always the case in major cities, there are a ton of small towns in this country that still behave exactly as written here.
Resonating on a special frequency due to current popular events, extra weight is given in that our killer, Lou Ford, is a cop. We’re all closer and closer to realizing the truth about the Protect and Serve institution–that it’s a bunch of flawed people making the same mistakes we all make, just with guns. The ‘power corrupts’ theme isn’t really here, as no blame for Lou’s behavior is laid on his job. He’s screwed up, but not drunk on power, though he does recognize and call out a few times how easy it is to railroad people.
The motive for his behavior is mostly hidden until near the end. It’s another element we’re all familiar with, maybe even tired with. That doesn’t make it any less true.
The Killer Inside Me cuts deep. The way Lou rationalizes violence is a theme that’s not too far from any of us, so perhaps this is an area in which we should be exercising more caution than we currently do. Our leaders will fearlessly send us to our deaths, but wouldn’t for a moment make the same decisions if they were themselves going. Lou isn’t a coward, and is perfectly willing to dirty his hands while blithely going about his bloody business.
“The man with the grin is the man who will win.”