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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

Paul Laudiero: IMG Shit Rough Draft



I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working... Continue »
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This title in other editions

The Killer Inside Me (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

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The Killer Inside Me (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Cover

ISBN13: 9780679733973
ISBN10: 0679733973
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and author biographies that follow are designed to
enhance your reading of three outstanding selections from the "hard-boiled" school of
crime writing: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, The Long Goodbye by Raymond
Chandler, and The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. We hope that they will provide you
with new ways of looking at--and talking about--the nature of detective fiction, as well
as give you insight into how the hard-boiled style of writing emerged in the genre; how
the style was shaped by twentieth-century American culture and by the lives of the men
who created it; and how this form of writing has subsequently affected the way we view
ourselves as Americans.

1. For discussion: The Killer Inside Me

In a first-person narration, Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford comments to himself, "If there's anything worse than a bore, it's a corny bore" [p. 4]. How does Thompson use dialogue to dramatize Ford's character? When Lou gazes in the mirror, he describes what he sees: the Stetson, a pinkish shirt, a "typical Western-country peace officer, that was me" [p. 28]. In another context, this would be a mundane description, but what more does it tell us about Lou Ford?

2. Lou says he reads German, French, and Italian medical journals. "I couldn't speak any of those languages worth a doggone, but I could understand 'em all" [p. 27], he says. Is his claim credible in the context of what we learn about him? In what incidents is his self-taught education in evidence, and how is it perceived by others? What would erudition represent to a Lou Ford? The journals are in his father's library. What role does his father play in his psyche?

3. Lou's recollections are often ambiguous, more implied than specific, such as his traumatic boyhood involvement with his family's housekeeper, Helene. What is Helene's transgression in Lou's mind, and what role does he ascribe to it in the context of his "sickness"? Is this thought process a recurrent pattern in Lou's pathology?

4. Early in the story Sheriff Bob Maples suggests to Lou, "Watch youself. It's a good act but it's easy to overdo" [p. 25]. Later, at the hotel in Fort Worth, he drunkenly repeats his caution: "Wash--watch y'self.... S-stop all a' stuff spilt milk n' so on. Wha' you do that for, anyway" [p. 85]. Is he implying that Lou's "act" has not been as convincing as Lou thinks? How does Ford react? What is Bob's relationship to Lou, and why does he ultimately resolve it the way he does? Is the relationship credible as portrayed by Jim Thompson?

5. In his treatment of Central City and its citizenry, how does Thompson characterize small-town America?

6. As Lou kills his girlfriend, Amy, he pauses to notice what she's wearing, he sits down to read the paper, he makes puns on her penny-pinching. How do these actions serve the description of a violent act? How important are descriptions of violence in the story of Lou Ford? How, overall, are violent sequences presented?

7. At the novel's end, Lou has set fire to the library and probably the rest of the house. To what extent is this a biblical, spiritual climax? Or is the fire an act grounded in psychological pathology? It is, after all, Lou's father's house. Is the elegiac final paragraph an extension of the spiritual theme, or is it a chilling reminder of the nihilism that has subsumed Lou Ford up until that moment?

Comparing the Hammett, Chandler, and Thompson:

1. How does the way Chandler uses Los Angeles in The Long Goodbye resemble or differ from the way Hammett uses San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon? To what extent is this the result of their individual writing styles? Does Thompson resemble either writer with his descriptions of the West Texas oil country in The Killer Inside Me? How important is setting in each of these novels?

2. Although they were brilliant innovators and stylists, Hammett and Chandler were writing for a genre that dictated resolution of the plot. Thompson, on the other hand, in The Killer Inside Me creates a plot rife with ambiguity. What element or elements of his predecessors' style does Thompson retain? Could Thompson have written The Killer Inside Me without the models of Hammett and Chandler?

3. Thompson inverts traditional crime fiction by writing from the viewpoint of the criminal instead of the detective. In the novels of Hammett and Chandler, how different is the criminal from the detective? Where do Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe fall in their respective, or mutual, attitudes toward authority and law?

4. How does the characterization of women in The Maltese Falcon compare with those in The Long Goodbye? Is Brigid O'Shaughnessy the equivalent of Eileen Wade? Is Effie Perine the equivalent of Linda Loring? What do the differences in these characters tell you about the hard-boiled style? About the authors?

5. Chandler and Thompson write in the first person, and Hammett uses the third person in The Maltese Falcon. How would each of these novels have been affected--for better or worse--if the voice had been reversed? What are the inherent advantages and/or limitations of writing in the first or third person?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

greg ast, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by greg ast)
This is not the type of story I would seek out but I enjoyed the read very much. Jim Thompson puts you inside the head of a psycho and does a excellent job doing so.
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book_nerd, May 11, 2006 (view all comments by book_nerd)
One of the darkest, most disturbing reads ever. Find yourself in the mind of a psychopath trying unsucessfully to hold it together.
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(11 of 25 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679733973
Editor:
Thompson, Jim
Publisher:
Vintage Books
Author:
Thompson, Jim
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Detective and mystery stories
Subject:
Mystery & detective
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Hard-Boiled
Subject:
Ford, lou (fictitious character)
Subject:
Mystery-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Series Volume:
0000
Publication Date:
19910331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8 x 5.05 x .15 in .6 lb

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Related Subjects

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The Killer Inside Me (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679733973 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Jim Thompson is the best suspense writer going, bar none."
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